Review: Way Of The Samurai 4 (PS3)

Title: Way Of The Samurai 4
Format: PlayStation Network Download (4.8 GB)
Release Date: August 21, 2012
Publisher: Xseed Games
Developer: Acquire
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: M
Way Of The Samurai 4 is exclusive to the PlayStation 3.

There comes a time in every gamer’s life when he/she will learn to appreciate not only the fun and satisfaction that a game brings them, but also the culture and background put into that game.  These ideas may come with a level of open-mindedness and a desire to explore some titles or genres that would have never made it to the player’s library in the absence of curiosity.  We start to understand terms like “western controls” or “JRPG” and just like art or movies, we realize that video games are also influenced by culture and region.  Way Of The Samurai 4 can potentially offer gamers in North America and Europe something unlike anything they’ve experienced before and possibly open doors to more fresh experiences.  Does it succeed with flying colors or fail miserably?  Continue on to find out.

Gameplay:
Way Of The Samurai 4 is a JRPG at heart with all of the bells and whistles you would expect from one.  There is a leveling up system, certain weapons are more powerful than others and they all have a finite amount of usage, your character is a generic mute that the player breathes life into through selected responses, and you may find yourself spending a lot of time navigating menus.  This game has a high barrier to entry as the accessibility is probably of the most poorly executed I’ve ever experienced.  A manual is included in the download, suggesting that developer Acquire substituted it for the inclusion of tutorials.  If you don’t take the time to check out the manual, you will have to fend for yourself to learn about the symbols on the map, the leveling up mechanic, mission tracking, and weapon usage to name a few elements.

You are guided through the combat system, probably because it is one of the major features of the game.  It is clunky and awkward at first, but even with practice you will realize that it lacks depth.  You are often required to simultaneously press a shoulder and face button to perform any move worth doing and it is very easy to forget these combinations between play sessions.  Your activity is tracked by “day” and you can advance time by sleeping at an inn or “lost and found”.  Doing so will increase your vitality by a varying degree, depending on your choice of time/room.  During a typical “day” of gameplay, a player will wander around town maps while picking up some side missions from citizens in need of a samurai and advance the story by heading for the next “event”.  Your journal will only give you vague clues as to where this is and the wandering can become tiresome, frustrating, and might ultimately cause you to put this game down for good.

It is made clear right from the beginning that this game does not take itself too seriously.  You begin by creating your character and dressing him in only boxers or tighty whities is an option.  You will almost always have two responses to any random passer-by in the streets of the fictional town of Amihama.  They are “Hey” and “I’m allowed to kill you if I want”.  If the person is a woman, you can also say “I think I’m in love”.  So far, a constable has informed me that he could no longer hold in is fart and an elderly woman has kneed me in the junk for trying to smooth talk her.  As a reward for completing a mission for three beautiful young women, I was able to play a mini-game in a torture chamber, enduring whip strikes while straddling some sort of saddle.  The quirky, Japanese humor is prevalent from beginning to end and really sets this one apart from others in the genre.

Aside from the witty and ridiculous component of the dialogue, the different responses really do serve a function.  The story changes depending on your choices, offering some replay value.  If you can stomach this game long enough to teach yourself how to play it and finally make it through an entire playthrough, there will be more to discover and achieve.

Visuals: 
There is nothing noteworthy about the visuals in Way Of The Samurai 4 as the graphics are on par with a highly polished PS2 game.  Running through the world apparently pans the camera faster than it can handle because the environments and backgrounds start to break and overlap.  On the characters themselves, it seems that weapons and items moving through clothing was just accepted by the developer.  Cutscene graphics are not much better than that of the gameplay and the white lettering of the subtitles is hard to read at times.

Audio:
The voice acting is this game is all Japanese with a few English words said with a Japanese accent for comedic effect.  Characters are purposely cheesy to fit the game’s style and the music is over the top as is everything else.  RPG’s usually benefit from a soothing melody that serves as white noise while reading through the text.  Way Of The Samurai 4 has some of this, but journeying to different parts of the map will change the tone, serving to disrupt a player’s flow and concentration.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only but there is a neat connectivity feature.  Your character can be uploaded to the world and appear as an NPC in the game of other players.  By killing one of these user-created samurais, you can gain much more than the disappointing items dropped by the AI NPC’s.

Conclusion:
Way Of The Samurai 4 is a unique take on a JRPG.  I believe that it shares a vision with Saint’s Row The: Third in the idea of poking fun at the genre in which it belongs.  Ultimately, we play video games for enjoyment and adding some humor and parody can only help the cause.  Way Of The Samurai 4’s humor is fueled by Japanese culture and the characters’ antics can really broaden your perspective of what the rest of the world thinks is funny.  This game fails with gameplay and visuals, and only marginally succeeds with quirkiness and re-playability; the latter of which cancels itself out because it is difficult to deal with this game once, much less two or three times.  After playing this title for a few hours on a couple of different occasions, I did not have the desire to go back to it and I likely would not have if it weren’t for the review.  I suppose that Way Of The Samurai 4 appeals to its niche market because it would have never made it to a third sequel if it did not have fans but I cannot recommend this game to any newcomer.  There is so much great content on the PSN and for $39.99, users can download countless hours of awesome, innovative, and entertaining gameplay.

Score:
6.0

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