Review: Samurai Warriors 4-II (PS4)

samurai-warriors-4-2-review-banner

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible No
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Samurai Warriors 4-II
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (18.1 GB)
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Koei Tecmo America
Developer: Omega Force / Koei Tecmo America
Original MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: T
Samurai Warriors 4-II is also available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

In Samurai Warriors 4-II you get to play each of the main characters from their perspective. While I have not played the original Samurai Warriors 4, this game is supposed to be an expanded version with a new focus on the characters themselves and it also adds a new Survival Mode.

Gameplay:
Samurai Warriors 4-II is primarily a Musou-type game, the same as most other Warriors titles. That means it’s basically a tactical action RPG where you fight hordes of enemies over large battlefields.

The controls are pretty much identical to other Warriors titles. You have your basic combinations of Square and Triangle, and as your character levels up, the number of buttons in your combos get larger. In addition to the standard button combos, the Circle button makes you perform a Musou attack if your skill gauge is full.

There is also another special attack where you can press the R3 to go into a special Rage Mode. If you do your Musou attack within this mode, you get an even more powerful Musou Frenzy Attack.

… characters retain their progression between arcs …
Now with a few of these titles under my belt, I finally can see the subtle differences between them. While Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 had you build your own character and take him through the battles in feudal Japan, this game takes you through the same types of battles but is mainly focusing on each character’s story arc. While this game has the ability to upgrade weapons and horses like the other games, you use other weapons and horses to upgrade your target instead of gems.

Right off the bat in Story Mode you’re presented with a menu of the different stories, starting with Naomasa Li. There doesn’t seem to be any restriction on what order you do the stories in, since each story arc has a number of battles that start with a one-star difficulty and work their way up to a possible ten stars.

When you first start the game, you’re only allowed to play through seven or eight of the thirteen total story arcs, while the remaining arcs need to be unlocked as you play through the game. The cool thing about the Story Mode is that the characters retain their progression between arcs.

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One thing that I found a little tedious is how you have to grind to upgrade the different characters. For example, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 enabled you to use currency to level up your different characters. Samurai Warriors 4-II does not, so you have to grind each new character to be able to level them up. This can get a bit tedious with fifty-six characters to play as.

Another key difference in this game is the whole skill grid system. As you fight through the battles, you’ll acquire Strategy Tomes. These come in five different varieties: Attack, Defense, Speed, Help, and Special.

Each of the different types are used to activate skills in your character’s pre-defined skill grid. So naturally, for different attack buffs, you’ll mainly use Attack tomes to level up the character. As you get more of the skills activated, they’ll unlock the adjacent skills around them.

… use this mode to quickly level your characters …
The skill grid itself is a series of hexagonal tokens that are aligned in different patterns for the various characters. One other thing to note is that when you get to the higher levels of skills, they may require Strategy Tomes of a different class to unlock them.

Although you are not able to purchase levels to quickly upgrade your characters, Samurai Warriors 4-II includes a Survival Mode. This is very similar to the Dream Log mode in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 in that you can use this mode to quickly level your characters and mine for treasure and gold.

One of the awesome things about the Survival Mode is that it adds an element of Rogue-like gameplay to the Warriors-style. The Mode sets the stage as a mysterious castle that appears in feudal Japan. Word quickly spreads about the riches and danger and lures warriors from all over the region to try to reach the top.

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When you begin Survival Mode, you’re presented with a selection of the two main sections: Standard and Challenge. In both, you’re able to select any character you’ve unlocked from the Story Mode or any of your Custom Characters.

The Standard Survival Mode has you ascending the castle from the first floor to over ninety floors. You’re only allowed to collect a certain amount of treasure, though there is no limit of gold that you can collect. Each time you finish a level, you’re able to escape with your loot or continue to the next floor.

Each time you play through from the beginning, the floor layout and enemies are different. The only exception to this is the main milestone floors, which are generally every fifth or tenth floor.

… upgrading weapons and horses gets extremely expensive …
Once reached, certain floors give your character certain buffs and/or the ability to start from that level in a subsequent playthrough. For example, reaching level five increases your health gauge by five percent when you go up subsequent levels, while reaching level ten allows you to purchase your way to level eleven when you play the Survival Mode again.

I found the Survival Mode to be extremely useful for leveling characters, gaining gold, and finding new weapons, horses, and Strategy Tomes. Just playing through the Story Mode barely nets you much gold or Strategy Tomes, so this is a must for being able to max out your character and upgrading weapons, since upgrading weapons and horses gets extremely expensive.

The other setting in Survival Mode is a Challenge mode, which has four different subsections, three of which are unlocked when you start out. These Challenge modes are a ranked challenge where you try to get higher scores.

Three of the challenges that are available are Trials, Riches, and Agility. These have you killing as many enemies as you can within a time limit, acquiring as much gold as possible within a time limit, and trying to defeat a set number of characters as fast as possible, respectively.

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The last mode is the Free Mode, which allows you to play any pair of characters through any of battles you’ve unlocked in the main Story mode.

There is a custom Character Creation section within the Dojo menu that allows you to create a pretty customized character. There are tons of different customizations you can do to the character’s body with lots of variables to change.

You can only use your custom character in the Free and Survival modes. By completing the Story Mode arcs, you will unlock different weapons that your custom character can use.

… the lack of lock-on …
Overall, having only played one other Samurai Warriors game, this one seemed to be much more fun and engaging. Samurai Warriors 4-II doesn’t have all of the dialog choices that Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 had. I really liked the whole focus on the individual character story arcs since it seemed to help introduce the characters and make you actually get to know who they are,which the other game didn’t really do.

