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Tubatic avatar 11:12 PM on 06.05.2011  (server time)
E3 Approaches: Hoping for a Way of the Samurai 4 Announcement

E3 means a lot of things to a lot of people. For most people its the announcements of new games, confirmation of rumors and reveal of details on games sure to arrive in the next two years. And for some, its a chance to wade chest deep into the stuff game fandom and fanaticism is made of. Days of sizzle reels, hands on demos and behind closed door exhibitions. For fewer still, it's a time to show off your wares and seed the hype that could make or break a company's financial and qualitative future.

But for fewer still, E3 is the time of year to scour the conduits of gaming news for a modest piece of data. It could be as short as a headline, or perhaps part of a greater wall of text. You may even catch it these days as a tweet or scribbled digitally across a chat window. One simple company line, without pretense or poetry, can bring fiero undulation to those fevered few that seek it. Or, in it's absence, lead that small cult of quirk to question the soul of the industry, as if they were children that had found irrefutable proof that Santa Claus is not real.

E3 approaches, and I'm looking for confirmation that Way of the Samurai 4 is being localized.

Seriously, Google Images can barely find images for the first game...

My excitement, fandom and general support for this series started when the original title was showcased around or during E3 at least ten years ago. I remember seeing the game pop up during GameSpot and IGN's coverage, which back then consisted mostly of screenshots and articles dropping a few details about nearly every game that got some floor space. At that point, all I could gather was that the game would have a branching narrative which, for the early 2000's, was pretty unique. The samurai action base of the game, which I hadn't really had a taste of since Bushido Blade 2 a few years prior, was also a major selling point.

Samurai was interesting, but ultimately wasn't a big deal in the landscape of E3 coverage. Getting games localized from Japan was still a very common arrangement, and I feel most gamers were pretty used to hearing about a game once and not getting much else about it until years later. Looking now, I can't even confirm the original IGN or GameSpot articles. I filed it away on my personal list of games to keep an eye out for, and managed not to hear much more about it until March 2002, where it was set for a June-ish release by BAM! Entertainment.

I picked up Way of the Samurai during the summer of 2002 while working as a conference assistant on campus. After only a few days, I had completed the game once, and immediately began again to try out the other narrative choices and endings. A fan and evangelist was forged. By that time, though, there weren't many game playing friends left around after graduation to wax philosophical about the game. GameFAQs become my hub for Samurai hype and by the time Way of the Samurai 2 was released by Capcom in 2004, a modest but healthy number of forumites were already abuzz with hype and interest in the series.

Unfortunately, the series fell fairly quickly into gamer obscurity. Way of the Samurai 2 managed a pure “Average” on Metacritic with a score of 59, which for many gamers is a “No Deal” on score alone. Common criticism found a distaste for the game's lack of open world in a post-GTA gaming landscape, while others took fair objection to the game's arcadey and old world take on game flow, combat and mission based gameplay. The next five years of the series' history are typified by a handful of screenshots for Way of the Samurai 3, tucked away in a few IGN articles about the game's Japanese development. This was literally the only bit of coverage the series was afforded for much of the time between 2005's Samurai Western (an off-shoot of Way-proper, published by Atlus) and May of 2009.

This is how I found out that Way of the Samurai 3 was coming to The States in Fall of 2009. I had joked somewhere earlier that week that several other games were seeing localization confirmations around E3, and that Way of the Samurai 3 was sure to be next. I had no idea that just a few days later official word of Agetec and UFO Interactive bringing the series in localized format would be a reality! What followed was an epic, frightening and perhaps sad campaign in the c-blogs of Destructoid to garner attention for this long forgotten franchise. Upon release, I marathoned through the game over a weekend and spouted a punch drunk review that only a fan could write with a straight face. As much as I love the game, you'll find my Trophy collection on PSN wanting for several achievements, including the multiple ending ones.

Its admittedly hard to blame publishers for not jumping at the chance to bring the series back to the states. Way of the Samurai 3 clocked in at a Metacritic of 58, as reasonable people have little patience for early console life jank coupled with good old fashioned Japanese quirk. If the sales stats from are to be believed, sales were modest, to put it politely. While there's no doubt some profit to be made in this localization, its not a sure fire hit by any stretch of the imagination.

***Warning: Attached Trailer Gets a Little Too Kinky for Work for a Couple Seconds!***

That said, consider this my formal pledge: If Way of the Samurai 4 gets localized in the North America, I'll be the first in line! This release is currently PS3 exclusive with no word of even a Japanese 360 port in sight. But surely some company out there is willing to take the plunge on this niche legacy. The gaming landscape may be less keen on the localization of Japan's games, but I've still got room in my gaming wishlist for a little E3 miracle.

Do let me know if you hear anything!

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