If you've ever played Dynasty Warriors and wondered what it would be like if it was even more flamboyant and infused with overwrought Japanese man-drama, then Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is the game for you. That almost sounds like an insult, but remember ... some of us like overwrought Japanese man-drama.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes (Wii, PS3 [reviewed])
Released: October 12, 2010
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is being treated by Capcom as the first game in a franchise, but the PS2 prequel did make its way to the West under the name Devil Kings. It's hardly surprising that Capcom would wish us to forget that game, however, as it was awful. The Western version of Devil Kings cut a huge amount of content when it was localized, and also totally removed the Sengoku-era story so that historical figures such as Oda Nobonuga and Takeda Shingen were transformed into bizarrely named creatures such as Devil King and Red Minotaur. Seriously, Red Minotaur!
Samurai Heroes, as the name implies, ditches the Devil Kings approach and has been imported from Japan with its original flavor, story and content untouched. Set during the famous war between Ieyasu Tokugawa and Mitsunari Ishida, Sengoku Basara retains the same kind of Japanese flavor that Koei's Samurai Warriors does, and very much like Koei, the artistic license has gone through the roof.
In fact, if Capcom is to be believed, Japan spent most of the middle ages screaming soap opera-style dialog at each other and sporting frightening Flock of Seagulls hairstyles. To say that Capcom has laid on the flamboyance is to put it lightly. Samurai Heroes is unrelentingly hilarious when it comes to its story, thanks to amazing melodramatic dialog and hammed up vocal performances in which everybody sounds like their buttocks are clenched tight enough to crush diamonds.
When it's not pouring on thick layers of juicy drama, Sengoku Basara also possesses a sense of humor that could be labeled as abstract at best. The bizarre headlines that flash during event cutscenes, not to mention some of the more eccentric characters (there is a guy who is cooking carrots as big as a building, and it's never explained why the vegetables are so big), will cause anybody outside of Japan to either scratch their head, laugh out loud, or cower on the floor, frightened of the outside world.
I am making fun of the game for being silly, and it is, but the ludicrous narrative and confusing humor makes for a legitimately entertaining game. Whether it's trying to be emotional or funny, Sengoku Basara is so absurd that it becomes intensely enjoyable to experience, especially if you know your Japanese history and revel in the idea of how many noble Samurai must be rolling in their graves over their borderline offensive portrayals.
Now that we've spent half the review talking about how ridiculous this game is, it's time to actually talk gameplay. If you've played Dynasty Warriors or any of its one-versus-all hack n' slash knock-offs, then you know what to expect. Exactly like Koei's signature series, Sengoku Basara drops your campy warrior into a large battlefield and expects you to button mash until everything on the opposing force is dead.
Sengoku Basara's combo system is far less engaging than its Koei alternative, but variety is thrown in thanks to a number of special moves that can be unlocked as characters level up. Pressing various shoulder-and-face button combinations often lead to characters pulling off insane attacks, whether summoning sword slashes from out of nowhere, or whipping out random machine guns to mow down the enemy.
The game tries to spice things up occasionally with various traps and tasks, but nearly everything is resolved by finding a particular enemy and killing him. In this regard, Sengoku Basara often manages to be more repetitive than even Dynasty Warriors, despite the increased variety of enemies and bosses. That said, however, the flashiness of the combat and general speed of the game makes for some pretty decent hack n' slash action, if you're into that kind of thing.
Aside from general button mashing, each character has access to "Hero Time" which slows down the game once a meter is filled, and a Basara attack which renders them invincible while they perform their ultimate, most silly move. Combining Hero Time and Basara makes for the most ultimate and silly move at all. It's ultimately silly.
If you're a player with a really strong stomach for these types of games, then Sengoku Basara does sport a huge amount of replay value. Not only are there dozens of unique characters to be unlocked, each warrior can be taken through their own story mode which has several different paths to completion. Not only that, but each one can be leveled up with new moves, and discover brand new weapons, each with their own attack values and special skills.
The game sports a crafting system to keep things interesting, with raw materials won during the course of battle which can be combined with money to create attachments. Attachments are slotted onto weapons and provided bonuses such as increased attack strength or extra health. It's nothing that you haven't seen before, and it's not a great selling point, but it does add just an extra bit of flavor for those who really get into the game.
With its simpler combat, Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes may test the limits of even an ardent hack n' slash fan, but if you can get into it, you'll discover a pretty damn entertaining game. The battles can get addictive despite its minimalist approach, and the game is, above all, capable of generating huge amounts of laughter, even if the laughter isn't always intended.
Graphically, Sengoku Basara is not going to impress. The environments are sparse and remedial in their design, and you can tell that the PS3 version is just a slightly upgraded alternative to the Wii version. That said, the various eccentric character designs are at least enjoyable, with some of the most impractical and amusing costumes ever seen. The dude who walks around dressed up like Link's creepy uncle is worth a giggle.
If this is your kind of genre, then you'll get plenty out of this game. Hearing Mitsunari's pompous and inappropriately nasty descriptions of what he wants to do to Ieyasu is worth the price of entry alone. It's no Dynasty Warriors, but with Sengoku Basara, Capcom had made a pretty good hack n' slash game that will at least raise a smirk or two. Can't say fairer than that.
Score: 7.0 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
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