Played on: Playstation 2
Samurai Warriors 2, the sequel to (duh) Samurai Warriors, is an upgrade of the original game in every way. Sure, this is a Koei game, which means it is basically yet another square- and triangle-button mashing event, but there are enough improvements on the formula to make this baby a little less stale. In fact, this game is very addictive because it feels so much fresher than the recent Dynasty Warriors entries.
The Samurai Warriors franchise has never been as popular as the Dynasty Warriors franchise but personally I find the former much more interesting due to the stronger storylines present in the game. In this latest installment, many characters have their movesets made more robust while the new characters range are a mixed bag.
In this installment, gone are the items that will increase stats like speed and attack power and subsequently the quests I have to do to obtain these items. Instead, these items are incorporated as skills that can either be purchased from the shop or “learned” randomly by defeating an enemy general. Purchases are made using gold found on a stage (dropped by enemies that you’ve killed). Skills are divided into battle improvements (increase speed, defence, attack power, et cetera), leveling improvements (increase the rate of improvements in speed, defence, attack power, et cetera each time a character levels), battle skills (more combo-oriented skills like increasing combo, musou, and true musou damages, increasing range, and allowing elemental effects to take place in normal, charge, or musou moves), and miscellaneous skills such as improving the chances of getting better items or better possibility of learning/upgrading skills after defeating an enemy general.
Don’t worry about missing out on some crucial skills though – while skills on sale are randomly determined each time one visits the shop, all but five skills will eventually show up and it is very highly likely that a character will have pretty much all his or her skills bought and upgraded provided you play as that character long enough. The five rare skills that can only be obtained by killing enemy generals on hard or chaos difficulty are acclaim (increases the experience earned in a stage – although chances are your character will be completely maxed out when you get this skill), awakening (a very good skill that allows the character to perform true musou at all times – and at level three, this skill imbues every move in the true musou death property – see below for why death property is desirable), plunder (one that allows all items nearby the character to show up on the map as small white dots), mastery (one that increases all abilities of the character), and greed (increases the amount of gold received in a stage). All skills once obtained or bought will immediately take effect, there is no need to choose and activate them. Each character also has a specific personal skill that will be obtained after the character reaches a certain level (usually 30 and above depending on which character we’re talking about).
The shop also sells bodyguards. Three kinds of bodyguards are initially available by default (an archer, a ninja, and a samurai). The shop however sells more advanced kinds of bodyguards like fire ninjas (throws bombs at opponents) and shrine maidens (they heal and buff your character up – a more useful variation of fan maiden bodyguards found in Dynasty Warriors 5). Mounts are also sold in the shop including the famous Matsukaze, the fastest horse in the game.
A new feature in this game is weapon upgrades that can also be done through the shop. Weapons now have a slot system in place. Each character’s weapon comes in four classes, with the fourth class being the special weapon that one has to play a stage in hard difficulty in a specific manner to obtain it. The first to third class weapons however have a possibility of having up to eight slots that can be filled up with various attributes, with each attribute filling up a maximum of three slots and each slot having a maximum value of +20. Therefore, it is possible to get a weapon imbued with three +20 attack attributes if you’re really lucky. Upgrades can be done at the shop and the attributes given with each upgrade are random. If you are really into getting an uber-weapon, you will find yourself constantly saving after you’ve got a desirable trait, soft resetting and then reloading the game when the next trait is not so desirable (a trait of dexterity +20, for example, which only allows your character to jump higher – ugh), and re-upgrading the weapon until you obtain an attribute you want (say, +18 attack), save the game, try upgrading again, and repeat until either you get the weapon attributes of your dreams or your fingers start to hurt.
Weapon elements are randomly attached to the weapon found in the game. Of course, there is a very good chance that a weapon found may not have any elemental attribute at all. The elements can be either fire, wind, ice, lightning, or death.
Weapons with ice element can freeze opponents, but the duration has been shortened severely in this game that you’ll have to be very close to a frozen opponent to follow up with any attack.
Weapons with fire element cause additional damage and that’s all to them, I’m afraid. It is best used by characters whose movesets can juggle the enemy, as the flames will end once the enemy touches the ground.
Weapons with wind element on the other hand ignore the enemy’s defence rating and can inflict maximum damage – but usually the effect is minimal, so this element is useless. These weapons hit the enemy with an annoying woosh-woosh sound effect without any impressive visual effect.
Lightning element weapons can stun the enemy shortly, but it causes the enemy to collapse onto the ground, thus it can work against moves that normally juggles the enemy – there are pros and cons, depending on the character’s moveset.
