Played on: Playstation 2
I am not familiar with the Sengoku Basara franchise apart from having played Devil Kings, an Americanized adaptation of the previous Sengoku Basara game. I’ve heard plenty of good things about this game so I am happy to give this game a try when I come across the Japanese import. I’m happy to report that I love Sengoku Basara 2. It feels like a complete game where Devil Kings isn’t and most importantly, it’s crazy how insanely fun this game is.
The gameplay is still the same in that the stages are short and there is only one “mission” in each stage that one can choose not to carry out. Indeed, these missions often cause the stage to end quickly, thus reducing the amount of experience points and gold that one would normally get, so it’s usually more efficient (and fun) to just kill every enemy one can see! The “prime” moves of Devil Kings are gone. Instead, the triangle or T button is now used to execute one of the characters’ two special skills. The special skill to be executed using the T button can be changed between the two using the L1 button. R1 button is for blocking and one can hold the R1 button while moving the character to enable evasion from attacks.
There are several modes of play in this game. The story mode is the standard story arc hack-and-slash mode with each character now having his or her own unique starting and ending as well as ingame scenes. The unification mode is the “conquer all the lands” thing that was present in Devil Kings. There is also free mode when one can choose any stage that has been unlocked (a stage is unlocked once you have completed it using any character in story or unification mode) to play. And finally, there is the tournament where a character squares off either against enemy generals, soldiers, horrible machines, or a combination of these for 100 rounds (you can save your progress after each ten rounds).
For the easter egg hunt value of this game, there are plenty of things to hunt. There are 120 items to locate, some can only be obtained by buying from the shop or earning enough game points to unlock them. Gold to purchase things from the shop can be located by breaking chests in a stage or executing long combos (for example, 100-199 consecutive hits in a combo net you one gold coins with each hit, 200-299 subsequent hits net you two gold coins with each hit, 300-399 three, and 400 and beyond five). Game points are earned through fulfilling specific conditions throughout gameplay that can be accessed through the final option in the vault. For example, completing the unification mode of each character gives you one point point each while you’ll get another 22 points if you complete the unification mode using all 22 characters. Also, completing an unification mode for each character unlocks the alternate costume of the character.
Each character has now eight weapons, with the joke weapons of Devil Kings now designated as the seventh weapon. The first weapon is available by default, the second weapon earned in the game under normal difficulty, while the third available for sale in the shop for 8,000 gold coins. The fourth weapon can only be found in the game under any mode once you’ve obtained the third weapon. Specific gameplay conditions have to be fulfilled to get higher weapons, with the ultimate eighth weapon has to be earned individually by each character by defeating all 100 rounds in the tournament! The second and third level armors also can only be obtained by fulfilling specific conditions in the game.
Armors provide additional defense and also make the characters look prettier at times, but for some fragile characters like Noh, armors are a welcome addition to the game. No longer will Noh die after being hit by three arrows like she tends to do in Devil Kings – she will only die after being by three consecutive combos by soldiers in extreme difficulty mode, yay! Another welcome addition to the game is the ability to purchase upgrades in skill, defense, and health to a specified maximum value. Playing the game normally and leveling up the characters in this way won’t get the characters to hit the maximum value in each stats, by the way – you have to use gold coins to attain the maximum stats a characters can achieve. Again, for fragile characters like Noh, any ability to increase defense and health is most needed.
All the characters from Devil Kings are here, with Akechi Mitsuhide (Reaper), Shimazu Yoshihiro (Zahn), Chosokabe Motochika (Arslan), Mouri Motonari (Kahz), Matsu (Bramble), and Maeda Toshiie (Lark) now playable. Tokugawa Ieyasu (Irdene), Hojo Ujimasa (Orwitz), and Imagawa Yoshimoto (Muri) are not playable though, which is a pity since I always wanted to play as Imagawa. Making their first appearances in this game as Maeda Keiji, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Takenaka Hanbei, and Miyamoto Musashi who are playable and Honganji Kennyo, Fuma Kotaro, Oichi, Katakura Kojuro, and Azai Nagamasa who are not playable. The unplayable characters appear as enemy generals and they have their own specific moves. I wish I can play as Oichi, I love that move she makes where she kneels on the floor and a black puddle oozes ahead with ghostly hands reaching out from the ooze to whack the opponent.
Apart from notable exceptions, the old characters remain unchanged. What changes though is the fact that these characters have now either five or six special skills of which you choose two for them to each in each stage, so many of them get at least one new special skill.
The notable exceptions are that Kasuga (Venus) and Matsu now have their own specific weapons and movesets when in the past their movesets and weapons are similar to those of Sarutobi Sasuke (Talon) and Uesugi Kenshin (Frost) respectively. Kasuga now wields dual claw-like weapons instead of Sasuke’s chakrams while Matsu now wields a naginata. While Kasuga and Sasuke still share some similar special skills, Kasuga has an excellent special skill where she stands on her hands and spin-kicks around which makes her a far better character to use than Sasuke. Matsu can summon animals to help her in some of her special skills but I find her special skills that use her naginata more useful. Her maxed eagle-summoning skill is very useful to kill enemies from afar in the tournament though!
Also, the range of Noh’s bazooka special skill (called Anaconda in Devil Kings) has been shortened very considerably (the distance is now one-fourth of what it used to be). This is odd that the designers feel the need to do this since they give Kenshin a new skill where he somersaults and sends a large missile which hits enemies a screen away! Way to go in nerfing Noh while making Kenshin even more broken!
