Sengoku BASARA Review: History With a Dash of Femininity

review basaraSengoku BASARA: Samurai Heroes is Capcom’s followup to Devil Kings, a hack and slasher featuring warlords from Japan’s warring states period, all of whom either look more feminine than their real life counterparts or were outright replaced with the opposite sex. So we already know the history is bastardized, but what about the game?

As with most hack and slashers, Samurai Heroes has players running through levels, taking out swarms of weak enemies with slightly stronger ones sprinkled throughout. Players can mash on the normal arts button and take out crowds of enemies; however, the game gives players four  special arts, all mapped to one of four commands. These add a lot more variety to the gameplay; with the normal arts, all players can really do is mash repeatedly, but the special arts all have unique qualities depending on the character. One of Keiji Maeda’s special arts thrusts him forward into a jump, after which players can continue to juggle and create a combo. Another one will have a different follow up attack depending on what normal arts players did before using the special art, all of which have different uses based on the situation.

Super arts are another set of skills that continuously keeps gameplay fresh. Rather than strictly dealing out damage, these have a wide range of effects. These can range from Masamune Date’s Six Swords, which activates a special mode where he deals out more damage and attacks more quickly in exchange for being unable to block, or Keiji’s super that allows him to take a short nap and recover health. This kind of variety puts Samurai Heroes on a different level compared to other hack and slashers, which tend to be brain dead mash fests.

Samurai Heroes is also one of the fastest paced games in this genre. It does so by changing one simple thing: lowering the invincibility time enemies get as they get up. With this, players can continually attack troops in an almost seamless fashion. It’s a wonder that other games haven’t done this already. Combos easily stack up to three or four digits, giving every Sengoku Basara player a feeling of “bad ass-ery.”

As fun as the game is, the experience falls short at times, especially for otaku and voice acting enthusiasts. Nothing hurts more than hearing Japanese words mispronounced or some of the laughable voice tracks in the game. If the game had included an option for Japanese voices, this would have been easily avoided. Instead, I was left cringing most of the time.

Another disappointment was the lack of selectable characters. While all 16 characters had unique play styles, it was disappointing to see so many characters as NPCs only. What’s worse is that these characters were playable in previous iterations of the game, such as Kenshin Uesugi and Kasuga in Devil Kings. It was mind boggling why they weren’t included as playable characters, considering that they probably had movesets and attack animations ready from previous games.

The game is definitely bare bones as well. There are only two true gameplay modes: Heroes’ Story and Quick Battle. The former is a basic story mode, allowing players to choose one of 16 characters and follow the game’s story, which will sometimes offer various branching paths, while the latter allows players to stick a character in any level they want. It’s hard to call this a flaw; other hack and slashers often include game modes that never get touched. I have to actually tip my hat to Capcom for only including modes that fans will want.

Overall, Samurai Heroes will be one of the most fun, engaging hack and slasher experiences genre fans can get. The fast paced action and unique characters make this a great game to induct casual gamers into the hack and slash genre. However, while fans won’t be turned off by the lack of game modes, casual gamers may get turned off by that, considering the $60 price tag. Otherwise, Samurai Heroes is extremely fun and gamers should slap themselves if they won’t at least give it a try.

A copy was sent to the editor from the publisher for review purposes. Played through several characters in Heroes' Story mode on the normal difficulty, tried out Quick Battle mode, and lost (embarrassingly) on the first stage hard difficulty.

 
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