For those who are not familiar with Japanese history, the Sengoku (or Warring States) Period was a time in Japanese history when factions from each of the regions of Japan fought amongst each other due to political unrest, social upheaval and economic distress. This led to the eventual unification of the country at the beginning of the 1600’s. This bloody period of Japan’s history has been the subject of many forms of media ranging from manga and anime to movies and video games. Capcom decided to use the people, places and battles from the Sengoku period and develop a game around them. Released as Devil Kings in the West, their first outing wasn’t as well received as they had hoped. It would be another 5 years since the release of Devil Kings that the West would be introduced to the series again, this time with the game Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes.
Before I get into the story of the game, I should make quick mention of something. In Japan, this game is the third game of the series (Sengoku Basara 3). Since the second game was never released in the US, following what’s going on might be a bit tricky, so here’s a quick rundown of what’s been going on so far.
In Devil Kings, Oda Nobunaga, “The Devil King” is on the march to unify Japan through fear and bloodshed. Two warlords from the warring clans, Date Masamune of the West and Sanada Yukimura of the East, call for a temporary truce with each other in order to defeat the Devil King before he tears apart Japan. A general of the Devil King, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, helps the unified clans take Nobunaga down.
Sengoku Basara 2 follows Hideoyoshi’s decent into madness due to a defeat suffered by Matsunaga Hisahide. Hideoyoshi continues to fight to unify Japan by any means necessary, making him no better that the Devil King before him. Seeing this dire situation, a retainer of Hideoyoshi’s, Tokugawa Ieyasu, gathers the Eastern armies to take down Hideoyoshi. This is where Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes picks up.
After the defeat of Hideyoshi in Sengoku Basara 2, Ishida Mitsunari a loyal retainer of Hideyoshi, pick up his lord’s mantle and vowed to not only unite Japan but to also take revenge on Tokugawa Ieyasu for killing his master. Ieyasu, now an adult, gathers the Eastern armies to once and for all defeat Mitsunari and unite all of Japan through the power of bonds forged between people. What makes Samurai Heroes’ story different from games like Koei’s own Samurai Warriors is that each general has their own back story that fits into the overall story, they are not just another warrior. For example, Date Masamune suffers a defeat in the opening scene against Mitsunari and vows revenge. His path eventually crosses with Ieyasu, and Ieyasu asks for Masamune’s help in defeating Mitsunari. Or, consider Saika Magoichi of the Saika faction. Her factions of warriors are armed with guns of the Western world and only know the loyalties of whomever pays for her services. While she tries to believe that this conflict has nothing to do with her, she only gets dragged in further. Each character story is different, and each has their own reasons for joining forces with either Mitsunari or Ieyasu.
Samurai Heroes keeps it simple for a Hack n’ Slash game yet at the same time adds tactical and even some RPG elements. The main mode of the game is the story mode, called Heroes Story. Pick a warrior and guide him or her through various battles as you fight for the unification of Japan. There are three parts that make up Heroes Mode: the battle overview map, Equip screen and the battle screen itself. The battle overview map shows the position of enemies, their strength, the type of terrain they are entrenched in, and the difficulty of the enemy.
Before engaging in battle, it is important to take a quick look at the overview map and plan out a course of action. Choosing a certain enemy can quickly change the outcome of battles between the other generals. You can take out the strongest enemy first and pave a quick path to the end of the game, or take a more strategic path which will take longer but earn extra rewards.
Once the path to the enemy has been set, picking the right load out makes all the difference. The Equip screen shows the current weapon and accessories that are equipped, the ally that will be taken into battle and the special move that can be used. Weapons and accessories have different abilities to them, so finding the right mix is crucial before going into the battle screen.
The battle screen is where the battle takes place. With each enemy general, the terrain and secondary objectives differ. Now completing the secondary objective is optional, but well worth getting sidetracked. One secondary objective that is common for all generals is the occupation of enemy camps. Sometimes it is necessary to capture them, but for the majority of the missions it’s optional. However, capturing the camps reduces the general’s strength and lowers enemy morale, which can be a great help. Combat moves are simple and mapped to two buttons; square for medium attacks and triangle for heavy attacks. Triangle also acts as the launcher attack when held down. As your general keeps landing attacks, two power meters will fill up; Basara and Hero Time. Activate either one by pressing L2 (Hero Time) or R2 (Basara) to increase the stats of the general for a short amount of time. Activating both at the same time will activate Ultimate Basara Art which slows enemies down, increases power and give invincibility for a short amount of time. All the characters moves are unique, flashy and over the top, making Samurai Heroes stand out visually than other games in the genre.
Speaking of the visuals, the graphics are really good, not photorealistic but good nonetheless. When you have one guy wielding six swords at the same time, one street hoodie wearing guy who rides on a flying robot samurai, and other crazy looking characters, realism takes a big step back. In fact, Samurai Heroes visual style could be compared to a full length CG anime. The various landscapes that each of the generals occupy are unique to their personality and are designed really well, almost to scale of the real locations. The music has a great mix of various guitar riffs, traditional Japanese folk music and JPop. The intro song “Naked Arms” by T.M. Revolution, really sets the tone of the game. All that’s left is the voice cast. Although there is no option for a Japanese voice track, for Samurai Heroes I really enjoyed the English voice cast. The main reason is because the majority of the voice actors are Funimation and Viz Media VOs who have worked in various anime and video games before. It’s a virtual who’s who of anime: Stephanie Sheh, Troy Baker, Kyle Herbet, Johnny Bosch, Laura Baily, Travis Willingham, Vic Mignogna and many more well-known VOs help bring the game to life.
After playing through the main battle story of the general, a second story will be available which has the general unify Japan. All together, play time using one general will take anywhere between 7 and 10 hours. It may seem short, but keep in mind that this is just one general. There are the other five generals to play through, with another ten that can be unlocked, second costumes that can be acquired, additional weapons, materials that can be collected to create accessories, titles to unlock, PSN Trophies to collect, additional allies that can be recruited to help in battle and much more. This easily pushes the game to a least 100+ hours to complete each general’s story to 100%, and the overall game to 100%. As for multiplayer, Capcom decided to not add online multiplayer but there is local split screen.
Fans of the genre, Samurai Warriors, anime and of alternate Japanese history will love this game. Some might see Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes as too short, too Japanese, the reason that Inafune says the Japanese gaming industry is on the decline. This game wasn’t made for them, but for the small fan base that is slowly growing in the US. From the over the top action and matching visuals to the great English voice track (although yes, it would have been nice to have the Japanese voice track, just saying) and the awesome JPop intro from T.M. Revolution, this game was made with otaku in mind. If your any of the above excites you or you just want a mindless fun Hack n’ Slash game with samurai and a guy who flies on top of a robot samurai then give this game a try.
- Mike V.
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