It’s been seven years now since the Samurai Warriors saga came back to cross swords, if we exclude of course spin-offs and enhanced editions. For Koei Tecmo, it’s time for a comeback with Samurai Warriors 5, long awaited by fans of the franchise.
winning comeback ?
First of all,
it seems necessary to explain what Samurai Warriors is, and the genre in which it operates. It’s a series developed by Omega Force, an iconic Japanese studio founded in 1996 and based in Ashikaga: that’s where Dynasty Warriors
was born in 1997, a very successful action game with a very particular style that knew many sequels, the last one being the poorly received ninth opus last year. A
franchise telling the warlike stories of China, Omega Force then diversified with Samurai Warriors
in 2004, based on the same concept but exploring the historical past of Japan.
But what concept, exactly? Musou (or Musoû, or even Musō), as it is called, is based on action with a third-person view, plunging the player into large-scale battles based on the conquest of a land. More concretely, you play as one or more super-powered characters, facing gargantuan quantities of enemies, who must defeat or scare off certain enemies (officers or generals) who will serve as bosses or mini-bosses. A rather particular video game species, but one that tends to be democratized over time – we can for example cite the nice Zelda spin-off Hyrule Warriors Era of the Scourge
, designed by Omega Force with Koei Tecmo, which is a Musô that is a bit more mainstream.
, it’s time to come back with a sequel… which is actually not a sequel at all.
Back to the (mu)sources<img
alt=”Samurai Warriors 5: a really sharp return? ” src=”https://image.jeuxvideo.com/medias-sm/162489/1624885112-8055-capture-d-ecran.jpg” />If
it’s called Samurai Warriors 5
, don’t expect a sequel of its big brother since it’s a kind of reboot, a real rewriting of the first part released seventeen years ago.
A new vision which also brings about a graphic relifting (which we’ll come back to later): here, it’s a question of being able to reach the new generation and all those who don’t know the saga.
We follow the story of Nobunaga Oda in the foreground, as well as Mitsuhide Akechi, two iconic figures of the series, whose story will be different for the occasion: we’ll see their beginnings, with two rejuvenated and fiery versions of these characters. Let’s note that these two names really existed, Nobunaga being the first unifier of the country in the Sengoku era (at the very beginning of the 15th century), and Mitsuhide a samurai who teamed up with the first one before rebelling.
relies on real facts to tell the story of its journey, with obviously great liberties. On paper, we can say that what we are told, which takes place over entire years, is far from being uninteresting: Nobunaga as well as Mitsuhide evolve over time, there are some rather surprising reversals of fortune and ruthless acts. In reality, the execution is much more contrasted with a narration that rarely convinces, rare cinematics or a writing and direction that are too cartoonish.
We come out with mixed feelings from this point of view and, yet, it’s impossible to deny a certain effort from Omega Force. If it doesn’t fully succeed in telling something breathtaking, the scenario is however very present and allows to dilute the numerous battles, which are themselves quite repetitive in principle. So we have the main plot of Nobunaga Oda, which will be completed in about fifteen hours, spread over six chapters, but also that of Mitsuhide Akechi in parallel, less long but quite consistent overall. In addition, we have a bonus section once the game is finished, allowing for fictional and fantastic stories: the developers certainly want to tell us adventures drawn from Japanese history, with many pitfalls, yes, but not without a certain willingness and generosity, VOSTFR in support.
<img alt=”Samurai Warriors 5: a really sharp return? ” src=”https://image.jeuxvideo.com/medias-sm/162732/1627318485-1075-capture-d-ecran.jpg” />The
story is one thing, but for a Samurai Warriors, the most important thing is still its gameplay and its content, both being intrinsically linked. We recall that Samurai Warriors are all based on a wide range of playable characters, and this fifth game is no exception to the rule, despite a certain regression: there are now 27 characters in the cast, compared to more than fifty before. There’s plenty to be disappointed about: however, it’s clear that all of them are particularly masterful.
on the field, you have a quick attack and a throwing attack, each of which is assigned to a button. It is then possible to mix the two for combos that will differ according to the weapon assigned to our character, with specificities for all.
special moves/bonuses can be assigned to activate, whether it be strikes, increased defense or damage points, etc
Let’s add to this an important element, the Musou attacks, powerful signature gestures that can be triggered once the dedicated bar is filled. This is a rather important mechanic that can turn the tide of events, especially since it differs when the protagonist’s life is at its lowest. Similarly, Samurai Warriors 5
features a rage gauge, which fills up with long combos and dodges, and can be activated for a tenfold increase in strength with an ultimate Musou attack as well.
With the moves and styles completely reworked for this new iteration, it’s safe to say that the game offers a plethora of gameplay for each character. And if you have a preference for one of them in particular, it is possible to assign him the weapon you want, to level him up to acquire new moves and special abilities, and thus enrich the gameplay. Some of them are particularly enjoyable, whether they involve well-known characters or new ones: you can handle the katana, the double blade, gauntlets, sharpened chains, spears, drums, and so on, for a real variety in combat, which is very welcome. Be careful, however, to change characters or weapons, as fatigue may indeed set in.
Tasted like a chocolate Musô
The main game is spread over six main chapters, each one being composed of several missions that will tell many strategic battles for the conquest of Japan. Thus, as the tradition of Muso wants, you have to land with your army on a land dominated by the enemy, and take control of it. To do this, many objectives and victory conditions will be imposed as you progress: defeat officers (mini-bosses, in itself), defeat so many enemies in a specific area, escort allies to a specific location … Overall, we can’t say that the goals are very different – you’re mostly confined to going through levels on foot or on horseback while killing thousands of opponents, with recurrently a bit more difficult duels.
