Samurai Warriors 4 - PS4 Review

I’ve been playing Dynasty Warriors for a long time between the main series, the Gundam spin-offs, and now the more recent Hyrule Warriors. Until last week however, I had never actually played any iteration of the Samurai Warriors and the only thing I can say to myself now is: why had it taken so long? That and wow. I had originally thought that the only major difference between the two series is that Dynasty follows Chinese history and that Samurai follows Japanese. Having finally played the Samurai Warriors, that statement doesn’t even come close.

One of the first things that stuck out to me before even starting was that regardless of choosing the story or free mode, there are options that asks if you want to play Single player or Local Multiplayer. Even playing Dynasty Warriors 8, Gundam Reborn, or Hyrule Warriors, a second player has to confirm their entry before each and every level. Being able to set it to two players by default, while not seeming like a big thing, was huge to me since half the time I’m clicking too fast for my two friends that come over and play these along side me. Sorry guys!
Before making my way into the gameplay, which is generally why we love these series as much as we do, I want to draw attention to two things. The First is that graphically Samurai Warriors 4 is stunning. Character models, landscapes, combat animations, menu lists, everything is sleek, smooth, and very pleasing to the eyes. Running on the PS4 even with the hordes of enemies coming at me, or at one point my friend and I, not once was there a framerate drop or loss of quality. If that wasn’t enough, the rendered cutscenes are even more stunning. Being one of the first to be developed for a next (or now current?) generation console truly shows off what one of these games is capable of.

The second is the quality of music and the actual soundtrack. I found myself a few times just leaving the game in one of the menus because the music was just that awesome as I went about making something quite to eat or clean up. The tracks are all clear, crisp, and catchy in certain cases. While out on the various fields of battle I also found myself once again turning it up just to listen to the soundtrack. The gameplay had a perfect accompaniment both graphically and audibly making the experience that much better than it already was.

Samurai Warriors 4 has three major action packed modes. The first is the Story Mode in which multiple campaigns can be played out in the Sengoku period with varying levels of cutscenes. The second is the Free Mode in which players can replay any of the completed levels within the story mode with any available character. The last mode is the Chronicles Mode in which is an original free form story in which players take up a custom character in which to use.

The customization options available to players span from just about any physical aspect with with various sliders to choose from. Thankfully there is a random feature that I used to get something that I liked (for one) because if I had started on all of those options… I would still be there getting things just right and this would never get written. The one great thing however is that I spent a lot of my Chronicles time playing as my videogame / anime self as it’s not very hard to make. Being able to have this level of customizations is a lot of fun and I have done it often enough in games such as Dragon’s Dogma, White Knight Chronicles, Dark Souls 1-2, Soulcalibur, etc. Needless to say that I was quite happy to have it.

That wow that I mentioned earlier? Generally the gameplay combat in a Dynasty Warriors follows a fairly standard formula that by now is quite tested and true. Standard attacks can all be finished off with a power attack pulling off some pretty awesome finishing moves. The power attack on its own was is generally not the most useful short of a few specific characters. This of course was unless it was within the Gundam series in which it acted as your range weapons. As characters level up, the amount of standard attacks increases according to the character’s progression. Along with the standard attacks, the amount of power attacks that can be used to follow up each one of these also increases up to a maximum of three making some of these finishing moves very impressive. This makes sticking with one character more efficient that switching between various ones as you go through the campaign. I much prefered the various levels of character progression over a obtaining these at a standard set level as it makes things much more interesting as some characters are designed to get all the standards first, while others are designed to have all of their power attacks.

For the first time that I’ve played any of these type of games however, there were two things that make me sit back and just marvel at the novelty of it all. The first is that the power attack is now a series of attacks of their own which are quite fast paced and flashy. This new sets of attacks use the standard attack button to finish them off (vice versa to the standard formula) with some other pretty awesome finishing moves. To switch things up that substantially creates not only a whole new set of possibilities combat wise, but a whole new gameplay experience that makes it quite phenomenal to play.

Musou skills are just as awesome as they have ever been. Used alongside a character’s normal and power attacks, these skills can change the tide of a battle in a moment. Losing to a much more powerful foe? Launch a Musou as it might give you that edge that you needed. More powerful yet though, and I think I had first experienced this in Gundam Reborn, is the Hyper mode which enhances all of a players abilities to go (lack of a better term right now and is Omega-Xis’ fault in Mega Man Starforce) Buck Wild on the enemy. Being in Hyper mode allows for some serious damage output. Using this at pivotal times can result in finishing off multiple captains, heroes, or other less powerful named enemies.

