As a result of my Samurai Warriors Spirit of Sanada Review, I’m actually concerned for the direction Omega Force might take with future Warriors games. The usual, quality hack-and-slash battles on a large scale are still here, which is great, but the wrapping around it doesn’t work.

The Sanada Clan should make for an interesting narrative but its delivery feels lazy. For a series that deeply invested my in the Sengoku Era stories, it’s sad to see a half-step in their franchise cause such doubt in a long-time fan. Not since Samurai Warriors 4 Empires(review) have I been so disappointed. Whereas Samurai Warriors 4 was fantastic(review).

For those unfamiliar with Warriors games, allow me to fill you in. They consist of taking Warriors from the lore it’s depicting and placing them on battlefields with thousands of enemies, all ready to be mowed down by your chosen Warrior. With Samurai Warriors Spirit of Sanada, the series seemed to be taking a more focused approach on a specific narrative rather than the multiple conflicts that make up the age of the Samurai.

Unfortunately, I feel Omega Force missed the mark by a wide margin. Read on to find out why.

Look and Feel

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Omega Force aren’t technical powerhouses. Their games are rarely representative of the best graphics in the business. That said, they pack a lot of fodder enemies on to a screen at once. Character designs have more flair than ever. That said, even those designs suffer from the broad strokes taken at times. For instance, Yukimura’s cape in the late game. As you run around battlefields or towns, it floats in the air as if being lifted by wind. Except that it does so in such a rigid fashion, it distracts from the otherwise decent environments. It’s a minor annoyance, but it impacted my experience personally and serves to draw attention to the parts that didn’t receive as much care as Yukimura’s face.

On the one hand, this is the best representation of the Sengoku Era I’ve seen in a game. On the other hand, so many of the towns and exploration sections are practically cut-and-paste copies of the previous ones at a higher difficulty. I know it seems strange to attack a Warriors game for repetition, but given how often you have to venture out in to these areas, the issue can’t help but slap you in the face.

If there were a redeeming feature in the Look and Feel it’d be that, when they do go all in on cut-scenes, they do it well. I’ve always thought of Omega Force as people that really care about the story of Dynasty and Samurai Warriors, and it shows on occasion in this game. But far too often are important moments skipped and character interactions so weak, it leaves much to be desired in an area I thought they’d have no trouble in.

Story

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In an age of war, multiple Lords clashed for ownership of the lands of Japan. Largely based on the actual events of the Sengoku Era and slightly beyond. The Sanada Clan are retainers to the great Tactician Shingen Takeda and are constantly at war with their rivals; the Uesugi. As the tides of war turned in favour of one lord or another, Masayuki and his two sons; Yukimura and Nobuyuki, must keep their clan from becoming a minor foot-note in history.

What I’ve learned from Spirit of Sanada is that, with Warriors games, less is more. I usually love the opening movie that comes with these games. The epic clashes as two major figures come across one another on the battlefield. Sadly, this particular entries spreads itself too thin, resulting in poorly-done scenes that fail to hit the emotional nail on the head.

Though it’s fun to see young Yukimura and company grow through the years, it’s especially odd that some characters – much older than Yukimura – receive makeovers as the years progress. To the point where his very own ninja companions end up looking much younger than Yukimura over the span of twenty/thirty years (roughly).

Does it Do Anything Well?

If nothing else, Spirit of Sanada made me more curious than I’d ever been about the actual events of the Sengoku period. For that, it has my admiration. But it should have been a true showcase for the Sanada. They deaths of beloved comrades should have been given more care than off-screen non-events. Interactions between great lords shouldn’t just be three dudes with their legs crossed having a conversation in a similar house or castle. I’d go as far as to say all but the final two or three dramatic scenes left me feeling anything. All because they were delivered in such a weak setting.

What About the Sanada Specific Focus?

Honestly, the Sanada Clan were Omega Force’s best bet. Yukimura is often depicted as a righteous and mighty hero. The history of his clan is genuinely interesting. Perhaps this is why it’s such a disappointment in this game. I’d love to see a team like Naughty Dog take a shot at these stories because they really are engaging. Omega Force just can’t seem to delivery when asked for a large dose of what they do.

Gameplay

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As always, Samurai Warriors puts you in the shoes of a famous warrior from the Warring States period of Japan. It’s a hack-and-slash action game designed to be a power trip. The player will mow down waves of enemies and achieve objectives on the battlefield to ensure victory. This leads to experience and item gains, leveling up for new combination moves and general enhancements for the player used in the battle.

Where Spirit of Sanada differs is in its restrictions. Battles are mostly locked to a select few characters, sometimes a single character until completed, and sudden shifts of who you control can cause unpleasant dips in your power. Resulting in the occasional need to grind the new exploration areas. Sadly, these areas are tedious, segmented pieces of a map. Made even more insufferable by constant loading screens for tiny patches of land. A lot of the seventy hours I spent with Spirit of Sanada was spent leveling up a ninja I didn’t like using to gather materials for weapon upgrades before feeling competent in the main story battle.

There are no “Free Modes” to use whoever you’d like an any battle. You see, to me, Warriors games are a God Complex outlet. It’s sheer frustration ventilation. But when your character is under-powered for a stage, it only serves to make battles meaninglessly long. Multiple factors affect this, including the misguided weapon proficiency system and the sparsity of gold and materials needed for upgrades, individual to each character. In a series that’s a grind by design, the new approaches make it unbearably so.

But What if I Do Like it?

If you’re in to what it has to offer, there’s a lot to do. Objectives in battlefield missions give aim to the aimless. By accomplishing them, they sometimes unlock strategies for use in the next battle. Strategies are used by spending one of the Six Coins of Sanada; the clan’s emblem. In turn, completing objectives fills the meter up to be used, so it’s cyclical in design and makes sense to make use of.

The exploration sections have star ratings and objectives to accomplish too. They require multiple visits. And by multiple, I mean many. It’s actually ridiculous. But if you like experiencing the worst this game has to offer regularly, there’s much for you to do.

By completing the game’s many objectives, the player can unlock the Epilogue. Unfortunately I can’t speak to that. I have no intention of returning to Spirit of Sanada. I’ll gladly return to Samurai Warriors 4 before I reach this game’s Epilogue section. Perhaps if the story weren’t dragged out to exhaustion, I’d be enticed to endure it for the sake of seeing the true ending.

Overall

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As a non-numbered Warriors entry, I can breathe a sigh of relief. Though Spirit of Sanada has interesting ideas, I don’t think it executes a single one of them effectively. Its story is weak in its depiction, its upgrade systems are an unfair grind and the new exploration sections need a lot more work to be worth the effort.

It feels as if this game was a testing ground for the new direction Omega Force are taking with Dynasty Warriors 9. If that’s the case, I can only hope these systems weren’t balanced and their future installments will be the finished product. I simply can’t recommend Spirit of Sanada beyond the usual, satisfying power trip (provided you’ve leveled up your character and upgrade their weapons a fair amount).

About This Samurai Warriors Spirit of Sanada Review

Game Reviewed: Samurai Warriors Spirit of Sanada, Digital Edition Provided by Publisher
Review Format: PS4
PEGI: 16

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