Samurai Warriors 4 II is the latest title in the series from Koei, who also develop the Dynasty Warriors series of games and a wide variety of others. Seriously, their track record is incredible. Both the Samurai and Dynasty franchises are mainstays in the action RPG genre, and remain incredibly popular in Japan. However, their popularity in the West is regulated to a more niche audience and the limited release of this title shows it in spades. However, the developers have stated that they intend this game to be both a new entry point and a “perfect version” of its predecessor, Samurai Warriors 4. But does this game achieve both of these aims?
The first thing I should mention is that I played Samurai Warriors 4-II on PC with a controller, and the port’s visual performance is fine. No game-breaking bugs, extensive visual settings, everything’s as it should be. The only niggle I had was that the first several minutes of gameplay consisted entirely of my character feebily prancing about because the attacks hadn’t been automatically mapped to my controller. The game obviously has controller support, player movement and camera control were already mapped (but the camera control was mapped to the shoulder buttons, a control style I haven’t seen since the Playstation), so basic mapping not being standard is a little odd. Long story short, map your buttons first. The game’s PC graphics are also a minor upgrade from the PS3 version, so if you’re expecting PS4-grade graphics you’re in for a disappointment.
The main selling point of the series has always been its gameplay, and Samurai Warriors 4-II (which will henceforth be called Electric Boogaloo to save precious typing time) is pretty much the game you expect from such an iconic series. Balls-to-the-wall action, literal thousands of enemies to decimate with your incredibly flashy attacks, and all the incredibly pretty characters you’d expect from a Japanese game. The gameplay, at its core, never ceases to impress in regards to how goddamn fun it all is. Pulling off intense combos is rewarding, but stress-relieving button mashing is a viable tactic too. It’s a shame, then, to find the combo system incredibly restrictive. You unlock more combos as you increase the levels of characters, which means that veterans will have to put up with a potentially boring set of moves until they complete a few missions in no small part due to the fact that importing your save from Samurai Warriors 4 will only net you gold and Strategy Tomes (the game’s skill upgrade tool). The game’s story mode, as is the norm with the series, is set in Sengoku-era Feudal Japan (so that’s 15th to 17th century Japan). Players control various historical Japanese warlords with absurd yet awesome costumes and powers, including newcomer Ii Naomasa who was a more badass individual in real life than he is in-game. Online and local co-op are also supported. Unlike Samurai Warriors 4, this featured a more linear story arc, Electric Boogaloo’s story mode deals with multiple stories featuring different sets of characters for a more personal touch. If you like a more hands-on approach to character design, custom characters make their return too! This is a step in the right direction, but the actual plots of the game still all play out as cliché Japanese stories often do: Typecast voice actors, generic character types, and genuinely groan-worthy translations. Luckily, Electric Boogaloo‘s campaigns get progressively less serious and delve into sillier territory. It’s seriously something you have to see to believe, so I won’t spoil just how silly things get.
Electric Boogaloo also offers some minor changes to gameplay to make it fairer to the player, and a new mode. Endless Castle Mode, Electric Boogaloo‘s version of the Survival and Challenge modes from previous games. In the Survival mode, you complete randomised objectives to get through the castle. As the player progresses higher, the enemies get tougher and the objectives get harder. But the bling gets more flash too. Rare items and weapons are available if you’re tough enough, and veterans of the series should like this more loot-focused approach. The Challenge Mode has four selections available: Chamber of Trials (where you have to defeat as many enemies as you can before the time limit expires), Chamber of Riches (fight gits for lods of emone before time runs out), Chamber of Agility (a simple racing minigame), and Chamber of Death. In that last one, enemies kill you in one hit, and there are literally hundreds of them on-screen at any time. So…good luck? These modes add some harmless longevity to the game, for veterans and newcomers alike, but they’re modes that other games have already done better.
Electric Boogaloo offers exactly what the developers wanted: An entry point for newcomers and a sequel (or is it a remake?) that “perfects” the original game and straight-up improves it. Whether that’s worth the price tag is up to you. If you already own Samurai Warriors 4, the extra modes and gameplay changes just aren’t enough substance to warrant the extra cash unless you’re exceptionally desperate for more story. If you’re a newcomer to the series, there’s never been a better time to get into the series. But if you play the game and think “This just isn’t stupid and anime enough,” then there’s always Sengoku Basara. Seriously, those games are so anime that it even got an actual anime. It’s as fantastically absurd as you’d expect.