Still, Noh’s bazooka is by no means useless. While Noh is fragile as ever, her defence and health stats can now be upgraded and her final weapon, Ebony and Ivory (ho, ho, not so much a joke weapon now this time around, eh, Capcom?) has very high attack stats compared to the rest of her weapons. Her new special skill sees her planting a big detonator into the ground to send an explosion flying across the screen to enemies a distance away. But this skill, while flashy and cool, has a one second activation delay and a longer cool-down activation animation. Most of Noh’s special skills have cool-down time that made otherwise useful skills like High Noon and Shooting Gallery a liability, which is ridiculous considering how fragile she already is. I find myself sticking to her Swordfish three-sixty kick which is useful to clear enemies crowding around her and sending them flying straight ahead so that she can blast them with her guns and her Anaconda to take out enemy generals and big bully boy soldiers from afar. Noh may be fragile but I find it easier to use her to complete the tournament and obtain her eighth weapon compared to other characters!
Nothing much is changed about Oda Nobunaga and he is still a solid character to use. His musket is mostly for show now though since firing it is a special skill now and there are other better special skills to choose than that one. Mori Ranmaru plays the same as well but his final special skill is really useful to clear crowds. Sanada Yukimura is still a Takeda Shingen fanboy and his moveset is pretty much the same as ever. He doesn’t thrust his bum so high up in the air when he runs though. Date Masamune is also the same, although he has a new skill, War Dance, that allows him to use all six of his katanas so you don’t need to obtain his personal item to do this. As a plus, he can switch off the mode anytime he wants, unlike when you equip him with his personal item. Sasuke can turn invisible thanks to one of his special skill but the amount of time he is invisible is too short to be useful. Still, this skill will be useful when it comes to dealing with Nobunaga’s stages where musket men are everywhere. Bosses, by the way, can see through Sasuke’s invisibility, as I learn the painful way! Other than that, Sasuke’s special skills are unfortunately not useful at all as they either break or cannot be incorporated into his combos. Kasuga is a better character than Sasuke because of her incredibly flexible and safe spinning kick skill.
Zabi (Q-Ball) is even funnier here but alas, he is still slow and cumbersome to use and his special skills are not that useful apart from one where he flies in the air and rains deadly fire on his opponents from above. Itsuki is still awkward to use thanks to her hard-to-control combo string. Iron Ox is still strong and he has some new special skills to make him a more damaging character to use, but his normal combo still sees him spinning all over the place unable to hit that one target you are aiming for. His size is still his biggest liability – he blocks everything in front of him from the player so sometimes you won’t even see an enemy general standing in front of Iron Ox. Kenshin is still broken – every hit of his ice-element weapon still freezes his opponent and now he has his own Anaconda in his new Guile-like somersault kick skill. Shingen (Red Minotaur) has the same moveset but he has some new special skills that see him do some really excruciating pain on his enemies.
As for the new faces, Chosokabe Motochika is a pirate who wields a huge anchor as a weapon. Alas, his special skills are all mediocre and he starts his combo with a short-ranged kick! He is often frustrating to play as I have a hard time getting long combos off with him. Toshiie Maeda also suffers from a poor special skill set – until I get his incredibly useful final skill, he has no good combo abilities at all. I find his wife Matsu so much better to play as – Matsu lacks wide range coverage with her naginata but she has better crowd-clearing skills thanks to her special skills. Her special skill where she creates a tornado effect is too cool for words. Mouri Motonari uses a deadly-looking ring of jagged saw teeth but his special skills are mostly traps that take too long to be set. Still, his normal combo has great three-sixty range and he can clear crowds very efficiently. His one-on-one ability with enemy generals is a little lacking though.
Keiji is a solid character with useful normal combos but his special skills on the whole can be better. Hideyoshi Toyotomi is like a Voltron robot and he is predictably slow. An odd thing about him is that while he has high defence, he deals very little damage even at high levels. Many of his special skills are very cool – I love the one where he grabs an enemy by the hand (or an ally if you have his personal item!) and swings that poor fellow round and round to hit other enemies around him – but they don’t really kill anything! Only his final special skill is damaging. His ally Hanbei, like him, has an awkward normal S string but Hanbei’s whip allows him to have some very useful special skills that make Hanbei is a fun and effective character to play as. Mitsuhide is slow and many of his special skills are eccentric and difficult to use but he has several skills that immobilize the enemies around him. That makes him a deadly character to use. His insane laugh is also cool. Iori Yagami, eat your heart out. Yoshihiro is a horrible character – if you miss an opponent with his normal slash, he needs to actually take time to pull the sword out of the ground! This guy will die in a crowd. And finally, Musashi has fabulous moves and while he only has two special skills and has no story mode, he only needs these two skills. Unfortunately, he starts out with only 8,000 points of health. To compare, Noh starts out with 15,000 health points.
The really fun aspect of Sengoku Basara 2 is its insanely addictive fun. The stages are short and uncomplicated so it’s easy to shut down the brain and just mow down everybody on one’s way. What really sets this game apart from, say, Koei’s games, is the flashy moves and the incredible ease in racking up high combo count. Many characters in this game have special skills that as flashy and even awe-inspiring to watch and even more so when I’m the one executing them. While some characters, like Noh and Toshiie, have poor special skill sets that I end up using the same two skills for each stage, others like Hideyoshi and Mitsuhide have special skills that can be used and changed from stage to stage while still remaining playable. Therefore, it takes a longer time than usual for me to feel the boredom of repetition setting in.
I’m no fan of the whole Ultraman/Gundam/Voltron throwback aesthetics of this game but nonetheless I enjoy this game to no end. That says a lot about the appeal of this game to me, I must say.