Death element weapons have a probability of killing a non-boss enemy outright in one hit and cause huge damage to bosses. These weapons are considered the best in the game and an 8-slot death element weapon is considered the holy grail because such weapons can make the difference between life and death in a battle against an overpowered Tadakatsu Honda on chaos difficulty.
Gameplay-wise, it’s still the same old “square (S) button to slash”, “triangle (T) button to active charge”, and “X button to activate special musou art” affair. Now it is possible to mash the square button up to eight times (ten for some characters). Characters have combos according to one of three classes. Some, like Oichi and Nagamasa Azai, have long square-button combos, others have combos that emphasize pressing the triangle button during combos, while the third class have the ability to perform upgraded special moves.
Each character having special moves is a new feature in this game. Each character gets two new special moves that can be activated anytime without using the musou gauge. These moves are activated by simultaneously pressing the special art and either the square or the triangle button. The special art button is the R1 button by default while the L1 button is for blocking attacks and the R2 button is for rolling. Me, I prefer to switch button configuration so that L1 button is the special art button while R1 is for blocking. It’s easier for me to press L1 and either square or triangle at the same time.
Meanwhile, the damage of the musou moves have been generally weakened. The only exception is Nő’s musou – her musou where she slowly moves backwards as she flings a few bombs out now actually juggles and damages opponents compared to the previous installment where her musou can hardly kill an ant. Now true musous now have pretty firework effects. When both the character and the bodyguard have their musou bars completely filled, the character can launch into his or her true musou alongside the bodyguard’s own musou move. The double musou, as this game calls it, has all kinds of fireworks going when it’s performed but it will not kill an enemy general with a full health bar because musous are weak in this game.
Now all characters have only one ending each and each character’s story mode has five stages. Completing the five stages unlocks a dream stage although some characters, such as Kenshin Uesugi, Oichi, and Magoichi Saika, can only get their dream stage unlocked with an additional condition that you have completed another character’s dream stage (completing the dream stage of Shingen Takeda unlocks Kenshin’s, Nő’s unlocks Oichi’s, and Masamune Date’s unlocks Magoichi’s). Dream stages are very much tougher than the five story mode stages and are ideal for leveling a character up. The dream stages are not “official” and many are tongue-in-cheek in nature. The dream stages of Nő, Oichi, and Nene are especially laugh-out-loud funny and have to be seen and played to be believed. Mind you, there is a chance that the laughter will turn into tears of pain and anguish when it comes to Oichi’s dream stage because this is the stage where she has to survive the continuous onslaught of a ridiculously powered-up Nene as Oichi first takes on five other generals at one go to earn her fourth weapon!
Now let’s talk about the characters. The English voiceovers range from good to atrocious but the dialogues have improved significantly with many characters often delivering witty and amusing lines instead of repeating the same words again and again like “Justice! Justice! Justice!” or “Chaos! Chaos! Chaos!” I really laugh out loud at many of the exchanges among the characters in this game. Shingen, who for some reason sounds like monkey king from The Jungle Book, has the best lines in this game. When Kenshin tells him that they will forever be enemies, yadda yadda yadda, he tells Kenshin, “Well, have your people call mine and maybe we’ll stab each other over tea.” When Tadakatsu Honda announces that he’ll kill anyone Shingen throws his way, Shingen goes, “What about kittens? If I throw them at you, will you kill them too?”
Another favorite is when Magoichi encounters Hanzo in one of his story mode stages and he goes, “Man, I don’t like ninjas. They’re not right in the head.” Hanzo then goes, “The shadows will claim your soul!” to which Magoichi answers without blinking an eye, “See what I mean?” Or when Masamune meets Keiji and asks Keiji what he uses to hold up his hair. The dream stages of the three female characters I’ve mentioned above are a laugh from start to finish.
This time around, the androgynous young samurai Ranmaru Mori and the umbrella-wielding hussy Okuni can only be played in free mode and not story mode and they can only be unlocked through some tedious means. Goemon Ishikawa and Yoshimoto Imagawa are retired while new character Nene inherits Kunoichi’s moveset. Meanwhile, there are nine new playable characters, bring the roster of playable characters to a total of 26. The starting characters are Yukimura Sanada, Oichi, Mitsuhide Akechi, Ginchiyo Tachibana, Ieyasu Tokugawa (yes, he’s playable now), Mitsunari Ishida, and Kotaro Fuma. Everyone else has to be unlocked.
