Sengoku Basara Samurai Heroes Game Review
Since I’m going to an anime convention in less than a week, I figured I’d review something Japanesey so I’ve been playing Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes.
Originally released in 2010 by Capcom and having an anime based on it, I had never heard of this game before a couple weeks ago after watching an episode of Game Grumps. Considering how cheap it was on Amazon, I thought what the heck, I’ll check it out and what we have here is a very fun but mindless hack-n-slash type beat’em up with lots of flare and characters.
It is very similar to Dynasty Warriors in the general gameplay and setting but is very much stylized like an anime.
Now other than what I’ve just told you, I know nothing about the series beyond what I’ve played in this game. I have not seen the anime; I don’t know which came first. I assume the game did. I don’t know which follows the other better or whatever. I do know this is the third game in the Sengoku Basara series but the first to be released in the US. There are two versions of this game: the PS3 version and the Wii version. I am playing the PS3 version. I have no idea how the Wii version differs. Anyway, let’s dive into this Samurai madness.
Very loosely set during the civil wars of Japan during the 19th century, the country has been split apart into many warring factions. The two main armies are The Eastern Army lead by Ieyasu Tolugawa and the feared Western Army lead by Ishida Mitsunari. Mitsunari wants nothing more than to avenge his former leader’s death at the hands of Ieyasu and will stop at nothing to get this moment while Ieyasu seeks to unite Japan and form a peaceful empire. Caught in the middle are many other armies and factions that must either join one of the two sides or face inevitable destruction.
While the general story is pretty much a run of the mill plot you see in many anime series, what makes Samurai Heroes interesting is just how many stories there are. There are 17 playable characters in this game, each with their own campaign and story. Many of the stories over lap and can end differently depending on what path you choose during the campaigns.
There is a wide variety of characters ranging from super serious and badass characters to really whacky and weird characters, all with their own fighting styles.
Battles and cut scenes will play out differently in the campaign depending on who you are playing as so it gives some replay value to levels you had already played through as other characters. Some of the story is fleshed out by conversations characters have during battle… somehow.. And some of the conversations are laughably clam considering the actual action happening on screen.
Some knowledge of Japanese history might be helpful to understand a couple real world events that are referred to in this game but I honestly don’t really care that much. While some people might find the stories interesting, I find myself skipping over cut scenes if I’ve already seen them. Some of the characters have more interesting stories than others and some of the characters I found downright annoying but the story never over stays its welcome. Each campaign consists of 8 battles varying between 10 to 30 minutes each. It can take up to an hour and a half to two and half hours to complete a single campaign but considering that there are 17 campaigns, you’re not going to be finishing this game 100% in a single sitting.
The core gameplay of Samurai Heroes is all about beating the crap out of armies with a flurry of attacks. Each character has their own weapons, attacks, and super attacks that are a lot of fun to use. It’s extremely satisfying to charge into a group of 20+ enemies and start throwing their bodies around like popcorn. The weapons characters use vary from swords, guns, tridents, bows and arrows, super natural powers, ect. One guy even uses a wrecking ball as his weapon. Super moves are easy to pull off once your gauges are filled and I usually use them to finish off bosses. The camera can be a bit of a pain sometimes as it doesn’t correct itself often enough. I usually find myself having to do it manually but it’s never too much of an issue. The combat is the reason you want to play this game. It is simple and mindless but tons of fun.
Sadly, there are some missed opportunities here that will disappoint people who might have wanted a deeper experience from this game. The over world map gives the impression that this game might have more strategy involved but it really doesn’t. Other than choosing the order of your battles, you have no real control of your armies in battle. Different battlefields offer different hazards and objectives but the lay outs and order of events will always remain the same with the exception of a couple maps.
While the levels are not completely open battlefields, there are usually multiple paths to explore within the levels with hidden items scattered through them, making them worth exploring.
Your objective is to capture each of the enemy base camps then go for the army leader, kind of like in Battlefield and there is a similar Battlefield style map on the screen that is easy to read. But like I said, you do not have control of your actual army so you can’t give commands for one group to go take this camp while another battles this group of enemies ect. It’s probably a good thing too because the AI is just dumb. I rarely see them actually doing anything other than running around. You can get a buddy AI who follows you around to back you up but he does even less. It’s not like really it matters since you can easily take on multiple platoons of enemies and come out without a scratch. Thankfully, the boss AI is a bit better and can make for some enjoyable battles, especially on higher difficulties.
In addition to the campaign mode, there is also Quick Battle which is just an instant action mode where you can pick any of the battles you previously played and play them without all the in between cut scenes and with any character. Though the default cut scenes will still be in the levels but I end up just skipping past them. This is also a good way to level up your characters and gather resources outside the main game. You can collect new weapons and power-ups from your battles to add some RPG elements to the game but they are pretty shallow so don’t expect anything too deep. Thankfully, the game sports 2 player co-op so you and a friend can tear up the battlefield together so you don’t have to rely on your army of crappy AI.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND:
Visually the in game graphics I found to be rather middle of the road and something you would have seen from early PS3 games. That’s not a bad thing but it’s nothing that will blow you away either. The level designs are nicely done and the scenery varies from forests, castles, mountains, and other typical settings in Japan. There is one level that is a bunch of boats connected to each other that is pretty cool. A lot of the textures look pretty flat but you don’t really have time to stand there and look around since there is so much action happening on the screen. Samurai Heroes does have flawless frame rate though and this is very important for a game that will literally have hundreds of characters on the screen at once. This makes the battles even more fun with how smooth the animations are. In terms of visuals on the other hand, the opening cinematic is beautifully rendered and really gets you pumped for this game. Or will annoy you with J-Pop. The characters all have really cool designs though very few of them actually look like samurai. Most of them look like Tekken or Guilty Gear characters. Or J-Rock stars.
The voice acting is pretty average for what you’d expect from anime voice acting these days. There are a lot of recognizable English voice actors in this game though. Troy Baker (the voice of Booker in Bioshock Infinite) voices Ishida Mitsunari and Johnny Bosch, who has voiced so many anime characters over the years, voicing Sanada Yukimura. There are many others I recognize but can’t name of the top of my head. Most of the dialogue is over the top but if you’ve seen anime, it’s nothing too different from what you’d expect from most anime series. Take that as a good or bad thing but a Japanese audio track option would have been nice.
Regardless of what you might think of the voice acting, the game has some poor lip synch.
Sometimes a character will have their mouth shut and will still be talking. This was excusable in the early days of 3D games but not so much anymore. Lastly, the game does have a great soundtrack that is fitting of the game and works perfectly with its style. The game features the song ‘Naked Arms’ by T.M. Revolution during the opening theme and final boss fight once again adding to the anime feel of the game.
Overall, Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is a fun but mindless beat’em action game that has very satisfying combat. With 17 characters to choose from, there is a lot of gameplay here though it can become repetitive after awhile. While this game is definitely not for everyone, anime fans and fans of Dynasty Warriors and other hack n’ slash type games should check it out. If you want something with more strategy though, you’re going to be disappointed. If you want to get this game, I recommend getting it off Amazon as you can find it for $15 on there. It runs between $20 and $40 on Ebay and not really worth that much money. Thank you for reading! Keep a look out for upcoming reviews of Metro: Last Light and the Deadpool game later this summer.
- Extremely fun and satisfying combat, many characters to play as
- Fun 2 player mode
- Perfect frame rate
- Story won’t interest everyone
- Varying degrees of voice acting
- Levels can get repetitive