Monday, 10 December 2012

My Usual Spiel: Way of the Samurai 4, Samurai Swords and Sexy times

Release Date: 1 October 2012
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Aquire
Platform: PS3
Payers: 1

When a friend first told me about a “Samurai RPG” for the PS3 I was enthralled, after all I’ve pretty much given up hope about a new Tenchu game being on the PS3, being a Samurai in feudal Japan,? yes please. As a practitioner of "Iaido" a brand of Japanese sword art myself as well as fan of any Samurai movie, I couldn't wait. Though after some research I found that this particular “way” of the samurai was fairly comical as it involved ridiculous dialogue, over-the-top swinging and bodies flying in the air swordfighting and mini games such as torture and “Night-crawling” where you sneak through a woman’s house while knocking out family members in order to find her and take her to the inn for some more erotic games. The game also did not review very well with Metacritic giving it an overall 59.

Despite this I still had to buy the game to experience what it was like “to laugh at the game or with it” as one reviewer said. Well I’ve done one playthrough of it already so I can come to a brief conclusion that it’s quite short, but there’s a reason for this which I will go into. You  set up your samurai before you begin the story with a name and clothing though there is little or no customization options available the first time you start and the NPC’s with voice dialogue never refer to you by name anyway. The game’s storyline consists of the age old formula of you as a Samurai from somewhere or other coming into a new town and immediately getting plunged into a conflict where you are forced to take sides depending on what actions you take.

So for example the game takes place in the period in Japan after the arrival of Commodore Perry’s black ships where British settlers have come to a fictional Japanese town of Amihama. The story starts with me being rowed to shore on a  small boat where the arrival of a British ambassador (who looks about 12 or 13 years old) has caused a local gang of Japanese nationals called the “Disciples of Pajna” to attack the British as they obviously don’t like foreign invaders. So you have the choice of helping the local Shogunate law enforcement defend the British or attack them, this main story carries over the entire game which lasts only 4 days. It splits into three different options you can take which starts events for example you can help the British ambassador and her people,  join the Disciples of Prajna or help the local Shogunate government act as a mediator between the two.

Your humble protagonist.
The movement and combat is pretty simple I do like the sheathing and unsheathing of the sword but the combat is just a bit too easy, there’s a button for fast attack and a button for power attack and you can just mash them until you opponent is dead, I found myself trying to be realistic (as I usually do) trying to do the button combination moves, blocking, dodging etc to make it a bit less cheap. There was a few helpful message screens stopping play and coming up on how to play the game i.e. fighting which I am sure would annoy the hell out of less-tolerant people who just want to button-mash and work it out for themselves. I myself am patient, but I am rapidly losing my patience with this move I can’t do, it’s like this slashing power move that you pull back on the stick then press triangle but it never seems to work when I want it. But anyway the fighting is pretty basic, I just get into the groove of basic and power attacks and if they get close just block them and throw them. Basically you just get the hang of doing forward stab moves and slice moves and dodging your opponents attacks, you can do several moves in the blocking stance including small dodges, a grabbing throw and a short kick which also acts as a quick way to pick up swords and other loot.

"What, you aren't dead yet?, let's fix that"
Most of your items you acquire from defeating enemies, and the way you do it is quite ridiculous. You seem to be able to get items in two ways, you can search them after they have been killed, though most of the time this isn’t preferable as often once all the enemies have been killed it switches to a cutscene where you end up in a different place unable to loot the bodies. So annoyingly you have to loot them while you’re fighting and the way to do this is by ‘kicking’ them which looks pretty funny, once I defeat an opponent I kick his sword up into the air (which conveniently disappears inside my “sword bag”) then move on to the next. Then after the  battle I sheath my sword all samurai-like then proceed to repeatedly kick the dead bodies until whetting stones or onigiri pop out. You can also acquire new clothes from shops and accessories such as hats and masks from playing different parts of the game. I’ve found with the short length of the game it’s pretty easy to gain money fast by both doing the story missions and doing odd jobs around.

