Imitation is the sincerest form of competition.
I am Tokugawa Ieyasu, a famous warlord in samurai-era Japan who reunified the country after Nobunaga Oda’s fallen reign. I questioned one’s blind loyalty to his lord and wished for peace in a time of warring factions. So I focused my resolve, grasped my gauntlets, donned my bright yellow sleeveless hoodie vest, and ran headfirst into every battle with reckless abandon. Be it bow, sword, or gun, the weapon of my enemies fell to my mighty, armor-piercing, energy-blazing fists in thousand-hit combos. Every now and then, I could summon a drill spear from the earth and hurl it at dumbfounded soldiers with hair buns. Did I mention my giant robot?
[image1]I thought I would never say this, but Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is more ridiculous than Dynasty Warriors... yeah, don’t try to think about that sentence for more than five seconds or you’ll start sputtering badly dubbed soliloquies about rice balls. Between cut-scenes showing Tetris T-blocks fighting each other in intense samurai-like battles and a red-haired chick wearing a leather bustier with a bare midriff and wielding a shotgun with infinite ammo in feudal Japan, you won’t have any reasonable thoughts left. Like the typical Japanese game show, the point is not to ask what’s going on… ever.
Otherwise, Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes shares so much in common with its Tecmo Koei counterpart that you might as well take the disc, make a copy, and name everything something else. Playing as one of the historical figures in ancient Japan, you dash into a crowd of infantry and smack them around until their screams form a symphony of death. You’ve got a health bar, a special gauge for ultimate Basara attacks, another gauge for hero time that works kind of like super-powered bullet time, a hit count, weak and strong attacks, and more than enough crowd-clearing super arts to cause an upsurge of fatherless children throughout Japan.
The prescribed motivation for beating a level is progressing through the story, which is based very, very loosely on Japanese history, and collecting items and experience points, but even that comes a close second to wanting everyone to shut the hell up. There always needs to be someone on the battlefield rattling on and on seemingly just to fill empty space. Bosses in particular, whenever they’re not talking in grandiose one-liners about the trappings of life and death, feel the need to declare their undying loyalty, courage, and power once every fifteen seconds.
[image2]Graphically, though, every battlefield and selectable character is surprisingly polished. Clipping happens rarely, and every environment has starkly different objectives and layouts, even though the action is by and large a mindless beat-‘em-up where you kill soldiers, and then their squad leaders, and then their boss.
In fact, there’s no use trying to fluff this review, since the game is just about as straightforward as you would think it would be. It’s only real distinctions from the chaff are twofold: super arts and cooperative play. Super arts are unique to each character and need to be used at the right time against the right enemy. This is especially important for the hard difficulty setting, which not only rewards players with significantly more powerful items and weapons, but is actually hard. If you want a lot of experience and ingredients to craft rare Basara accessories, you’ll have to earn it.
To that end, cooperative play is strongly encouraged, to the point that ignoring it would be a missed opportunity. Unlike in most Dynasty Warriors titles, where the death of any player is an instant game over, here you can revive allies who fall incapacitated on the battlefield, simply by standing in the green circle that appears around their body for a while. You and your partner also share the hit streak, so it’s easier to reach states such as Battle Frenzy, when defeated enemies drop heaps of money. This is not even including tactics where you can flank a boss or separate on the battlefield to complete two separate goals at once. The only flaw is that co-op is restricted to local play; if it was also online, the grade could have been one small step higher.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is a blatant copycat of the Warriors franchise, and it doesn’t care. Of course, when it does the formula better, it doesn’t have to care. This isn’t to say that the “whack, whack, kill, kill” shlock is now suddenly primetime design, but that over-exaggerated Japanese sadistic warfare done right is just about as guilty as guilty pleasures get. So don’t feel embarrassed for secretly loving these kinds of senseless shenanigans. Just put on a yellow hoodie and start punching people in the name of peace.