The AI in this game seems to be much improved over previous versions and I could really tell the difference when taking a leveled up character into battle with me. They really became a huge asset in helping me clear out the battle with a lower level character.

As good as the game is, I have a couple of problems with it. Probably the biggest is the lack of lock-on. I believe the L3 button is completely unused, yet the game does not include a lock-on ability at all.

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Having no lock-on has you trying to fiddle with the camera when battling sub-bosses and main battle bosses. Lots of times when you’re trying to fight these strong enemies, you want your Musou attacks to count. If the enemy runs out of your line of sight at the last minute, you can find yourself wasting your more powerful moves on nothing.

Another camera issue I had was when I was running across the battlefield. The camera wants to drift back into an angle that is slightly too low, leaving most of the screen looking at the ground instead of staying put where I focused the camera. I found this really annoying since I constantly had to keep the camera where I wanted it.

The final issue I had is in the store. When trying to sell items, you have no idea how much you’re going to get for selling the item until after you sell it. I would have at least liked the store to give the price in a dialog box before you go to sell the weapon.

… I just want to see it all …
Also, you have to sell your items one at a time which is a bit annoying as well. It really would help if you could multiselect items and get a total amount you’re to receive back.

All in all, even with these problems, this is just a great game. Like I said before, this one is much better than the other Samurai Warriors game I’ve played and it has lots of content as you’d expect a Warriors game to have.

Unlike the others, I am actually compelled to want to finish this one. Each new story arc gives a new character to focus on and I just want to see it all. In addition to the Story Mode, I particularly like the addition of the Survival Mode in this game so I hope they keep this in other games.

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Visuals:
Samurai Warriors 4-II is just a gorgeous game and runs at a very constant framerate. I don’t recall noticing any slowdown, even when slaying scores of enemies with my Musou attacks. The visuals are not perfect within the entire game however, in the battlefield flyover scenes at the beginning of the battle, the graphics seem to take a significant graphical downgrade.

Also, in the cutscenes, I believe the frame rate is thirty frames per second, unlike the rest of the game. Aside from that, the only other problem within the main game is that there is quite a bit of pop-in and a few physics issues, such as the character going through some objects.

… only has Japanese voice tracks and is subtitled in English …
I would expect there to be pop-in since it’s such a huge game with many characters on the screen at once, but I didn’t expect my character to be able to walk through his horse after the battle was over.

Even with these graphics issues, the main meat of the game is just wonderful in the graphics department and performs very well.

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Audio:
Overall, the audio is pretty good. The game makes pretty effective use of surround sound and the Japanese voice actors are good. There were no annoying voices that I could tell so far. The game only has Japanese voice tracks and is subtitled in English, which is to be expected for the Warriors games I’ve played so far.

One of my biggest complaints had to do with the music. While it’s generally pretty good with a mix of traditional Japanese-sounding music mixed in with some more contemporary-sounding mixes, the character selection, shop, and upgrade screens have one looping song that gets extremely annoying.

… makes online play against random people not very practical …
Since you will probably spend a majority of your time outside of the battle in the menu upgrading your character, it just doesn’t make sense to loop the same song over and over. The song that they chose, while being an okay song, has a very high-pitched vocal that gets extremely annoying when played over and over again. There’s so much music in this game that I can’t understand why the developers couldn’t just choose random tracks to play within the menu.

Fortunately, you can turn down the music independently from the other game audio, but it’s done on a system-wide level, so if you turn it down too much, you’re going to miss out on the other great music tracks that play within the levels. In fact, once you beat a level, you’re allowed to change the music. I just wish they’d allow you to change the menu system music.

Online/Multiplayer:
Samurai Warriors 4-II has both local split screen and online co-op in the Story and Free Modes. I was not able to try out the local co-op and I was also not able to find any online matches.

I found the Online mode doesn’t have a Quick Match option on the overall level to join any open match. The fact that the game makes you have to go into every single individual level and search for a match, or start your own online match and wait for someone else to do the same, makes online play against random people not very practical, which I suspect is why I was unable to get into a match.

… this is probably a good introduction into the series …
With that said, I suppose this game would be great for people with one or more friends that own the game and would make it a fun game to play online or offline co-op.

I usually don’t play games online, so it’s not a huge loss that I couldn’t get into a session with anyone. It seems kind of sad that the same developer could create One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 with integrated online co-op and not utilize the same kind online system as that game.

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Conclusion:
Overall, Samurai Warriors 4-II is a great game that’s a lot of fun to play. It’s the first Samurai Warriors game that really grabbed my attention and made me want to play through all of the story arcs as well as get to know all of the characters.

Each character has their own style of attack and different weapons so the combat is really varied, which helps keep the game from getting boring. About the time you get tired of one character, you’re done with their story arc and can play the next one. You can even switch it up and play as a different combination of characters, or if you’re partial to one, you can choose to max him or her out and play through each level as your favorite.

I would probably recommend this game first and foremost to gamers who like Musou games. This one in particular will give you more in-depth info about the individual character’s personalities and gives you a mode that seems to be new for the series.

If you played other Samurai Warriors games and became bored with the focus on the history/battles, this might be one you can really get into and enjoy. For new players, I think this is probably a good introduction into the series since you don’t really need to know any of the characters prior to playing in order to enjoy the game.

I’ve really come to like the Musou-type gameplay of the Warriors games and Samurai Warriors 4-II is a blast to play, plus it’s gorgeous to boot. I highly recommend this game.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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