The Designer’s Drugs: Samurai Warriors: Chronicles

 

Medium: Game – Nintendo 3DS

Stimulus: Samurai Warriors: Chronicles

Anno: 2011

 

 

I’m a big fan of the tactical warfare disguised as button mashing idiocy genre that Koei’s Warriors series pioneered a decade ago with Dynasty Warriors 2 (for the record, number one is a lackluster-looking ancient Chinese history-themed street fighting game that isn’t recognized as part of the series in Japan).  With this 3DS installment of the offshoot franchise Samurai Warriors, the rampage through Asian history finally feels as fun and functional on a portable system as it does on a console.  Here, there’s no punching one’s way through a stage the size of my bathroom and into a loading screen fifty times per mission.  Each battlefield in Chronicles is complete, and one can run around at will, which is nice.

There are a few drawbacks to the game, most of which I feel exist because Chronicles is a first-year game for the 3DS and was obviously rushed out the door to get a jump on the homesteading.  The game’s menu and special features are very bare bones and don’t explain much of anything, for starters.

Yet the biggest weak point is a total lack of voice work in English.  Every voice in this game is speaking Japanese whether you like it or not.  This wouldn’t be such a big deal if the player wasn’t too busy dodging swords and arrows to read the dialogue bubbles at the bottom of the screen, but as it stands, English would have been a big help.

Another awkward issue in the language department is that whoever set up the printed dialogue in said bubbles was kind of a schmuck.  More than once there were bizarre uses of the enter button where a word would be cut in half to end one line and begin another.  I’m not talking between syllables, either, but within one syllable.  D-on’t?  Don’t.  The game’s Dan Quayle-like usage of two different spellings of the word heroes is also a nice touch.

Translation issues aside, Samurai Warriors: Chronicles brings a lot to the table.  The action, as always, is furious and strategic, but I really liked the addition of four character team-based gameplay, where one can tap the 3DS touchscreen and direct and switch between heroes on the fly.  This beats the hell out of the old model of playing through a stage with one person and having to fly off to the other end of the board whenever some jerk ambushes your leader.  It’s also wonderful not having to play through with each character individually, though the friendship system in Chronicles does require you to buddy up with the dozens of other fighters one at a time to unlock certain features.  The repetition is thus lessened but not eliminated.

Still, tactical button-mashing has never been done this well on a portable system, and that eclipses all shortcomings.

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