Just when you thought I was done with the Warriors titles, here comes one more! Samurai Warriors Chronicles is one of the launch titles for the Nintendo 3DS, and it is my primary reason for purchasing one. While the core game play is similar to the other Warriors titles, Samurai Warriors Chronicles offers up some new twists to the series and it is one of the better portable Warriors handheld titles.
Everyone here should know the drill by now. Chronicles is a hack and slash title that will have you running around open areas laying waste to hundreds of enemies per level. In addition to fighting you will also be able to upgrade the various characters’ equipment and even set up your dream team for Street Pass battles. It is not a complicated game, but sometimes simplicity is not such a bad thing for a title you are supposed to play on the go.
Instead of having a separate storyline for each playable character, you will follow a premade, customizable character through the warring states period of Japan. After you answer a few questions that will govern what direction the plot moves toward, your character runs around Japan all willy-nilly trying to find his or her way. Along the way, he or she gets caught up in all of the major battles of the time period and chooses a side for you whether you like it or not. Before every battle there is a cut scene that always takes a little too long explaining how the battle starts by way of an overhead map, and then your character can talk to the various officers in camp. If you can pay attention to the cut scenes you will get a lot out of the story of the unification of Japan, but if you have a shorter attention span you might miss out on some stuff.
Sidenote: The problem with naming your character in these games is that unless you know some Japanese names, your name is not going to fit in. Every time my character “Jerome” popped up among names like Yukimura, Tadakatsu, and Nobunaga I couldn’t help but chuckle.
At first I thought controlling one character for the entire game was going to be a little shallow. However, when I started playing I quickly found out that each level gives you command of two or three other people and you can switch between them by pressing their icons on the touch screen. This becomes a necessity because throughout each level you will be given various missions and you will constantly have to switch between characters to get all of them done. Completing the missions is not mandatory, but you get rewards like gold, items and weapons, and leaving some of them undone could put you at a disadvantage in battle. I only wish there was a less intrusive way of alerting players of missions because every time one of them triggers, a line of text goes across the screen telling you the objective and interrupting game play. It is like surfing the Internet in the mid 90s.
Like most Warriors titles, the graphics in Chronicles are a mixed bag. The full motion videos look great and the 3D effects that are employed are awesome. There was one point where an army was lining up rifles and it felt like the rifles were coming out of the screen. When it comes down to actual game play things start to go a little south. The character models look a little jaggy, and the infamous “pop in” is back in a big way. Sometimes enemies will appear far away, but other times they will appear right next to you and hit you before you even have a chance to attack. Slowdown also makes a return when there is a lot going on all at once. Fortunately, the 3D effects redeem it a little. You are given a greater sense of depth while walking around making it easier to gauge where enemies are, and the unique special attacks for each character have some cool 3D effects. Overall, I would say that the in game graphics are the low point of the game, but thankfully some shining moments take the spotlight off of the glitches.
The sound does not impress, but it does not disappoint either. The highlight is the return to Japanese voice acting, but at the same time it is a little strange that they did not include an option for English. The music consists of some upbeat songs with traditional Japanese instruments. The soundtrack is not bad, but it will fade into the background almost immediately.
Chronicles is a relatively simple game, but there can be a lot going on at times. You will go hack and slash crazy through each level doing normal attacks, charge attacks, special attacks and changing officers frequently to tackle different missions. None of the battles take too long, so it is a perfect game to take with you if you have a short bus ride, or if work is just really slow that day.
In addition to the standard attacks, all characters have their own separate spirit gauge which fills up as you fight. You can use the spirit gauge for battle skills, which are character specific skills that buff your party or debuff the enemies for a limited time, or you can wait until it is full and do a spirit charge which is a powerful attack that comes after your special attack. This is a nice addition and adds some depth to the game play. The game can get difficult later on and you will be glad you have some of those battle skills at your disposal.
After you finish a level you will talk to various officers and most of the time you will have the option to talk to a specific officer. Doing this will raise that officer’s friendship level. Once that officer is friendly enough with you their weapon will be available for you to use. Making friends takes a while, but having different weapons adds a little to the game’s surprising lack of replayability. Additionally, as you progress more officers will be made available in all levels.
Like in most of the other Warriors titles, when you are not fighting you are managing your characters’ equipment. You can upgrade weapons, buy faster horses, and equip items. You can do this in between stages, and the only problem is you don’t know what characters you are going to fight with on the next stage. Since Chronicles introduces new characters regularly, there were multiple times when I would have an awesome weapon on my character, and one or two other characters fighting with me were stuck with their stinky starter weapons.
Chronicles has a quirky little multiplayer element that works through Street Pass. After you register your Street Pass with Chronicles you can set up a four person dream team along with a set formation that decides how much you want to focus on attack or defense. Then if you walk by someone else who has the game you can battle their team the next time you start playing. The battle itself looks like an automated turn-based RPG, and while you don’t get to tell your characters what to do, it is fun to see how your team stacks up. Plus, if you win you get new weapons and the officers on your team are friendlier toward your single player character.
While I would not go out and buy a 3DS for this specific title under normal circumstances, Samurai Warriors Chronicles is a solid launch title for the new handheld. While it suffers a little with the lengthy cut scenes and enemy pop-in, it keeps the Warriors hack and slash game play and adds a little more depth to it (pun definitely intended). While people who despise the Warriors games will shun this title, fans and people who just want a fun weekend rental will find it here.