Yup, it’s another Warriors game! Have you ever stopped to consider how many digital soldiers have been murdered by Warriors players? It’s got to be up in the billions, maybe even trillions. That sort of digital bloodshed is no joke. Just as we’ve seen Warriors take up different franchises, we’re starting to see the series expand into different genres as well; already this year Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers offered a sort of “lite” strategy-RPG, for instance.
The hits (and slashes) keep coming as now we’ve got Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, which expands the franchise further still with a more story-heavy approach. But don’t worry; there’s still plenty of army-bashing to go with all that narrative.
Spirit of Sanada is all about the titular clan, legendary samurai warriors who kicked butt throughout the Warring States period in historical Japan. The biggest change that this entry makes over the rest of the series is the focus on a single clan rather than an ensemble cast of characters. Since you’re laser-focused on the Sanada throughout the story, you’re able to care a bit more about those characters. Starting with flag-wielding Masayuki and proceeding down through his family tree to his sons, then following their ideological split, you’ll be privy to the glory and despair of this clan, which lends a little more punch to the goings-on beyond “mash buttons a whole bunch and kill a million dudes.” It’s a nice touch, honestly, and I’d love to see more Warriors games go this direction.
The other big, noticeable change that Spirit of Sanada makes to the formula is the use of the Six Coins of Sanada. The symbol of the Sanada clan is six coins, representing the toll paid by the spirits of dead warriors. Ingame, your actions will gradually fill a gauge, earning you one of the six coins each time you top it off. The coins can be spent in battle to activate special tactics and strategems, such as reducing enemy morale, directly harming enemy officers and so on. It’s not enough to turn this into a strategy game or anything like that, but it’s a nice way to gain an advantage.
Otherwise, Spirit of Sanada sticks fairly close to the Dynasty Warriors paradigm we’ve come to know and love over the past two decades. Combat draws from recent entries in the series, so battles boil down to wave-clearing Hyper Attacks against mooks, then more involved combat using combos against enemy officers. Success yields gold and items that can be used to improve your characters’ gear. Staying on top of this isn’t difficult, and the game never becomes much of a challenge, but that’s not out of the ordinary for the series and in this case it makes it easier to keep the more involving plot rolling along.
Presentation-wise it’s par for the course as well; don’t expect Spirit of Sanada to crush your shiny new PS4 Pro or PC’s delicate innards or anything. The focus is all about having a lot of mooks on screen to render into paste, and that works out as it usually does. There’s definitely something to be said for the character design; Masayuki in particular has absolutely fantastic split-colored hair and a stylish beret. Sound-wise, you’ve got your Japanese voice acting and your rock-ish music, so that’s not going to blow you away.
Really, Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada isn’t a game that’s here to blow you away in general. Rather, it’s more of a slow burner than your average Warriors title; the more involved and focused plot is bound to appeal more to RPG fans than Warriors diehards. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it shows that this series still has some interesting directions in which it can expand. If you’re interested in a little family drama and politics with your army-mulching action, you’d do well to give Spirit of Sanada a shot.