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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Koei

 

Developer

Omega Force

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

September 19, 2006

 

 

- Wailing on tons of bad guys is still pretty fun for awhile

- Camera control

- Improved level up systems

 

 

- Same repetitive gameplay as the last several installments

- Pretty subpar graphics

- Boring music

- No major changes to make the game worthwhile to anyone but the most diehard fans

- Lame online play

- No major improvements over the PS2 version

 

 

Review: Samurai Warriors 2 (PS2)

Review: Ninety-Nine Nights (360)

Review: Dead Rising (360)

 

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Samurai Warriors 2

Score: 5.0 / 10

 

Samurai Warriors 2 actually the sixth in Koeis never-ending series of hack and slash ‘em ups starting with Dynasty Warriors 2 at the PS2 launch and running all the way up until now. And this isn’t including the myriad of spin-off and portable editions that’ve been released. And for good reason – it’s one of Japans most popular series, and has a reasonable following elsewhere around the world too.

 

samurai warriors 2          samurai warriors 2

 

But Koei and developer Omega Force milked the series dry long ago – the gameplay has always been inherently repetitive, and to repackage it over and over and over is the kind of business scheme that would put Megaman to shame. If the games improved considerably from installment to installment, that would be okay. Here, they don’t. The only difference between Samurai and Dynasty Warriors is that the former takes place in old Japan , while the latter takes place in ancient China .

 

In every single Warriors game, you’re an ultra powerful warrior in the middle of a battlefield, able to wipe out dozens of enemy warriors with a few quick swipes. You don’t command anything or anyone – all you do is run around, protect your allies, and wail on some bad guys until you defeat the enemy general. Most of these levels are pretty big – on average, it takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour or more to beat a level. There’s a slight element of strategy in constantly balancing your offensive and defensive strikes, although since none of your AI buddies can do anything worthwhile, you’re constantly running across the level to save them, essentially playing a game of feudal babysitter. Your pals tend to bark

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out orders mid-battle, all of whom have massively awful English voices. (Did the Japanese really sound like surfer dudes?) Unlike the Xbox incarnations of previous Warriors games, there’s no way to choose the original Japanese voice acting, so you’re stuck with it. Most of the time it’s useless babble, but occasionally they inform you of secondary objectives, like defending your army while they set up a castle.

 

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The fighting system isn’t terribly complex either. There are two attack buttons, so you can create combos, along with a Musou super meter that lets you execute special attacks. That’s about all there is. For its simplicity, its still pretty fun to run into parade of enemies and destroy them with minimal effort, watching as your kill count rises. It’s also still fun to grab a horse and trample on everything in sight, except for enemy generals, which possess some kind of magic power that causes horses to stop in their tracks. Alas, one of the guiltiest pleasures of the Dynasty Warriors games – the cheesy power rock – has been dropped in favor of some boring Japanese influenced techno.

 

The graphics are pretty unimpressive. Although they look much cleaner than the horribly jagged PS2 graphics, they’re still underwhelming. The terrains are all big and boring, terribly textured and even high-def doesn’t make it any better. The character models look okay, but they don’t hold up to the wannabe clone Ninety Nine Nights (although, to be fair, Samurai Warriors 2 does run at a smoother framerate.)

 

Dynasty Warriors 2 impressed everyone back on the PS2 launch day since it could display so many soldiers on the screen, so these issues were somewhat acceptable back then. Now, on a vastly more powerful platform, it just feels lazy. In addition, the number of soldiers on the battlefield were made possible by sacrificing their intelligence. Foes stand around and wait to be slaughtered – at their smartest, theyll run away with their tails between their legs, but they still won’t put up a reasonable fight. All the while, allies run around in a thoroughly confused manner – sometimes they’ll ride straight into their deaths, other times they’ll just stand still, apparently waiting for some scripted events. You’d think with the extra power of the Xbox 360 cores that they’d improve some of this, but they haven’t.

 

samurai warriors 2          samurai warriors 2

 

New to Samurai Warriors 2 is ability to (finally) control the camera, instead of simply centering it behind your character. It’s a nice addition, although it still feels too zoomed in. The other major improvement comes in the form of an improved leveling-up system. You now gain experience from killing enemy generals, which strengthens your characters skills, as well as granting more combos. This may sound like a pretty tradition RPG mechanic, but it’s a lot nicer than the random item collecting of the previous games. You also can also scour the battlefield for gold, which can be used to by a large assortment of abilities. The indoor castles from the original Samurai Warriors are back, and they’re just as bland as ever.

 

You’d better get used to the boring layouts and droning textures of the interior levels if you plan on tackling the Survival mode, which is structured like a standard dungeon crawler. The traditional Story Mode is still around as well. At first, there are only a handful of characters available, each featuring five (plus one bonus) stage. As you play though various scenarios, you’ll unlock more and more characters, ranging from a spear wielding pretty boy to a badass ninja, from to a little girl wielding a ball-in-a-cup, to any number of fat, bearded men. Needless to say, there’s a lot to see and do before you fully complete the game. There’s a fantastically lame Xbox Live competitive mode, where two players play on separate battle fields and see who can outperform the other. Co-op is one of the few things that keeps the Warriors game fun, and real online co-op wouldve been great, but I guess not with this iteration.

 

Samurai Warrior 2's featured mode is the Suguroku board game, which is basically like Monopoly set in Japan . You control one of four warriors who moves around a board, purchasing land, and hoping one of your opponents steps on it. However, you can also issue challenges to take over territories, which are usually some kind of fighting mini-game. In theory, it’s an interesting idea, but it doesn’t really work out. The game requires that you play with four characters regardless of how many human players there are, filling in the remaining spots with computer controlled players. This makes the Suguroku mode obnoxiously boring unless you have three other Samurai Warriors fans handy. Unfortunately there is no Live support for the Sugoroku mode either.

 

By now, if you’re even vaguely familiar with the Warriors games, you know what you’re getting into. Ultimately, it’s barely any better or worse than the ones that came before it – and probably after as well. Fans will enjoy it. Newcomers may find it interesting, as it is technically more polished than most of its brethren, even if it’s only due to minor things like the camera control. The Xbox 360 only has the cleaner visuals and Live play going for it, but probably isn’t worth the extra $10US over the Xbox version. For everyone else that got tired of the same repetitive gameplay years ago, there’s absolutely nothing to see here.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(October 13, 2006)

 

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