A lost cause… No! The warrior's spirit within me refuses to accept that!
If you’ve played Samurai Warriors 2 – or really, any of the Warriors games – then you already know what Samurai Warriors 3 is. To sum it up for you very briefly, Samurai Warriors 3 is Samurai Warriors 2, but with a crappier framerate and inferior voice-acting. If you’re new to the series, I can sum it up for you briefly: mindlessly mash the 'A' button a lot and you win.
[image1]Maybe that’s a bit of an oversimplification; it’s not that Samurai Warriors 3 has no new aspects worthy of mention, but there is nothing present that cloaks or mitigates the game’s status as the latest in a series of dumb hack-'n'-slash titles. If you’re looking for simple, straight-forward gameplay which asks nothing more of you than having a pulse and a couple hours to burn, then Samurai Warriors 3 is perfect. If you’re interested in a complex storyline, or varied gameplay requiring skill and effort, or an intellectually engrossing puzzle, or an adrenaline fueled series of fights… then you’re looking in the wrong place.
The core of Samurai Warriors 3 is the story mode, wherein you take one of the numerous historical figures from Japan’s Warring States period, and play through a fairly preposterous dramatization of their part of history. If you’re a student of the period, you may recognize the names of great leaders like Oda Nobunaga and Takeda Shingen, or perhaps the mightier samurai they employed such as Sanada Yukimura or Honda Tadakatsu. Of course, if you’re a student of the period, you’ll probably also cringe at the various events in history being mutilated in the service of telling a bad story.
Like the other entries in the Samurai Warriors series, the central theme is that of the negotiation between personal honor and duty to one’s lord or ideals. Like the other entries in the Samurai Warriors series, the subject matter is dealt in a vague and ultimately shallow way, giving you no real means to see the pivotal characters as anything more than robots regurgitating their lines. Without stronger historical context, the half-assed story lines the game pushes at you just feel like a total waste of time and effort. They are most successful, sadly, when we’re laughing at how bad they are; the other alternative is to just cringe and skip.
Admittedly, nobody really takes the Warriors series all that seriously; they’ve always been cheesy and over the top. Empathizing with folks who can cleave through a thousand people without breaking a sweat, showing a wound, or even stopping to catch their breath is fairly impossible, especially when it seems like everyone else in the world is utterly incompetent in comparison – except, of course, for that one guy wreathed in lightning and riding a horse the size of a garage. He’s around mostly to serve as the pike-bearing version of the Roman victor’s seneschal, except instead of whispering ‘memento mori’ in your ears while holding a crown of laurels above your head, he chops you into bite-sized bits.
[image2]This is all, of course, to say that the difficulty curve in the Warriors games is fairly nonsensical, and Samurai Warriors 3 is no exception. Play on any reasonable difficulty (it comes with a ‘very easy’, which should probably be renamed ‘you’re actually asleep, aren’t you?’) and you will invariably run into one guy who is basically intended to murder you. Everyone else around him, amusingly, will be no challenge whatsoever. So you’ll basically spend most of the game time mashing 'A', killing incompetents, leveling up, and then running into a challenge completely out of scale for your procession thus far. This means going back and spending tons of time killing even more incompetents so we’ll be leveled up high enough to take on Mr. Powerthrust. It’s insidious, really.
In case you were ever confused about your objectives – because the objective option, clearly laying out the win and lose conditions apparently wasn’t sufficient – this game comes with a drawn-out run-through of the battleplans before each battle. This is an interesting missed opportunity for the game; instead of presenting you a few different battle strategies and letting you pick one, you’re just getting handed a blueprint to victory. In a number of cases, of course, the blueprints don’t match the actual battle; this seems appropriate, given that warfare is fundamentally chaotic. But given that the game is incredibly easy as-is, the addition of this little extra system is questionable at best.
It’s also worth noting that every Warriors game is plagued by a slow, annoying camera. The Warriors games on 360 managed to operate the best of the bunch, but the Wii has done a pretty nasty number on the camera here. The best way to get it to track you is to tap the guard key periodically, but this makes your character stop moving for a moment and hold still; suffice it to say, you’ll either get used to navigating purely by the mini-map or you’ll stop playing.
Graphically, Samurai Warriors 3 is noticeably inferior to Samurai Warriors 2. This probably comes as no to surprise to anyone with the analytical powers of a pistachio nut; going from the muscled sprinting of the 360 to the anemic hobbling of the Wii is quite a difference. Still, Samurai Warriors 3 makes a reasonable go at it; though the resolution is lower, the textures are muddier, and the geometry is not as sharp, you can see that the overall quality of artistic vision is similar to the predecessor despite being contained to a graphically inferior platform. Mind, the Warriors games have never been havens for great graphics, so the loss here is not what we’d call substantial.
[image3]The sound and music of Samurai Warriors 3 is generally forgettable. This is on par with previous entries in the Samurai Warriors series; unlike the Dynasty Warriors games, where the hilariously incongruous faux-metal soundtracks would keep us going, the Samurai Warriors games, including 3, make do with an inexplicable mixture of bad techno and classic Japanese instruments. Shamisen, anyone?
Since the game’s on the Wii, there are about seventeen thousand different controller options available, the most comfortable of which is the Gamecube controller. The Wii-mote just doesn’t adapt itself well to Samurai Warriors 3, and the constant waving and waggling gets old fast. I’ll allow you to insert your own simulated masturbation joke here, by the by; they all apply reasonably to the way the gameplay works out.
On-line co-op helps break up the monotony, but the lack of voice options makes it a little painful to coordinate, especially if you’re trying to take on the harder difficulties. The variety of local options are still around, of course, in case you’ve got a roommate or a very patient friend.
On the whole, Samurai Warriors 3 is a missable entry in a missable series. I’ve admitted before that I have a bizarre appreciation for the series, and this still holds true – I can play Samurai Warriors 3 for a couple hours each day and feel no worse for the time spent. But that’s a personal problem I’m having looked into, and I can’t really recommend the game series as a whole, let alone this game specifically… to anyone. The games suck. Not in a grand ‘broken beyond redemption’ sense, but in a more mediocre, ‘nothing to see here, people’ kind of way. Go spend your money on a good game. You’ll be happier for it.