Man, the Warriors series sure is a tricky one. For many, it’s a series famed for its mindless button bashing, historically questionable storylines and traditionally overwrought Japanese presentation. That might be true to an extent, but ask fans of the franchise (and there are quite a few of them), and they’ll tell you about the impressive cast of playable characters, the slowly evolving but perfectly honed battle system and overall emphasis on crowd control and battlefield management. It’s an odd one, because all of the above is true – the good and the bad. I get why some people will never get on board with the Warriors series and equally, I totally get why it has such a committed fan-base. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle, but regardless of my views on the series in general, of all the Warriors titles I have played (and I have played a lot of them), Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 for the Vita is unquestionably one of the best and is certainly the finest of the handheld iterations.
As always, whether it will be enough to win over the doubters is up for debate (I can’t see it happening), but honestly, this is series made first and foremost for the fans. I’m sure Tecmo Koei and Omega Force would love to add to its already substantial fan-base, but that’s the thing, despite what you might think about the series, it sure as sh*t sells well in the West (they don’t keep releasing these games here for a laugh) and it’s, well, it’s bleedin’ huge in the East. The Warriors series it seems is one of the few franchises that is completely review-proof. Sadly, while that might sound like great news for both developer and publisher, the pendulum definitely swings both ways. Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 could get nines across the board, but people are so entrenched in their overriding opinion of the franchise that they simply won’t give it a try. So, this is what I ask – if you’re a Vita owner, do give this one a bash. It’s not like big-budget retail releases are exactly common place on the platform nowadays, and honestly, alongside Omega Force’s Monster Hunter clone, Toukiden: Kiwami, Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 stands as one of the best big budget Vita releases to make it to the West in quite some time.
Like Samurai Warriors 4, Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 allows you to create your own character, but what is new here, subsequently making this a much more personal and enjoyable yarn, is that your character is incorporated successfully into the story. Your opinions have no major effect on the overall outcome, but the relationships that you can build via bonds with other characters does add some much needed personality to proceedings with the addition of dialogue options making you feel much more involved in the customarily epic tale of the 16th century unification of feudal Japan.
Don’t get me wrong, this is hardly Mass Effect 4, but the bond system does help you to build up something resembling a relationship with the games’ vast cast of playable characters. The overarching story too, while far from being fantastically written, is nonetheless an interesting tale following the Oda family in a time of great turmoil and change for the country.
With the game split between the traditional battlefield action and these moments of dialogue heavy interactions in ‘event’ mode, Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 feels like a series tiptoeing towards a change of pace. Sure, the core gameplay will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played a Warriors game in the past, but there is no doubting that this more interactive take on storytelling makes the grandeur of the tale much more palatable and engaging. A lot of it is still nonsense of course, but at least it now feels like an intrinsic element of the experience rather than window dressing used merely to frame the core action.
It’s not all chat either – the upgrade system is better than ever with loot items and upgrades providing a solid hook to keep you playing beyond the 10-15 hour campaign. Sure, replaying missions can be a chore (especially in a game as fundamentally repetitive as this), but as ever, the lure of higher levels and greater gear proves as strong as ever. Further temptation comes from the fact that you can upgrade all of your allies. While this is initially tricky due to the characters fighting at your side changing after each battle, the ability to eventually create a team of four high level combatants can prove surprisingly addictive.
This isn’t just for show either; unlike the majority of Warriors games that see you take on opposing armies almost singlehandedly, Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 gives you control of up four playable characters that can be switched between by pressing their image on screen. Despite the relatively simplistic controls, the majority of characters feel decidedly unique with individual Hyper Attacks and brutal linked musou attacks adding yet another layer of strategy to proceedings.
Yes, button bashing will still get you a long way, but even on the standard difficulty setting, it won’t be long before you start failing missions unless you start paying attention to the events taking place on the battlefield map. With playable characters often split across the map and events unlocking on the fly as the battle progresses, things can get pretty hectic pretty damn quick, and with orders read out in Japanese (with English subtitles of course), keeping track of events can actually become rather difficult.
That’s the point though isn’t it – defeating enemy soldiers is rarely tricky, heck, even generals and bosses rarely put up much of a fight – the issue comes from managing these battles and making sure you are in the right place at the right time. You can kill a thousand enemies, but if you’re not controlling the areas that matter, you will still end up losing the overall battle.
If any game in the Warriors series would be likely to win over the naysayers, it would probably be Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3, but with opinion often set in stone and the game being released on the most niche of platforms, I fear that this will remain a game for the fans. Saying that, if you are a fan, you should be more than happy with Omega Force’s latest – it’s still a Warriors game in the most fundamental of ways, but with an improved structure, better storytelling and a great character swap mechanic (not to mention its high production values and largely impressive visuals), it’s arguably as good as the series has ever been and yet another very solid Japanese offering to add to the Vita’s increasingly Japanese library of games.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation Vita code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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