The second, which makes the options of Single Player or Co-op make more sense is that regardless of which mode you are playing (with the exception of Chronicles as that is a local single player / online multiplayer only) Players select a second character in which to play through a stage with. This second character has their own KO count, experience, items, and to make things really really REALLY cool (sorry there may be a bit of glee in a few of these statements) is that the two characters can be switched between on a moments notice. Something happening on the complete other side of the map and you can’t get there? Switch characters as the other may be closer.

At the end of every level, both characters gain experience from the total amount of kills and combo counts that were performed. This makes leveling a second character that much easier than it would be normally. On top of being able to level this said secondary character, it makes some campaign levels easier as sometimes not all characters are available for every stage. When this happens taking up a first level character much farther down the length of the campaign is almost tantamount to suicide. Having this other character levels the playing field. Finally these characters can also be used quite strategically as they have three possible options to perform while using the other character. The first is to do as they please, the second is to stand their ground, and the third is to follow and defend you which can be one of the better decisions if either one of you happens to be the lower level.

Along with leveling up to become more powerful, players can acquire weapons to upgrade as they defeat the more powerful units which are either heroes or captains of varying specialities. Before upgrading these weapons however, gems will be required as well as gold to perform these upgrades. Gems can be acquired in one of two manners. The first, like weapons, is that they are dropped from the more powerful units. The second is smelting down the various weapons that are not being used or obsolete which grants an amount of gold and several random gems. These gems are required to upgrade the various stats from how powerful your horseback riding skills are to how powerful your weapon stats are. Sometimes a less powerful weapon could be more useful is there is an element attached to it such as frost that will freeze foes in place or Wind that will do damage regardless of if they are guarding or not. This can sometimes lead to a bit of choice paralysis as picking a weapon can sometimes be hard until the right one is found to properly support your character.

The most interesting features came from the Chronicles Mode. This mode takes your custom character and puts them in a scenario in which they set out on a quest to catalogue every warriors in the land. This would be easy enough, however not everyone is going to want to talk to you. Throughout your journey through a board like map you will encounter the various other heroes as you stand with or against them as friendships and rivalries blossom.

Starting off a custom character players may find some certain options outside of the physical look lacking. There aren’t that many wardrobe options or weapon types to really pick from. Worry not! This is part of your quest as you roam the land searching for these other warriors. Merchants, which can be found roaming around carrying various armour pieces as well as new mounts for players to ride. On top of those purchasing options, they also allow for weapons to be upgraded or smelted down as mentioned earlier. But what of the weapon style?

To gain a new weapon type / style to fight with, as almost each character has a style different from the next, player must max out their friendships with these warriors by selecting them as partners as they travel the land on their quest. Completing stages with these various partners will bring the player through cutscenes in which dialog options are available to select within conversations. These dialog choices bring your character closer to the current warrior that you are partnered with. Once the friendship reaches its maximum level, their weapon will be available to use by your own character allowing you to switch into it if you want to. So far? I haven’t budged from my two handed sword and rifle. I am more than happy with that style.

With all the time that I spent, there were very few disappointments. The first, and I wasn’t the only one to think while we played, was that players do not have access to an ability to lock on to a more powerful foe making flying around the battlefield hard to keep track of where the enemy is currently standing. Eventually one learns to adjust their movements but it can be a bit harder when only using half of a screen. The second is that Player Two (in this case not my better half but a friend over for the weekend) has their screen real-estate taken up by the various messages cutting their view down substantially. This wasn’t an issue for me as much as it was for him since it goes down into Player Two’s space. The last of the tiny issues was that once a mission is selected, there is no way to back out of it. Players had to either go into the level and then exit, or head back to the main screen with a reset. Generally I avoided this by just reminding myself of what I wanted to do once the stage was complete by victory… or a game over. Yes those can happen when playing on harder difficulties.

Overall, I’ll say that if you haven’t already picked this up I don’t know what you are still doing reading this and not heading out to get it at the store or over the PSN. If you are still here reading this however, I will say that I’m sad that it took me so long to pick up a Samurai Warriors as it was one of the best experiences in this genre that I have ever had. I love you Gundam, but this was something else. Now if everyone will excuse me, I’ve got more playing to get in before the weekend is over.

Review by Pierre-Yves


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