I travel back to a fairly crazy manga-esque re-imagining of feudal Japan to make war in Sengoku Basara!
Read my very honourable words over at SquareGo
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes
There’s a fine line between striving for realism and taking a different view for stylistic purposes. For example the games of the popular Samurai Warriors or Dynsasty Warriors series have made it their goal to aim for a degree of authentic detail. Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes (SBSH) however has clearly taken the opposite view, which may irritate the purists out there but will doubtlessly endear others to the game.
When you’ve reached the point that important real-life figures like General Maeda Toshiie are rendered as a food obsessed browbeaten meathead or the legendary unificationist Tokugawa Ieyasu has been re-imagined into looking like Ryu from Streetfighter’s chubby little brother, then historical accuracy has gone out of the window in favour of style and storytelling.
Not that storytelling is the biggest concern to Capcom in this game but their attempts to weave some of the most complex factional warfare in human history into a single game is impressive to say the least. Boiled down succinctly it goes something as follows:
The heroic Ieyasu has killed warlord Hideyoshi, this peeves his protoge Ishida Mitsunari. Both commanders then recruit, subjegate or defeat every other opponent until they finally clash at the Battle of Sekigahara. Where depending on who you are playing, goes one of two ways. It’s all very amusing, if a little bit silly. The cringe inducingly bad acting simply adds to the atmosphere of a bad samurai movie, some scenes of which are downright comedy; most notably the various moments where Ishida begins repeatedly screaming “IEYASU” in an increasingly hysterical and manic fashion.
The game itself plays out very much in the same vein as other hack ‘n slash combat games like N³II. Each level is a map full of enemies who relentlessly attack the player and his allies. Each map has several character bosses to defeat, usually with one final boss who can’t be reached until some arbitrary side-task has been completed. Along the way there are various command posts which can be captured, giving bonuses and increasing your own warband’s size.
Of course as mentioned earlier, there are a multitude of characters that can be played, each with their own story to tell, although most of which will consist of them hanging around in the background during an Ishida or Ieyasu cutscene. Each has their own particular style of warfare, from bludgeoning weapons and katanas to magic and firearms, meaning there’s a little something there for anyone. Additionally as the player completes more of the story campaigns, new characters will unlock, giving even more scope for longevity.
It’s also a nicely realised experience with good graphics and sound, although it’s clear that the makers haven’t really taken full advantage of the PS3 hardware. However it’s still a very nice aesthetic, as the screaming hordes of soldiers, and effects onscreen never slow down or get too messy.
The real question becomes, will people want to play? In short, yes, it’s a fun game. The levels are well set out, never feeling unfair or ridiculous and the difficulty levels have a good ramping of skills to allow for experienced players and novices alike. What it unfortunately doesn’t do is add anything to the genre, however it’s a worthy and solid addition to the cadre of samurai action titles.