When it comes to games, the Japanese can make great ones… as long as they stick to things that are zany, or they go along the epic JRPG route. Their action games – particularly third person action games based on some stylized concept of Japanese history – don’t really stack up these days. Games like Koei’s Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors just don’t make the grade these days. They look pretty enough, but that’s just not enough to make them good, or add appeal to an increasingly lucrative Western market (no matter how many anime fan boys there are out there.)
Capcom’s latest entrant into this market falls prey to the ills that are plaguing many of these titles. It’s a little surprising, actually, because Capcom are perfectly capable of delivering high quality games with global appeal. But Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes falls flat in a great many ways.
The game is set in a stylized – and by stylized we mean highly reimagined, over-the-top, quite ridiculous – version of Japan’s historic feudal war period. Here’s an example of what I am harping on about: One of the characters is Magoichi Saica, the leader of a mercenary clan that specializes in the use of fire-arms. Now, anyone with a modicum of historical knowledge knows that gunpowder had a profound effect on the history of Japan, all but scuppering the Samurai, who clung to old beliefs and archaic methods of warfare. The gunpowder in question was used in muskets, which were slow loading, single-shot weapons. They weren’t machine guns. Yet, in Sengoku Basara, Magoichi has machine guns. And rocket launchers.
Not all the time, but enough to mess with history to a degree that will have purists wailing and gnashing their teeth. This is, of course, the effect of Japanese popular culture on video games – the anime influence in these kinds of games is strong.
But let’s put purism aside, and forget the fact that Sengoku Basara is loosely (and we mean very loosely) based on something that sort-of actually happened. Let’s just look at it in terms of being a third person action game.
The player can choose one of a number of characters to play with. Whether they play quick battles or take on the campaign like Hero’s Story for any character, the game dynamic is pretty much the same. Each character has a unique style and a set of special moves. The player is required to take on enemy encampments, one at a time, using these moves. That involves hammering on the face buttons in a bashing fest that would make a professional button-masher blush, while running around levels taking out carbon copy enemies (with the odd slightly different one thrown in for flavor) before engaging in a boss battle.
Most of these battles are punctuated with soliloquizing cut-scenes, crammed full of the inane, yet deep sounding kind of dialogue that anime is famous for… senseless, inane prattle, if you ask me. Despite this speech-giving and chest thumping, some of the characters are not developed well enough, and the player is left to guess at some of their motivations.
But this game isn’t about story. It is about repetitive action that becomes formulaic and old after the first five minutes. The graphics are fairly good, but they’re not enough to make the game even a little compelling. There are tons of special effects to punctuate the whole-sale slaughter of hundreds of enemies, as well as more inane prattle that pops up in the bottom middle of the screen, sometimes obscuring the action for a few moments.
Not that this is much of a problem. Being an anime style historical hero, the player’s character is virtually untouchable, except in boss battles, adding even more tedium to the repetitive game play.
There is a degree of customization, but it required little thought. Between battles, the player can equip new weapons and modifier trinkets, which works out to just sticking the biggest weapon available into the “equipped” slot, and loading it with as many modifiers as it can carry.
The player can also select an ally to accompany them, which adds an unnecessary modifier to the game dynamic, but does little else. Every now and then the character will be able to unleash a special attack, which is even more overkill.
If you’re going to sit and play through each character’s story, you had better have a lot of patience, a strong constitution and an even stronger thumb… Sengoku Basara isn’t particularly long (in terms of each character’s story) but the endless repetition and button mashing will test anyone’s resolve.
At A Glance:
Repetitive, archaic and often annoying… this one is only for the most ardent, patient, strong thumbed of fans.
- Nu Metro