Prepare yourself for endless slaughter and achy fingers!
At the risk of showing my true age, I readily admit to playing the first few Dynasty Warriors games when they were first released on the original PlayStation. However, unlike myself, the series hasn't aged well. Back in 2004, Dynasty Warriors spawned an offshoot by the name of Samurai Warriors, but they're basically the same series pumped out by the same publisher. Now Samurai Warriors 4-II has been released, and while it improves upon SW4, it still suffers from incredibly repetitive combat and not enough motivation to finish the adventure.
Koei Tecmo created the "musou" genre, and I've always appreciated how most of these games are based on historical conflicts. Samurai Warriors 4-II continues this tradition by introducing 13 scenarios loosely based on 16th- and 17th-century feudal Japan. Rather than focusing on large groups during wartime, the scenarios follow individual characters and reveals their motivations and reactions toward a life of war. While I appreciate having a bit of actual history thrown in, some of the scenario intros are extremely bland and beg to be skipped. Fortunately, most of the characters have colorful personalities and vastly different fighting styles, which helps to propel players onward.
I say “helps” because there really isn't much else to keep players going unless they have a strong desire to unlock the large roster of characters. Sure, it's cool to choose one main and one sub character to fight each battle and freely switch between them, but participating in button-mashing battles that last thirty minutes or longer is hard on the brain and the fingers.
On top of that, every battle has numerous interruptions that direct players to tackle certain objectives (defeat this enemy, move to this area and defend it, etc…). Since these orders are given in Japanese with English subtitles, players must fight enemies while trying to read important updates that change the course of battle. It's utterly frustrating to fight for twenty minutes, miss an important update, and then lose the battle only to restart at the beginning. It would be helpful to have save points in each battle.
It's great that the combat moveset is much more advanced than the original game's, but combat still grows old when these moves are repeated for the hundredth or thousandth time. Each character has access to their own power attacks, hyper attacks, and room-clearing musou attacks, which can all be enhanced with the rage special. Thank goodness there's now a skill tree where players can choose what moves they learn. I also appreciate the large number of weapons found in the game and the fact that some of them have elemental bonuses like fire and lighting. Players used to be limited to simply selling the weapons they don't want to keep, but now they can be merged together to gain additional power. It's also possible to merge different mounts together in the same way that weapons are merged.
Just like Samurai Warriors 4, this stand-alone expansion lets players select any character they've unlocked and jump right into any battle they have completed. New to the series is Survival mode, where players make their way through a giant castle with a seemingly endless number of levels. The only way to progress to a new level is to complete the current one, filled with numerous minions, officers with loot, and occasional special officers who drop a plethora of great items upon their defeat. This ended up being the best mode due to the lack of story interruptions and smaller levels.
Nevertheless, the empowering feeling of slaying thousands of enemies in any mode is overshadowed by repeating the same moves over and over again as well as facing minions that look exactly the same. Only high-ranking officers look different, and only high-ranking officers pose any sort of challenge.
Samurai Warriors 4-II isn't a bad game, but it will only appeal to gamers who long to play lengthy battles where mindless button-mashing trumps strategy and variety.