raycarter's Geki Sengoku Musou (PlayStation Portable) review

Solidly Average

Keiji Maeda and Okuni are the co-cover characters in Samurai Warrior's inaugural PSP game

I've talked about two Dynasty Warriors games on the PSP, and now I move to both similar and familiar territory: Samurai Warriors (or SW). For those who don't know, Samurai Warriors is another franchise from KOEI, with the same Dynasty Warriors formula but set in the tumultuous conflicts preceding the rise of the Tokugawa era. The first SW game on the PS2 didn't set the world on fire, but had enough wrinkles to turn some heads and differentiate itself from Dynasty Warriors. State of War, SW's first game on the PSP, contains the roster for both the first SW game and SW: XTreme Legends (which included around 5 new characters). It adopted the same battle-field grid formula of the other PSP Dynasty Warriors games.

So what does that mean? Nothing much, actually. At the end of the day, SW State of War is very average, good or bad. There are very few major weaknesses, but there also aren't a lot of eye-catching strengths, either.

A brief history lesson: Samurai Warriors takes place in mid-16th to early-17th century when leadership over the region is both fading and up for grabs, resulting in numerous clashes between several warlords. You play as over 15 characters represented over 4 factions (some of which are historically accurate while others aren't) that all want to be the supreme ruler, and throughout the game your character will undergo several military campaigns to achieve that end goal. I won't say that the storylines are wholly interesting, but they go a long way to characterize the several figures and characters that dot the game. I had a really good feel as to who the characters are and their ambitions. Again, it's not great writing, but it's even better than, say, the Dynasty Warriors games on the PSP (esp. the ones I already reviewed, DW 1 and Vol 2).

The story doesn't scream Hunger Games, but it would give Twilight a run for its money

Once the narrative portion is over it's time to send your character out to the battlefield. What's somewhat unique about State of War is that the campaigns are broken down to many small missions the character has to fulfill while traversing the grid-like battlefield, the missions mostly consisting of kill x, y and z. These missions actually have a purpose: Do them well and your character can progress through the map faster. Fail them and the character will move like a slug over the grid. What's more unique are the scrolls, items that can be used before a battle to cause an effect, like healing yourself or dealing damage to enemy units. There are some situational scrolls used to do some environmental damage like forcing an avalanche or opening a water gate (both of which slows and damages opponents) but they are not exactly exciting.

What probably is more exciting is the combat, though that's not saying much. If you ever played a Dynasty Warriors game you know what you're getting: Square for normal attacks, Triangle for Heavy attacks, Circle for Musou (super) Attacks, and a combination of normal and heavy attacks to make a combo. It's not the best thrill I had but I give credit to State of War for having their characters do something very different from each other when performing heavy attacks. Also, using a Musou attack feels both deadly and unique. Unlike Dynasty Warriors, a character can use it's normal Musou attack animation, OR it can use normal and heavy attacks (that will be more damaging when used in this manner) until the Musou gauge reaches zero. Because you get the kill count as to how many fell from your Musou attack, using it feels like a mini-art form as I was trying to set a record for most number of people killed by a Musou attack.

For a brief period, Yukimura and co. can show their stuff in Musou attacks

Using a Musou attacks looks cool, watching foes crumple to the ground in slowmo, and that's about the only impressive graphical feat I saw in the game. While character models are fine, the enemy models lack some detail and the backgrounds feel very similar to one another: boring and generic. Also, I didn't warm to the soundtrack of this game as I did with, say, Dynasty Warriors Volume 2.

To sum it all up, Samurai Warriors: State of War is a product with mild highs and mild lows. If you are a Samurai (even Dynasty) Warriors fan then this is worth considering for purchasing, but the game isn't going to surprise you or jump off the page per se. At least the frustration factor is limited.

PS: Some replay value if you want to go through all the campaigns, but it really depends on you warming to the combat system whether or not you can take advantage of the depth. There are unlockable missions and hundreds of officers (NPCs that fight beside you and give you minor stat boosts).

Strengths:

- A better narrative effort than previous Warriors games

- Musou attacks are fun to pull off

Weaknesses:

- Fighting and missions can reach tedious levels

- Average presentation

Final Verdict: A definite 3 stars. There's nothing to like, or dislike, too much about this game. Add half a star if you are a Warriors fan.

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