Of the old characters, some are noticeably weakened. Keiji Maeda, previously very good, has his SSSTT move now coming out much slower and worse, this moves do not hit short opponents in the back. His musou also juggles and pushes enemy away once it hits, thus reducing the effectiveness of this move when used in a combo. And let’s not touch the awful voice he has in this game, shudder. Nő is arguably the worstly weakened character in this game. She’s not that good in the first place with her lack of range, but her useful moves, like SSTT (which has lost the bomb toss at the end of the move) and SSSTT (which lasts a ridiculously short time now even if you mash the T button like crazy), are now useless. Her specials (one to plant bombs and one to detonate them) are pointless because these bombs do as much damage as her musou in the previous game (which is to say, nearly zero) and she can’t detonate them when she’s blocking an attack. Ranmaru Mori is also weakened: he is now slower and therefore he is not an efficient crowd clearer as he was in the previous game.
Some have been improved in some aspects and weakened in other aspects. Nobunaga Oda’s STTT is weakened severely but his SSSTT now sees the dark energy blast coming out faster. Ina’s STTT has been weakened but she can now perform two infinite combos that can take out deadly enemy generals. Other characters, like Mitsuhide Akechi, Kenshin Uesugi, and Tadakatsu Honda, have nothing but improvements in terms of movesets and speed. Hideyoshi Hashiba is even faster now and his moves include an unblockable throw in a combo so the only thing holding him back is him having the most useless fourth weapon in the game. Oichi is now a much, much, much better character to play with her gaining many new combos that are actually useful, such as a SSSST move that creates a whirling tornado around her (yay for crowd clearing), SSSSST that stuns an enemy general with ease, and SSSSSST that sees Oichi doing a wind ninja thing that sends an enemy general flying across the screen away from her. Masamune Date is arguably the most improved character in this game. He was very painful to play in the previous game. While he’s not the most powerful character now, he now at least has a completely new moveset that works so much better in terms of handling crowds and enemy generals. An ice weapon and his level three musou are a surefire combination to kill any enemy general.
The new characters range from broken to useless.
Nagamasa Azai is now playable (finish Oichi’s story mode on any difficulty to unlock him) and oh boy, this guy is a monster. He has ridiculously good moves. His SSST move clears crowds and allows Nagamasa to escape from tight situations. His SSSST move clears crowds and juggles opponents into the air (repeat this three times and even common soldiers on hard difficulty will die before they hit the ground), his SSSSST move ends with him swinging along his lance and breaking the guard of all who get hit by his boots, his SSSSSST move is an unblockable stab that catches an opponent and throws him into the air, and his SSSSSSST move sees him ending the combo with several vicious stabs of his lance that can severely damage up to three opponents standing in front of him before he swings his lance and sends out this wide arc of bluish laser-like beam that flings any surviving opponents very far across the screen. His musou is very vicious – he stabs his lance repeatedly at an enemy. Heaven helps even the hypermode enemy general caught by this musou when his back is pinned against the wall – Nagamasa Azai’s musou is the only sole exception among the weakened musous in this game in that this particular musou can really take down even the most powerful enemy generals. Shall I even mention his true and double musous? As for his special moves, they’re very good as well. One allows him to charge up his weapon so that as long as his musou bar is full, all his moves inflict elemental damage even if his weapon doesn’t have natural elemental properties (if this is the case, the element is random but usually lightning) while the other special move summons three allies to aid him in battle. These allies are any one of the three strike ninjas or some swordswomen and they always do a good job in distracting any pesky enemy general.
Musashi Miyamoto is completely broken. His moveset is incredibly overpowered and useful, not to mention damaging. His musou is very efficient in clearing crowds as well as hammering an enemy general (or three). Give him a very easy to obtain fourth weapon that has +48 attack, attack range +50, and musou charge +35 attributes as well as death element and we have a killing machine. Give him two broken special skills (one that allows him to instantly gain one musou bar and one that allows him to counter an attack with an attack of his own) and we have a “Oh my God!” broken character. Did I mention that Musashi for some reason gains all the rare skills like they are normal skills as he levels up?
Ginchiyo Tachibana is a pleasant surprise given Koei’s history of creating crappy female characters. Her moveset is a little too linear in the sense that Ginchiyo is more efficient when it comes to targeting a single character, but she also has great crowd clearing skills. Ginchiyo is like Yue Ying in Dynasty Warriors: she has a shockingly good moveset for a female character. Of course she then has to be stuck with a shockingly crappy musou that has pathetic range and deals even more pathetic damage.
