Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes
Wouldn't it be cool if samurai had demonic powers? No, no it wouldn't.
- You'll smile the first time you get a 2000+ hit combo
- Everything else (plus bad RSI)
I didn't think I could get enough of the Dynasty Warriors formula (I currently own seven games in that series), but Sengoku Basara proves that Koei is more talented than critics give it credit for -- in the wrong hands, the concept is genuinely painful to play through.
Price$ 89.95 (AUD)
I think I know how Sengoku Basara happened. One of the head honchos over at Capcom has a son, let's say around 10 years old. And like many young boys in Japan, he is a fan of Koei’s Samurai Warriors series.
Like many youngsters inspired by a game, he wrote fan fiction in homage (check out www.fanfiction.net for more!). However, because Japanese history is ‘boring,’ he gave the heroes magic powers and physically impossible weapons, weird hairdos and one-dimensional personalities (and we should probably be glad he hasn't hit puberty yet).
Then he demanded his dad turn his 'awesome' story into a game.
Sengoku Basara is an embarrassment. As I argued previously based on initial impressions and videos, Capcom saw fit to spit on the graves of everyone involved in the historically important Sengoku period of Japan, opting for the kind of super-deformed juvenile junk that appeals to teenage boys and Final Fantasy: Advent Children fans (low blow, I know).
This would almost be forgivable if Sengoku Basara played well, but it just doesn't. All it does is copy Koei's Dynasty Warriors/Samurai Warriors formula, where you’ll be wading through legions of fodder between boss battles, and tries to turn the action up to 11. While it was kind of cool to notch up a 2000-hit combo in the first hour of play, ultimately the action feels hollow.
What Capcom hasn’t realised it the appeal of Dynasty/Samurai Warriors is in the historical context. You’re tossed on a real battlefield, and you’re free to roam about, completing objectives in a bid to turn the tide of the battle. On top of that, the battles it depicts are reasonably accurate, historically speaking (allowing for the presence of heroes who can slaughter thousands of soldiers in an hour).
By contract, Sengoku Basara shoehorns you through tiny environments that feel more restrictive and linear than most 2D beat-em-ups. Run down a tiny corridor, capture a command point, kill boss, rinse and repeat. As a result, although the battles are named after their historical counterpart, the levels are just that — generic and uninteresting levels.
The terrible level design is compounded by the lack of tactical depth. Despite being a button-masher at heart, Dynasty/Samurai Warriors opened up some light strategy in asking you to protect certain characters and capture bases, and prioritise the order in which you undertake those objectives. Sengoku Basara neglects that, instead making you fight more. Yes, Capcom has actually made a game in which you have to mash the attack button more than a Dynasty Warriors game. An impressive feat in one sense, but chronic RSI is not really my idea of a good time.
It's not like the story telling or music is enough to redeem the game, either. The plot really does read like a fan fiction, and the music sways back and forth between being merely irritating and uninspired, to genuinely headache-inducing.
Special mention to the voice actors, too. In Samurai Warriors 3, you had the option of turning on the Japanese voice track and enjoying the game subtitled for a dash of authenticity. Here, you don’t. Expect a wide range of English and American accents superimposed over Japanese anime faces. A shout out to the main character, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was voiced by Liam O’Brien and sounds like Alan Rickman’s voice stunt double. It worked when he voiced the book in Nier — it's very out of place here.
If there is one positive that can be found in the game, it is that with just 16 characters, there is less than half the gameplay of Samurai Warriors 3 — so at least it's over quickly. Unlike Koei’s games, where you typically get a multitude of gameplay options (including online co-op in recent versions), you’ll also have just the one story mode, no online, and a basic free battle mode. So again, at least it’s over quickly.
Dante’s Inferno compares badly to God of War as an inferior and deeply disrespectful piece of literature exploitation, and Capcom has performed an equally unforgivable faux pas here.
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