Review: Samurai Warriors: Chronicles for 3DS

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Samurai Warriors: ChroniclesTitle: Samurai Warriors: Chronicles
Price: $39.99 each
System: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: March 27, 2011
Publisher (Developer): TECMO KOEI (Omega Force)
ESRB Rating: “T” for alcohol reference, mild language and violence
Pros: Excellent graphics and character art, huge battles, great mix of action and strategy,
Cons: Repetitive, fighting is mostly about button mashing, muddy interface, can’t skip level introductions, level grinding required
Overall Score: One thumb up and one thumb down, 77/100, C+, **1/2 out of 5

Getting right to it, I greatly enjoyed Samurai Warriors: Chronicles, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. The game has its problems, yes, and depending upon what you expect, they may be significant enough for you to bide your time with Face Raiders until that title you really wanted at the 3DS’s launch is finally available. But if you come into Samurai Warriors: Chronicles with the proper (or, in my case, no) expectations, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Samurai Warriors: Chronicles

Was ancient Japan always this pretty?

Samurai Warriors: Chronicles is easily the best looking Nintendo handheld game I’ve ever played. The massive levels make excellent use of the widescreen display, creating a cinematic effect normally reserved for the PSP or iPhone. More importantly (for my personal preferences, anyway), the characters during gameplay and in cut scenes look like actual people… above the age of 14! Whether this is because Omega Force prefers for their warriors to be (gasp!) adults or because the graphics capabilities of the 3DS warrant such a change, I hope this is something we see more of.

And surprisingly, the 3D effect is quite interesting in not only the battles, but also the conversation segments between battles. There’s a good balance in the design, so the the 3D warriors still look like video game characters, and not those creepy, uncanny valley characters we get on other systems. That makesSamurai Warriors: Chronicles pleasant to look at throughout, and it does a great job of showing off the costume design, to which you can tell Omega Force paid a lot of attention.

Samurai Warriors: Chronicles

Can we quit playing dress-up and start fighting?

Yes, sorry. Samurai Warriors: Chronicles is set in the Warring States period of Japanese history, which apparently involved a lot of battles in which three or four super warriors fought hundreds of rather dumb guys who often took to sitting down on a battlefield. You play one of the smart warriors, thankfully, who’s on a “vision quest” of sorts to find his or her purpose. You do this by joining a lot of battles on whichever side seems to suit your purposes at the time. The computer controlled “captains” never seem to care for whom you’re fighting, they just dig that you’re good at it.

Although there is some strategy to the fighting combos, special attacks and such, it’s basically a matter of mashing the Y button to get the job done. The massive armies are easy to cut through, with only the enemy captains posing a real threat. I’ve read complaints about the enemy AI, but when you’re fighting dozens of enemy soldiers at one time, do you really want them to be smart?

Instead, the strategy comes in the form of character assignment and map management. Throughout the level, different missions will appear. Some are optional (providing rewards upon completion), while others are mandatory. To complete them, you can switch between any of the characters you have on the battlefield. You can use the map to tell the other characters where to go and who to fight (and to determine who gets a horse), or you can take them over and get there yourself. The amount of control is basic and the assignment map is cumbersome and non-descript, but it gets the job done once you figure it out.

This is both a strength and a weakness in Samurai Warriors: Chronicles. The combination of fighting and strategy, with the addition of RPG-style leveling up, weapon enhancement and character development (you can develop friendships with the other captains, affecting performance on the battlefield and what weapons and costumes your avatar can access), is what gives the game its depth, creating an experience that’s more than just hack and slash. However, this all can get quite messy, especially in the later levels where the game gets very, very difficult. To complicate matters, the recorded dialogue is only available in Japanese (text is in English, of course). That’s pretty cool, but if you’re not familiar with the language, trying to remember the names of all the characters you’re supposed to kill or protect becomes quite difficult in its own right.

Samurai Warriors: Chronicles

The best offense is a lot of previous offense

You often have to dispatch of your enemies quickly if you want to successfully complete all of Samurai Warriors: Chronicles‘s missions, and that means having powerful warriors. Having powerful warriors requires a lot of level grinding, so plan on going back and replaying each level multiple times. In my case, I always played it first on Easy mode to get a feel for the level, then went back later to beat it on Normal. It also helps to play each level twice, because the weapon purchase screen comes before you know what captains you’ll be commanding in the next level. Tell me how that makes any sense.

And yet, in a game where the action is already quite repetitive throughout, forcing you to play through even more of more of the same can kill the experience if you’re not really into what’s going on. The monotony does get split up a bit by the addition of new skills your warriors can apply as they gain experience. Plus, with 40 characters at your disposal by game’s end, you’ve at least got some variation in what your attacks look like, even if they are all accomplished the same way.

A new path, a 3D battlefield

Samurai Warriors: Chronicles certainly isn’t for everyone. I enjoyed enough to seriously consider picking up Samurai Warriors 3 for the Wii. Even more telling, it temporarily made me lose interest in the other two DSi games I still need to complete. If you’re looking for a 3DS game that offers more action than Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, but more strategy than Super Street Fighter IV, then Samurai Warriors: Chronicles should keep you entertained. Or, at the very least, look good while trying.

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  • Jenni Lada

    I agree. I think I like it a little more than you. It's just mindless fun, for the most part. As long as you keep targeting people with names over their heads, you're fine.

    I don't mind the constant replaying either, because I like unlocking the extra weapons and armor pieces for my avatar. Plus the dialogue segments are actually kind of cool.