The psychotic bad boy ninja Kotaro Fuma wears an eh-inducing fishnet top but he has very good crowd clearing throws despite the eccentric appearance of many of his moves. Shima Sakon with his Guan Ping-like moveset is a solid character to use although his combos often end with a move that recovers slowly. Kanetsugu Naoe is very annoying to play since he sprouts nonsense like “justice” and “honor” like he’s Ma Chao on crack but he has a moveset similar to Zuo Ci’s. The only thing holding him back is the inconsistent damage his moves and musou deal out. Nene has a modified version of Kunoichi’s moveset and her fourth weapon is useless but she has a very fun aspect to her moveset – one of her special skills allow her to clone herself into up to three other Nenes that imitate her moves while the other clones herself into a nearby general. While Nene turning into Ieyasu Tokugawa can be funny, four Nenes turning into that fatty tub of lard and then firing a super cannon launcher at you isn’t so funny when you think of it! In Nene’s hands, the otherwise useless or not-so-damaging musous of the other characters become fearsome. Imagine four Nős all performing the bomb-throwing musou on the screen.
Poor Ieyasu Tokugawa is too slow to be a deadly character while he has a cannon launcher as a weapon, the damage of firearms in this game is low. Magoichi Saika is also crippled by this since his moveset now sees his using his musket a lot and therefore Magoichi deals less damage than before, but at least Magoichi is faster than Ieyasu. Yoshihiro Shimazu is arguably the worst character in this game along with fellow newcomer Mitsunari Ishida. Yoshihiro is another slow character but worse is how his normal combos take too long to recover from as well as easily defended against by even the worst AI in the world. Mitsunari Ishida is a fan-user but he lacks the Jedi laser beams of death of Sima Yi and Zhuge Liang. All he has is poor range, a horrible interruptible S string, and a musou that deals crappy damage and has no effective range of effect. The fact that he also shares Nő’s special moves (the utterly useless bombs) doesn’t help. At least Nő still has her weakened SSSTT and her musou that can at least clear a whole crowd easily!
Playing this game is fun as there are many things to do, although I warn people to proceed with caution where the Monopoly-like mode game is concerned. I need to win that game to unlock Okuni. Three hours of struggling against the AI that certainly cheats (Kenshin gets a one on his dice roll five turns in a row to end up conquering five neighboring lots in a “street”) and I’m ready to throw the Playstation out the window. Needless to say, I’ve yet to unlock Okuni. There are many things to do in this game, like collecting every skills for every character as well as maxing them up, getting their fourth weapons, and unlocking a myriad of special mounts and special bodyguards. It’s a fun game to play despite the similar gameplay because there are many things to do and these things can be very enjoyable to do.
The only complains I have are twofold.
One, each stage is overly reliant on enemy ambushes. While there are fewer “you must do this and that” missions in a stage compared to the previous game, there are too many instances where I am at one end of a map when some enemies magically appear around the main camp. Since many stages will automatically end with a loss when the main camp is captured, this means I have to run all the way back to find those morons attacking it. It is ridiculous after a while how I end up running up and down the map like a complete fool. The allies are useless. For some reason, the game is programmed in such a way that an ally will scream for help even when they face an enemy peon. An enemy peon, mind you, not a general. At first, I always rush to their aid only to learn that they have still a full heath bar and they are facing a single peon. By the time I realize this, the mission I am supposed to do has failed. Like Pavlov’s dog, I soon learn to ignore all those pathetic squealing for help and only rush to someone’s aid when the game starts flashing a notice that so-and-so is really going to die. That’s fine if not for the fact that these useless allies keep squealing for help every ten seconds so I am bombarded with “Need! I need help now!”, “Where are the reinforcements?” and more until I itch to press the mute button on my remote control.
The stages can be repetitive as well. After playing so long, I have played the stages involving Osaka Castle, Yamazaki, and Sekigahara so many times that I feel nauseous if I have to encounter these stages ever again. Especially Odawara Castle and its last-moment “Surprise! The enemies are ambushing your main camp while you are trying very hard to locate an exit from Odawara Castle!” drama, ugh.
Still, at the end of the day, the fun factor of Samurai Warriors 2 far outweigh the flaws in my opinion. Koei retains its old formula, but has done enough tweaks to the formula to make this game feel somewhat fresh and new. If it gets rid of the contrived stages and the irritating enemy ambushes on the main camp, this would have been a perfect game.
Cantankerous muffin who loves boys that sparkle, unicorns, money, chocolates, and fantastical stories.