Koei is releasing the same game for what seems to be the 97th time in the last four years. The latest installment in the popular Warriors series is Samurai Warriors 2. Based in feudal Japan, this title blends a ridiculous amount of mindless violence, entertaining cutscenes, some truly horrendous voice acting and an upgrade system that's totally wasted. Put it all together and you have a real yawner of a game that's more dirty farm peasant than exalted warlord. Only the most loyal of fans should suit up for this one.
The core gameplay hasn't changed much from previous Warriors games. You run around on a battlefield, sometimes trot around on a horse, slay a ridiculous amount of minions and kill a few people fortunate enough to have a name. There are conditions you have to satisfy throughout each level, which are brought up by verbal cues and glowing spots on your map. These range from things like destroying a certain target, defending various people and escorting different characters.
The conditions are just excuses to run around the map and unleash mindless violence in a different area. The whole thing is a button-mashing fest that's accessible to every gamer, though players looking for any semblance of depth will be disappointed.
One of the game's bright spots is its upgrade system, which has been modified and deepened from its forerunner. Skills can be purchased with the gold you find throughout each stage or by defeating generals on the battlefield. Each skill type (ability, growth, battle and special) has several levels, allowing you to differentiate each of your warriors.
The game's weapons have an upgrade aspect as well. You'll find weapons in each chapter, some of which have elemental properties and numerous slots that can be filled with purchased enhancements. While upgrading skills and weapons can be fun, it's wasted on the game due to the brainless combat. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how well you've crafted your character or that you've painstakingly made the perfect weapon. You just have to button mash your way to victory, regardless of how pretty or powerful your sword is.
The production values of the game are uneven. The cutscenes that link together each stage are well done. Although the sheer amount of characters onscreen is impressive, the in-game graphics are dated, which isn't surprising since the graphics engine is more than four years old. The chief offender is the voice acting and dialogue. Throughout the game, each character spouts a comment, some of which are meant to be dramatic and others comedic. All of the lines are delivered poorly and none of them sound like things real people would say, let alone historic Japanese figures. There's also a chance you might go insane after hearing Oichi express her love for the 8,000th time after only two hours of play.
Xbox 360 owners get a slightly deeper version of the game for ten bucks more. This version of Samurai Warriors 2 features downloadable content (hooray... more brainless combat), leaderboards, and a versus mode via Xbox Live. The overall visuals are sharper, particularly details of the ground, trees and grass. Compared to other Xbox 360 games, it's no big deal, but it's an improvement over the PlayStation 2 version. The real value here might be in achievement points. Mashing away at this game takes no thought and little effort and is an easy way to up your Xbox Live score.
All told, Samurai Warriors 2 is several modes of mindless violence and one mode of a Monopoly-like board game. There's nothing new or exciting about this title. Warriors fans will buy it just to have the latest game, but the overall experience is no different than its predecessors.