Many people believe that if you’ve played one Warriors game you’ve played them all. I don’t agree nor do I disagree as some games in the series actually do adhere to that statement and others don’t; luckily Spirit of Sanada is quite unique. With there being over 20 Warriors games ranging from the original PlayStation all the way now to PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
Omega Force has decided to focus this entire game on the battles of Masayuki Sanada and the lives of his clan. This story has already been covered multiple times through the previous Samurai Warriors games and with the story already told, it did worry me that the entire game would just feel like another walk down repetitive memory lane.
From my previous experience with the Warriors series I immediately knew what buttons to click and how to pull of Rage and Mousu attacks without much thought. With the same aesthetics and similar layouts and the same enemy troops and same officers surrounding you, allowing for massive combos with just a few clicks of the face buttons. This game controls and plays exactly the same as every last Warriors game has with the same button layout and the same combinations. But there’s something about the controls that always feels right and its true when it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
One of the most enjoyable things to me from the Warriors games which they always delivered was variety and with this being locked and focused on the story of the Sanada clan I had expected there to be a very limited cast of playable characters. Thankfully Omega Force pulled all the stops and made sure that this age old feature still existed in this installment with the same wackiness that you’d expect with character fighting with traditional weapons and some very odd weapons.
Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada actually tries to innovate when it comes to war on the battlefield, the player may choose to play in the way they’re accustomed to with the good ol’ hack and slash combat or they can embrace SoS’ new more strategically inclined mechanic. These are called Stratagems and are more like consumable abilities that can be acquired through side missions or by completing specific optional objectives during battles. These abilities range from calling a friendly ninja on a general, officer or to trigger an ambush. These abilities really help to sway the tides of war when you need them most and add a new depth to the old tired formula. Logically these Stratagems are triggered by spending ‘The Six Coins of the Sanada’ this increases the strategic aspect my limiting your uses and making it a more calculated series of choices to gain success.
Among the other new changes are multi stage battles which are similar the original battles or the older games but now they’re split into smaller battles that are engaged one by one rather than just being thrown into one big map. Along the way of these multistages the player can choose to take in secondary battllefields which focus on non Sanada family members giving some of the other characters some screen time and injecting some much needed diversity in the cast. It also gives a change of pace that gives the game a little more range when it comes to different objectives and maps.
In between battles the player can take part in other activates outside the current base in the story. In these sections the player may shop and perform a few upgrades but can also spend some time with the other characters and by giving them presents you can raise their friendship with you. This is useful as NPCs with a strong bond will offer to join you on your adventures during the side quests.
Graphically the game still looks like it’s using the same techniques from two generations ago with unrealistic physics, low resolution textures and effects that look like they’ve been ported over from a PS2. Warrior games are not the most cutting edge of games and that’s a known fact, it’s also not the reason people play them but it would be such a better experience if characters’ hair didn’t look like cardboard, that and animations that don’t look like so stiff. This is especially noticeable in cutscenes where the characters look awfully mannequin like and unable to really emote their emotions leading to a great disconnect in immersion.
Unfortunately, Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada has a major failing that is a huge disappointment to a fan of the series at that’s a lack of local split screen cooperative play. This is a staple of the Warriors games and was a huge surprise when my sister and I loaded it up for some family bonding. The game doesn’t even offer online co-op which was also quite a shock, to me this severely brings down the value of the game as it’s just more fun in co-op.
Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is a step in the right direction with many improvements to the Warriors franchise but unfortunately it is not without misstep. The story is greatly expanded and features much more depth in it with a much more focused feel to it delivering a strong effort. The gameplay too has been expanded with new mechanics and methods that were not present in previous games and with this the game is better for it. Although there’s all this improvement there’s a huge decline in value by not including any way of enjoying this game in co-op which could possibly lead to some people skipping this game. In the end if you’re a fan or a new comer SoS is the perfect installment to pick up.