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~WII VERSION REVIEW~
'Sengoku Basara' is a series of hack'n'slash video games by developer Capcom released in 2010. They are set in the notorious Sengoku period in feudal Japan, and you play as one character from the conflicts and fight your way through various battles. Only a couple of the games have been released beyond Japan and 'Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes' is one of them. I'm a fan of the hack'n'slash genre and was looking for a game similar to 'Dynasty' or 'Samurai Warriors', titles by another developer with similar gameplay, on the Wii, but was hesitant to pick this up because it had some lackluster website reviews. Nevertheless gameplay videos and a fairly low price online convinced me to give it a chance, and I can see where some of these reviews were coming from.
There are two main gameplay modes. Heroes Story allows you to choose one character and follow their storyline battles through the period, while Quick Battle allows you fight any of the game's battles but you can choose any character to fight with, even if they weren't there story-wise. Within Heroes Story, the character goes through 6-8 battles on their original path (length is determined by how important the character is historically) and are interspersed with intel regarding other Japanese parties or your own character's dialogue. The stories of these characters don't intrigue me that much but they are skippable. Completing their story mode allows you to unlock an alternate path
Each character comes with a unique weapon (from swords to fists to...magic balls) and basic stats which will improve when your character levels up after each battle or equips certain accessories (either rewarded after the battle or bought/made from the "Basara Mart"). There are sixteen playable characters but only five are available to you at the beginning of the game, with the rest being unlocked each time you complete a character's story. Whilst the characters all have unique skills and techniques I felt that the roster could've been much bigger, especially since there are more than 30 characters in 'Samurai Warriors' (released in the same year as 'Sengoku Basara' also on the Wii). It doesn't really feel like you can select from an ensemble cast of the main players in the vast Sengoku period compared to its Koei counterpart.
Within each battle your lone character's aim is to fight your way through hordes of enemy soldiers and camps until you defeat the end boss without being killed. As typical with games like this your character is a superhuman compared to masses of AI-controlled lackeys against you. 'A' is your default attack button which can be put into a combo. Special moves (known as Special Arts) are done with 'B' and another button and are a bit more powerful, plus they can be strung together with normal moves. Above that is the character's "Basara Art", an ultimate move executed by pressing A + B + Z- your character learns three of them as they level up but only one can be "equipped" for battle. The attacks are quite spectacular to watch in battle and it's exhilarating to see about 20 soldiers get helplessly slaughtered in mid-air!
The flaw of games like 'Sengoku Basara' is that the AI is easy to beat even on the Hard mode, making gameplay repetitive and boring. This is very much the case here; soldiers will menacingly run up to your character... and then stand there for about five seconds before attacking. By then you should have beaten them into a messy pulp, and consequently this means there is less strategy needed to win each battle except the "press the attack buttons as quickly as possible" method. The higher ranked AI however is slightly smarter. For example, enemy Squad leaders will take over your camps (bases occupied by either side which you have to control before heading onto a boss) if you don't kill them when you have the chance. Also the final bosses can be quite difficult if you allow them to get a barrage of attacks in, though they are easy to block.
The camera in this game is okay for the most part but every so often it would get stuck at an awkward angle while my character attacked enemies offscreen, although this can be temporarily fixed by pressing the block button to reset it. Another thing that bugged me was the amount of lag in the game. Sometimes when you are facing a huge number of enemies (e.g. after you have taken control of a camp and the enemy reinforcements are fleeing) enemy movement noticeably slows down. Even worse during two player co-op mode there is a lot of slowdown regardless of who or what you are fighting, and if one player unleashes their special moves the other player is frozen until that move is finished. This is incredibly annoying and not something I expect to see in a sequel which might have had similar problems in similar instalments; it definitely makes the game feel like one from the previous console generation.
This leads me to the graphics. To be honest, the CG Animation you see in the opening and the cutscenes as well as the general presentation is pretty impressive, emphasizing the fluid gameplay and over-the-top nature these games have as the main characters are introduced with captions as if they are in a comic book. The in-game graphics, while they aren't bad at all, are similar to later games on the PS2 and don't really push even the Wii's boundaries. The areas of battle are quite varied, ranging from vast planes to boats, but their backgrounds aren't that detailed. Furthermore soldiers can approach you from nowhere even if you technically should be able to see them in your path!
The music is not really memorable except for the opening theme, a catchy rock track fitting for the high-tension battles it is played in. The voice acting includes some pretty high-profile names in the industry but their performances are average. Some voices don't even suit their character, e.g. Ieyasu Tokugawa, a young man who looks pretty laidback, having the voice of a posh 30-year old.
In short 'Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings' is a game that is merely average. The game is nice to watch and impressive in some aspects such as character variety and use of special moves and weapons. However with very repetitive gameplay and graphics that pale compared to older games in the genre you'd be better off playing the 'Dynasty' or 'Samurai' Warriors games for a similar (and maybe cheaper) experience.