Warriors games are equivalent to FIFA or Madden for Brenna Hillier. And Samurai Warriors 4 has turned into something pretty damn special.
“This is my annual defence of pressing the square button a lot. The Warriors games are the equivalent of Madden, FIFA or NBA 2K in my life.”
Several months ago Samurai Warriors 4 turned up in the mail, in response to my standing arrangement with Tecmo Koei’s local PR representatives, who know I’ll play anything Omega Force makes.
I cop a fair amount of shit from readers and other games media for confessing to this predilection, and so every year (or whenever) when Pat or Matt asks me what I’ve been playing that I can write about I squirm, swapping deadlines and delaying and if all else fails chucking sickies, until eventually we end up here: my annual defence of pressing the square button a lot.
The Warriors games are the equivalent of Madden, FIFA or NBA 2K in my life. The franchise is if not annualised than very close to it. From iteration to iteration, you see slightly fancier graphics; changes in gameplay that mean a lot to aficionados but very little to outsiders; and maybe some roster changes.
The same sort of arguments as to why you shouldn’t play every new sports game apply to the Warriors games, be they Dynasty, Samurai, Orochi or other. The same arguments as to why I do also apply, though.
Like sports games, which many who don’t play them find stupid, the Warriors games aren’t as simple as they look. But much more than Madden and FIFA, though, the Warriors games are designed to be accessible. Omega Force wants them to be playable by anyone, including IKEA machines, so you can button mash your way to victory on the lower difficulty settings if you can find the square button one time in four. If you just want to watch pretty men bash away at each other in suggestive ways, you can – and you can even do it one handed, hem hem.
Sports games have a tougher learning curve at the start, but just as you can get really, really good at FIFA, you can get really, really good at Warriors games. On the harder difficulty levels, you cannot button mash; the action evolves into a new kind of territory which is more at home to stylish action and fighter fans. Every character has their own move set, and how you string those moves together, and how you respond to the AI’s attacks, is where the expertise lies. Really good Warriors players talk about interrupts and ripostes and juggling, and they count frames.
You never hear about that, though. You hear about the fact that you play the same stages repeatedly in the different story modes, sometimes from different sides but often in much the same way as the first time. You hear about the fact that the voice acting is over the top silly. You hear about the unrealistic weapons. You hear about the old-fashion story telling.
This annoys me a bit because so many of those criticisms can be applied to any action game series, but those ones get a free ride because they star a space marine or tell a story already familiar to western audiences.
“See this guy? He’s shagging that guy. He’s married to her. And that other guy, he’s got a frustrated bro crush. He’s going to kill him, the emo.”
Samurai Warriors 4 is the best Warriors game to date. There are so many more combat options to explore thanks to a variety of new systems. Characters are customisable through weapon selection and creation, and there’s loads of variety in styles. You have opportunities each mission to change the course of history a little, and enough of these changes will open up entirely new fictional story directions later on. And there are so many characters and stories and collectibles that there’s almost too much content; I have other games to play, guys.
I’ve lost many an afternoon to it in the intervening months. Sometimes when my big brother comes over to drink beer and discuss important life matters (we are grown ups, after all) I swipe my housemate’s control pad and make him play splitscreen with me, something we did back in the Dynasty Warriors 5 days. That’s how I was introduced to the series, and probably also how I finally mastered twin analog sticks after the PS2 era transition.
Sometimes my (non-gaming) best friend plays with me (badly) and I entertain her by telling her stories about all the characters, gleaned from repeat playthroughs of the previous games and the reading and research inspired by them. “See this guy? He’s shagging that guy,” I tell her. “He’s married to her. And that other guy, I don’t know. He’s got a frustrated bro crush. He’s going to kill him, the emo.”
“Shit Brenna, spoilers,” says my friend.
I’m moving house shortly and I’ve had to let a lot of habits go in order to get things done. My gym routine has been axed. My social life has been downgraded. My destiny duties have been pared down considerably.
And Samurai Warriors 4 has been packed away into a box and taped shut, in order to prevent me from putting the disc back into the PS4. The box has been buried under a pile of others. It might not be enough.