Buying new clothes can make you look pretty stylish, and the accessories can make you look pretty silly as well.
 A large part of the gameplay revolves around your weapons and fighting styles, for example you have to make your sword is upgraded with strength and sharpness along the way and make sure it doesn’t degrade so far that it breaks, I’ve had to resort to martial arts against sword-wielding adversaries because my sword broke in the middle of a fight, so you have to either repair your sword with a whetting stone that you find from defeating enemies or from the Smith. The Smith himself is your best buddy, he can repair your sword, make it do more damage, make it last longer before needing repair and even put “inscriptions” on it which give it more powers such as unbreaking.

"You want some work done on your sword boy? it's gonna cost ya"
 The town of Amihama is split into 8 areas, the Harbor, the Town, the Main Plaza, The Magistrate, Little Britain, the back roads, the shrine and the cemetery. Different story events happen in the different areas and the three factions having their home bases in different areas., you do a lot of running and the wait time between switching areas and going in buildings is sometimes annoying but it’s bearable. Throughout the game you can interact with others and do oddjobs like a normal sandbox RPG which include random jobs which could be good or bad, for example there’s a level of crime in the city and you can do jobs that will either raise or lower the crime rate. You can also start a Dojo and recruit members or do a quite funny but useless thing called “Night Crawling”. In order to do the Night Crawling you have to first approach a woman say the right 4 sentences (which are always random) then at night you sneak into her house and have to sneak around while avoiding or knocking out their family members and pulling the blankets of futons until you find them, all the while trying to do it before your opponent (yes opponent) finds her first. Once you found her you both go to the inn where you have a playfight and try to throw her on the futon which once you’ve  done you proceed to do some wacky jump onto her and then it fades to black and horse and sword sounds ensue.

"Ah hah! she must be under here, good thing there are no family members around to see, and what the hell does that thing on the left mean?"
 The story though is the mainstay of what you’re doing as I’ve mentioned before the game is quite short as all the action happens over the course of four days and includes choices at almost every juncture that change the story inc who you are aligned to and what events you can do and which ones you miss because you chose a different factions quest. The first time I went through the story I found myself just going from one event to the next not knowing where to go or what to do and ended up having my sword break in the middle of an important fight and having to give up where I received an early ending and a ‘shameless’ rating for my finish. Luckily for my next run through my brother was away so I could use his laptop and read Gamefaqs (which is a very useful site I must say) while I was playing otherwise like before I would have had no idea.

It’s amazing how much you have to resort to the walkthrough to make sure you’re doing everything correctly as you don’t get another chance if you muck it up, that’s why I save constantly in case I take a misstep. My second play through went pretty well, I read from a gamefaqs guide that there was different endings you could get so I went for the one where I join the local Government to keep the peace but try and stop the evil Magistrate and to do that you have to make sure you do the right events in the right order. Managing your sword and your money isn’t too hard, with clothes I just bought a similar thing to what the local constables were wearing to fit in with my role. The whole thing ended pretty quickly I did all the right sequences to get the ending I wanted though the real ending where you unite all of the town against the evil emperor is obviously the hardest to get.

The British with their 14-year-old-looking-and-sounding "ambassador" All the main British characters are all voiced by Japanese actors speaking Japanese which is kind of odd.

Overall the game didn’t turn out to be as bad as I thought, sure it’s kind of weird in parts and the writing and the combat is a little strange. The voice acting would annoy some people as it's all in Japanese with subtitles though I only have a problem with the British speaking fluent Japanese in Japanese accents which is really odd. But the story and replayability make up for it. You can be pretty certain that you’ll be playing through the game several times to see what different endings you can get , and as you play more you unlock more for future playthroughs as well as finding out new things each time. I’m glad I did buy it but if I can’t get a stealthy-ninja style game for PS3 do hope there is a Samurai RPG that is more authentic and historical and not quite as slapstick that can take its place.


With a trailer like this, it's obvious the developer wasn't serious about the game either.


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