Samurai Maiden Review

Samurai Maiden by developer SHADE Inc. and publisher D3PublisherSony PlayStation 5 review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Samurai Maiden by SHADE Inc. and D3Publisher is an action adventure that will see high school student Tsumugi Tamaori thrown back in time to the day that Oda Nobunaga would disappear from history. Having changed history with her arrival, Tsumugi soon finds herself heading into the underworld to presumably stop Mitsuhide Akechi from resurrecting a Demon Lord as part of their plan to defeat Nobunaga.

Up front, while the premise is a little over the top, it works well to move the story along. Split into nearly thirty core chapters and multiple optional ones, there's more than enough time for some plot twists and "should have seen those coming"! The mission style itself works well as there's plenty of dialog before, after, and often in between right before a boss fight.

Always in control of Tsumugi, there are three other characters that are there to help. Iyo, the fire-skilled shinobi who serves Nobunaga and is from this timeline. Hagane, the electricity-skilled shinobi and Komimi, the ice-skilled Shinobi who both come from different parallel worlds. Together, these four make up the main cast who will travel through the underworld with the same goal, but different reasons, on a quest to defeat the Demon Lord.

So traveling together, there will only ever be two characters in the field. Tsumugi and one of the other three. As Tsumugi, you'll start off with a very basic set of controls. Light attacks, one heavy attack, and the ability to dodge. As this is not an RPG, nor does Samurai Maiden have RPG elements like leveling up to gain new abilities, this worried me a bit in the beginning but there was thankfully nothing to worry about.

As you go through the missions, Tsumugi can partner up with Iyo, Hagane, or Komimi at any point in time. Each, unless mission specific, is aways available and you can easily switch between who's helping out at a moment's notice. Whether simply swapping between characters for a puzzle or switching them in on a combat move, there's different buttons for each and it is never a problem to pull off.

The reason that this is important is that not only will this secondary character be providing support, but, while on the field with Tsumugi their bonds will increase. As the bonds increase, this will lead to extra story segments of deepening friendship which in turn will lead to Tsumugi learning new abilities to use in combat circumventing the need for an leveling up system.

Not only does this make combat more interesting as you learn new abilities and have new options, but it makes it more believable. Tsumugi, while knowing how to use a sword because of her grandfather's dojo, is not a swords-person. So by having Tsumugi learn from the others loops back into the adventure and makes it all the better for it.

Where things fall a bit flat however is in the stage and enemy design. With only a few pallets for both, you'll often be seeing the same layouts and the same enemies. From start. To finish. From your standard small fry to the larger mid-bosses, there's no real diversity. Taking the skeletal enemies for example, some have armor, some do not, and then change the color palette to let you know their toughness. That's about it.

So with only that to see over the course of the journey? It's hard to really want to go back for two additional difficulty modes which unlock after each successful completion. Sure there's the challenge, new gear to unlock and current gear to finish upgrading, but by this point the gameplay feels one note compared to the story which has now finished.

On that note however, Samurai Maiden has one of the better designs for a mission based experience that I've seen. As you are graded on performance, time, enemies defeated and currency picked up, you'll be diving back in often enough to get those S-ranks. To help with this, you'll only see the cutscenes once. Every other time you go through it's directly into the gameplay. But what if you want to rewatch a cutscene? Every single one of these is in a library that can be rewatched and is labeled stage X and at what instance in the stage it appeared. 

Now, on a final note, one thing that I appreciated was that the fan service was toned down and not over the top. Fan service you ask? Please, you knew this was coming! Samurai Maiden is designed by one of the same developers as Kandagawa Jet Girls (Nick's PS4 Review) who also had a hand in the Senran Kagura series which also probably wears the crown for fan service. To quote Nick, as it sums it up rather well,
"... if you’ve never played the Senran Kagura games, they generally consist of voluptuously designed female anime characters participating in a range of fighting, cooking or even ‘Peach Ball’ games. They have a very distinctive visual aesthetic that consists of almost completely female casts often doing ridiculous but equally often amusing things." --Nick

And while that's a bit of the case here, such as running around and platforming while facing the undead, there's a limit to how far things are taken. As you take damage, clothes will tear up a bit but never to a point of where you would need to make sure no one is walking in on you. If anything between that and the soot marks, it's evident that you may need to get better at the combat than anything else.

Of course you'll still want to make sure to know who's around in case they read the dialog as it can get fairly suggestive especially in the optional sequences. Par for the course in a Senran or Neptunia game, one look at the visuals and you know it'll be present. It's just a matter of time!


So overall, SHADE Inc. and D3Publisher's Samurai Maiden was a fun title to go through. While the gameplay visuals may have been a bit bland over time as you'll only ever see the same color palette swapped enemies, there's a ton of dialog and story to make up for it as Tsumugi travels with Iyo, Hagane and Komimi to defeat the Demon Lord.

Score: 7 / 10



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