Samurai Warriors: For the Inner Samurai In All of Us

Koei has done it again.  For years, the Japanese developer has cranked out a succession of hugely popular Dynasty Warriors games, the historically themed games crafted around the ancient Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  Now, the people at Koei have a new game out for fans - Samurai Warriors, for the PS2, and now the XBox.

Based on the same hack-and-slash action as Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors features gameplay that Dynasty Warriors fans will find familiar.  What Koei has done, however, is transport the setting.  No longer in ancient China, the player will find themselves in the similarly epic and war-torn era of 16th-century Japan, playing as one of many legendary warriors (playable characters are both historical figures and made-up personalities).  The basic idea is the same - playing in either one-player or two-player mode, hack, slash, and smash your way through the enemy soldiers and generals, who of course heavily outnumber you.

Looks like the same thing as Dynasty Warriors?  Maybe to some degree.  However, Koei has added on a number of new features to Samurai Warriors, just enough to make it worth getting for the fans.  Most notably, Koei promises over 500 different mission variations, set in over 90 different stages.  Though many of these are very similar, this is still a lot for a simple action game.  There are also new additions to the formerly simple "kill-the-leader-and-win" strategy that was in Dynasty Warriors.  While killing the commanding enemy general does indeed still finish the level for you in Samurai Warriors, there are a vast number of new "mini-missions" for you to fulfill during the level, such as destroying enemy cannons, luring soldiers to the front line, or keeping important generals from escaping.  Whether or not you fulfill these missions determines what level you play next, and ultimately, what kind of ending you get.

In keeping with the new Japanese setting of the game, players can now use a variety of uniquely Japanese weapons, like the katana, the shuriken, or the kusarigama, as well as some more interesting weapons like a wagasa (umbrella) or a kendama (a toy ball and string).  Two of the new characters are ninjas, which allows some new nifty moves, like double-jumping and super speed.  Additionally, characters can do combo attacks, charge attacks, long-range archery, and specialized magic "musuo" attacks.

In addition to the usual story mode and free mode (which allows you play any levels you have already unlocked), Samurai Warriors also includes a new officer mode, which allows you to create your own character and train him or her to be a samurai.  There's a fun versus mode that lets two players face off against one another in an attempt to be the first one to hack and slash their way through to the other one.  Also included is a challenge mode which just lets one player practice specific moves, such as archery, deflecting arrows, combo attacks, and riding horses.  Oh yes, did I mention you could fight on horses?

The core of the game, though, is still the same basic action.  And don't go looking for a history lesson.  The game bases itself on historical figures and settings, but most of it is light-hearted fiction.  If you weren't a fan of the original Dynasty Warriors, then I don't recommend picking this one up.  If you do find the Koei series incredibly addictive though, like I do, Samurai Warriors is a fun variation of the game that you won't be able to stop playing.  If you're not either, then I say pick it up.  It's epic fun action, and after all, who can resist cute priestess girls delivering paralyzing blows with an umbrella?

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