If the basic enemy is a punching bag with an intelligence close to that of a mollusk, let’s note however some troops that are a bit more difficult with shields or spears, which will require a special attack to overcome. Also, some battalions will have some special features, such as drums that motivate the enemies (and that you’d better eliminate quickly) or riflemen who don’t hesitate to shoot at you in waves. We would have liked to have even more diversity at this level, because apart from the mini-bosses that can represent a threat, the repetitiveness is real after a few hours of play. Here, no strategic mode like in Samurai Warriors 4: Empires! This is a pity, especially since the title offers a very generous content but proposes to do almost constantly the same thing.
As deep as a work of Albert Camusô
On the other hand, it seemed difficult to really revolutionize the muso recipe, especially since Samurai Warriors is one of its most absolute representations. This new game allows for a lot of battles in several game modes that create a solid content, despite the reduced cast. There is the Musou mode (the main campaign), which offers to play with the characters defined for each mission, or to redo them with all the unlocked characters of our choice in the Free mode. This is a good way to get the best marks for each mission, as scoring is very present in the game. As mentioned before, there is also a bonus chapter, with each battle to be unlocked by completing possible conditions, such as getting S Rank (the highest) for a particular mission. Just to complete everything here, nice tens of hours of gameplay are required, to be adjusted according to the chosen difficulty.
MoreIt’s impossible to ignore the Citadel mode, which makes its return here. A very important part for perfectionists, this one allows new battles with the possibility to build your own troops for a strategic advantage: above all, you’ll get resources that will allow you to deepen some parts of the customization. For example, the very important Forge gives access to weapon upgrades: you can level them up, give them specific abilities, or sell them to get items. By upgrading the Forge, therefore, it will be possible to perfect our tools of death more quickly; the same goes for the Dojo, allowing us to improve our characters, or the stable and the shop, for a new mount to ride or items to buy. The Citadel mode therefore allows for a better depth of all these facets and new battles to get under the skin. Note that it is not so important that you have to spend hours and hours to complete the single player campaign.
Finally, Samurai Warriors 5 has the great idea of bringing back two-player cooperation, online… or locally. Particularly rare these days, the latter is therefore very welcome and allows you to engage in huge fights with your buddy. A nice way to stifle the repetitiveness a bit. Moreover, in solo, you should know that many missions allow you to switch between one character and another with a simple button press, and that it is even possible to do a Musou attack with two characters, when both are side by side and their respective gauge is full.
A technique without the (mu)penny
Omega Force is a studio known for producing an impressive number of games of the genre, but not necessarily for perfecting its technical aspect, often dated. Does Samurai Warriors 5 break the tradition? Yes… and no. Here, the title is under the sign of renewal, first by its rewriting of the first part, but also by its artistic direction: the designers have opted for cell-shading, an effect well known in the Tenth Art world which allows, if we were to vulgarize it, to display features close to a cartoon. For this new software, the rendering is rather appreciable and gives a style similar to Japanese animation, which is an appreciable orientation since we are talking about a typically Japanese atmosphere. We can thus underline the successful character designs as well as a myriad of graphic effects rather polished in game, as during some moves or Musou attacks. This goes hand in hand with the animations, which are quite accomplished… when it comes to our playable characters.
For the rest, it’s a different story. If this artistic turnaround allows for some honest scenery, very representative of theThe game’s visuals are very similar to what we can imagine of Japan at the time, but we have to admit that this is an obvious cover for a plastic that leaves something to be desired. Very often, aliasing is present, arenas are empty and environments are not very detailed for a work of 2021. The same goes for all these NPCs (for “non-playable characters”, just in case) with jerky animations, which remind us that it is still difficult to offer a truly modern musô visually. And it’s not the numerous camera problems that will lighten the visibility.
One can imagine that displaying hundreds of enemies in real time is an obvious technical challenge, hence all these concessions. Fortunately, Samurai Warriors 5 suffers from absolutely no slowdown, and offers a fluid and constant 60 FPS framerate. It’s just a shame that on the home console side, the title doesn’t come on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, and doesn’t benefit from any improvements via backwards compatibility. There were certainly some cards to play on that side. Finally, let’s finish with a rather good soundtrack, abandoning the electronic music for more orchestral tracks and borrowed from the Japanese culture, with traditional instruments. On the other hand, once again and like some aspects, the music is quickly repetitive, without being boring to listen to.
- Successful characters, sometimes very enjoyable to play
- A nice life span with many missions and several modes
- A cel-shadding that allows to renew a little the franchise
- A co-op mode online or locally, which is welcome
- The possibility to really deepen your characters
- Technically late, despite the cel-shadding mask
- A repetitiveness in the principle that arrives quickly
- Less characters than in Samurai Warriors 4
- No improvement on PS5 and Xbox Series
- Still some visibility problems with a sometimes capricious camera
With a new artistic direction and a new storyline from the first part, Samurai Warriors 5 is still a very, very traditional musô… but still successful. Of course, its cel-shadding remains an obvious make-up for a dated technique, but it also brings a reinforced Japanese atmosphere and some appreciable graphic effects; similarly, the repetitiveness of its missions is an obvious black spot but is compensated by an interesting diversity of characters and gameplay, and this despite the decried reduction of its cast. In spite of a writing and direction that is not very convincing, we have to admit that Omega Force’s game offers a rather solid content that provides long hours of gameplay, respectfully officiating in its precise genre: in the end, we only regret that the title does not go further in its mechanics, its quest objectives or the diversity of its characters.odes, imposing itself as a good action game, without being exceptional, but which will have the advantage of being suitable also for novices of the discipline.
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