Its been quite a while since the previous Samurai Warriors was released, outside of expanded releases, so now Koei Tecmo look to be using that gap as an opportunity to reboot the series into something of a stylish take on Japanese history. Does it manage to pull it off? Lets take a look.
With Dynasty Warriors covering the three kingdoms in China, Samurai Warriors story focuses on the Sengoku period of Japan instead. This was a very turbulent time in Japanese history, and one man named Nobunaga Oda set out to end the unrest and unite Japan under his banner. Alongside his most trusted retainer, Mitsuhide Akechi, we will follow these men in some of the most fierce combat of the era as they push forward to achieve their dream of a peaceful world.
Instead of having the stories focused around factions, SW5 instead offers up different narratives for a few officers, with only Nobunaga available at first and up to 27 officers in total opening up as you play. Musou mode is pretty much the story mode and is where you’ll end up mostly, but there’s the usual free mode and a couple of extra modes. Reverie mode can be unlocked and offers alternate scenarios to play, and Citadel mode plays out similarly to the town & castle building modes found in prior Dynasty Warriors games. Certainly plenty to play, with the added bonus of split screen on Switch via various means should you need some help.
First thing you’ll notice when firing up the game for the first time is the new cel-shaded look to the series, Koei have gone for a more stylised look with Samurai Warriors 5 and it shows. Texture work isn’t the best, but all the characters are pretty well detailed and the environments have a lot to offer too. The new look does mask some of visual niggles, but also helps with the special effects as unleashing abilities has a water painting look to it. In-game cinematics are plentiful and look good with the new cel-shading, and the full Japanese dub is on point. The classic Koei soundtrack for these releases, a mix of rock & traditional Japanese music, is as good as always with some tracks making a return as well.
Looking like 720p/30 with no other options like other musou games on Switch, this runs pretty well in that regard with solid performance throughout. The usual problem of enemies popping into existence but a few meters away wasn’t really an issue here either, or it is at least masked well. Only downside I guess would be the lack of a docked upgrade, it still looks the same 720p/30 as portable, with the added boost probably just going towards tidying up any minor frame drops.
The core gameplay here hasn’t changed at all from the many musou games that have come before, your aim is to complete goals within the stages whilst cutting down hundreds of lowly foot soldiers. Officer fights can offer some challenge, but the ability system that lets you activate one of 4 pre-defined boosts can make it a little easier this time around. Luckily the game still feels good to play, Koei haven’t changed that aspect up to much, and keeps that slick modern musou feel to the combat.
When not fighting you still have the Dojo etc that offers up crafting and the like which is to be expected of a musou game these days. One noticeable addition to the gameplay over SW4 would be the skill tree, and I mean an actual skill tree too. You start at the centre with attack, defence etc. as the starting points and then it all branches out into different directions. Completing goals and gaining XP opens up further avenues of expansion. Its a pretty good system that allows you to build an officer to your liking or mask any weaknesses they may start with.
Samurai Warriors 5 is the shot in the arm that the series needed. I’ve honestly always seen it as more of a spin-off to Dynasty Warriors than a standalone series, but the release finally differentiates it enough to stand on its own beside its older brother. The new cel-shaded style and few tweaks to the formula will please fans of the series and those returning from a hiatus, may also bring in newcomers looking for something a little more stylish.
Long running sibling to Dynasty Warriors gets exactly what they need to step outside of its shadow and stand tall.