@AssInAss: That is where a lot of the appeal is. I have now seen all the endings (only 12 which is down from like the 25 of the old games), and they are pretty cool, but not enough to keep you hooked. What ensnares you should be the constant getting of new swords new styles (84 of them I believe) and all the different accessories and clothes.
@Jimbot: Good advice here. Adding this to the main part. The push and pulling is sort of a risk-reward system that has been in the series off and on over the years. What makes this game awesome is the counterattacks that you can punish enemies with. If you use some fighting game logic in knowing how to block enemies and then punish them for it, then you will find the harder difficulties much easier.
@kyokushin_nanaya: Jimbot nails it here with describing the system. And I also agree that you should try out easy first. Without an upgraded sword and an unlocked moveset, you are going to be going into normal in bad shape. While you could play a game of sink or swim, it is better to save yourself a headache and go to easy first. Some of the side-quest enemies are stronger than enemies in the main storyline, so beware when attempting the later job missions.
Once I have deciphered the madness, I will post some tips on how to achieve some of the different paths. Because right now, I am so confused. I will support people the same faction the whole way through and still get left high and dry at a certain point in the story.
There is a definite bar for entry, but there is a lot of fun to be had. That is why I hope some of these hints will help people enjoy the game more instead of letting it give you that bad first impression.
I have begun to dive down the rabbit hole that is Way of the Samurai 4 and it can be a perilous journey. I think it would be best to pull our resources and try to figure this craziness out. I will be posting stuff that I figure out here to help some wandering ronin become samurai masters. Please ask your questions and if I can't answer them, then maybe someone else in the community can.
First things first.
1) How do I survive my first day?
1A) Focus on getting money and upgrading your sword. A high skillpoint sword will be your lifeblood as some of the later skills you unlock can even reduce enemy damage which is huuuuuge since you can no longer improve the defense of a sword at the smith. The best way to get a lot of sword skill points is to go into 'spring harvest' mode and just start wailing on a large group of enemies. You can get thousands of skill points that way. Also, get the durability up so it is at least sitting at around 1000 to 1500 and then start bumping up the attack. A high attack sword will do you no good if you have to switch out in the middle of the fight. Sidequests may be more useful than story ones as story ones can ramp up in difficulty pretty fast. The story quests will eventually have you bumping into named NPCs who can wreck you if you don't have a good enough sword. I also recommend staying away from the crime related stuff for now. The magistrate jobs are easy, pay well, and it improves the town's overall crime rate which lowers the price EVERYWHERE in the town.
2) What is up with the blacksmith? He says he is going to retire!
2A: He sure will. But, you can find a solution to this.
The elder blacksmith's days are numbered. He will indeed make good on his promise and leave you without a way to repair your sword aside from buying expensive items to replenish your precious sword durability. To ensure you have a blacksmith for the rest of your virtual days (and subsequent playthroughs) you must complete the Blacksmith's Quest for a Successor. The quest can be a little difficult so you might want to use him to up the strength of your sword before attempting the later parts of this quest. The part involves running in between the town and the cemetery which is where the blacksmith's apprentice Dojima is hiding. You must carry messages back and forth between them. When prompted by dialogue, pick the options that involve finding out about the other apprentice. Continue carrying messages back and forth even if Dojima tells you to go away. Simply return to the elder blacksmith to continue this quest. Finally, you must confront a suicidal Dojima in the cemetery who will attack you in rage. You now must defeat him in combat. Ensure that you are using the reverse side of your blade (L2+X) so you don't kill him. This fight can be tough. You need to stay on him and not give him room to maneuver. However, you can cheese this fight by using the square combo with the starting stance or the up stance you get from the Dojo for free. The layout of the cemetery allows you to corner Dojima and mash your way to victory. You might want to bring a backup sword just in case. Once beaten, he will realize the errors of his way and go back to the elder blacksmith. Once you return triumphant, talk to the newly appointed Dojima and bask in the glory of his black smithing which is now yours for this play through as well as any further ones. You also get a little trophy for this as well.
3) Can I play as a super kawaii banzai female samurai like in the other games?
3A: Yes. But, it is a little more convoluted than before.
First, you have to earn some samurai points by clearing or dying with a high samurai rating. The easiest way to get a high rating is to follow the main storyline. In even some of the 'deadend' endings, I was still able to achieve over 100% in rating which gives you quite a few points. Now, you must use these points in the 'Unlock' menu option which is available to you after you load your save. Now buy one of the female faces on the list (Girl, Maid, Harlot etc). Next, when you create your samurai, choose the face you want. Your character's avatar should change to reflect your new form. However, you can't wear the male clothes with a female character model so you are probably going to be quite near naked. Just get in the game, earn some money, and visit the same old clothing store in the main plaza. The inventory is now updated with new hairstyles, clothing, and accessories to customize your female samurai. If you expect this to change any of the dialogue though, it will not. You will still be referred to as a male samurai so no full on Persona 3 PSP level of new dialogue here.
4) What about just free-roaming? Can I do it or will the story push me to a conclusion?
4A: Free-roaming is still a thing. Go ahead and roam around killing and collecting swords to your hearts content. By not following story events, you may lock yourself out of some of the better endings. Also, there is a point of no return that will end your game if you achieve it.
To avoid this event, simply do not participate in the tournament after the Chief Minister comes to town.
I will continue to update with any questions brought up that I or anyone else answers and I will also update with any other survival advice that I think might be useful.
Jimbot nails it when giving some good advice and helping describe the push/pull system which may be confusing to people new to this series.
Easy Mode is pretty darn easy. Go into Normal and you will get destroyed. Normal in all Way of the Samurai games is like a NG+.
Push and pull is something you do when you hit an enemy guard. If you push forward when you connect you will "push" them and throw them off guard. However if they "pull" when you do that you will be thrown off guard. Same applies to you. If you both "pull" you will both do the animation and nothing will happen. If you both "push" like-wise nothing will happen.
I got the game the day it came out and put a week's worth of time into it and got some pretty things and unlocks out of it so far. It's definitely the most accessible of all the games and fixes a lot of the more esoteric mechanics of the game. The tutorials aren't that great, though. The manual doesn't help any either. Those aside it's probably a major leap up from the previous entries. Having map markers for jobs, an event journal and allowing you to put any stance on any weapon is just freaking great. The complexity and ambition of the story paths and outcomes took a hit for sure, but it's no longer a complete mystery on how to get them. The only thing that hasn't really change and still sucks is the upgrade system for the weaponry. It's still random, it still encourages you to reset and save scrub (but without the quit to menu option or soft reset) and the new durability system takes some time getting used to.
I certainly hope Acquire continues to make these. They really created a diamond in the rough, here. Technical problems, scope and the upgrading mechanics are all that really hold it back of being a classic. It's still fantastic, though.
I have seen the light at the end of tunnel. While some things are still locked away from me, I have unlocked a good portion of the game's content. Don't fret if you have to use an online guide to figure out some of the endings. They are pretty cryptic, but it could be very rewarding if you figure it out yourself. So, play on for a bit, and only look up the solutions once you are at wit's end.
ALSO: Look at your journal in the start menu. It catalouges all the events you have and have not seen and organizes them into a time frame. This will be huuuuuuuuuge in helping you find events that you were missing and to see 'behind the curtain' of how the game decides to branch out.
Extra question: Can I use guns?
Answer: Yes you sure can. They are unlocked in the unlock menu after certain requirements are filled. After you unlock the styles, you can then pick these weapons up. The requirements are: