Most DailyGame readers are familiar with arcade shooters and probably know the looks you get from middle-aged moms who see you clutching that AK-47 in the arcades. Fortunately, the Wii has been a pretty successful port-house for old arcade shooters, and now with the help of Samurai Warriors: Katana, we can clutch our Wiimotes in the privacy of our own homes.
While Samurai Warriors: Katana comes nowhere near the quality of a “next-gen” title, it has some interesting moments. I would even go so far as to say I was addicted and repulsed by it at the same time. Maybe that’s just how things go with Wii-exclusive games; the third-string developers at Koei probably built this game (joking, but not really).
The upgrade system in Samurai Warriors: Katana is the game’s most compelling aspect. Its faux-RPG mechanics let you hot-key items you buy in a shop, upgrade your sword and bow, or upgrade your character with better abilities. With the money you earn in combat, you can go shopping at Samurai-Mart and even get rice balls in bulk! Well, not quite. But it is a solid upgrade system for an on-rails shooter.
Combat itself is a veritable potluck of gameplay ideas, and for the most part they all work. Your main attack is with the A button, and as you kill more enemies you build up a meter that lets you swing your Wiimote nine different ways too attack. When you unlock the bow, the game becomes a combination slasher and shooter.One minute you’re hacking enemies, the next minute you’re swinging the Wiimote, and then you’re firing your bow or manually walking around the mostly on-rails environments.
With decent combat and an intriguing upgrade system, only two elements really hold Samurai Warriors: Katana back. But they’re big ones. The main problem is the game’s severe lack of polish. While the combat has plenty of potential and the upgrade system is pretty deep for an on-rails “shooter,” everything else is way below par. For one, the graphics fluctuate between early-PS2 and N64 eras, and second, the cloned enemies and sparse-polygon environments look like they are all washed in a pixelated mud.
Second, the game’s AI is nonexistent. Clones of enemies will just run straight at you making a weak “Ragh!” noise. About 20 of them will pile on you at a time, but they’ll stand patiently (and politely) waiting for you to kill them. There’s also no rumble when you attack them, and while actually swinging the Wiimote can be vaguely satisfying, the visceral thrill is somehow missing from the combat.
Samurai Warriors: Katana isn’t horrible, but because it carries a full price tag, I can’t recommend it. There’s plenty to do in the game, and if you have a friend to play co-op with, Samurai Warriors: Katana might even venture into fun territory. But a game like Ghost Squad on the Wii has the budget price and the killer action, whereas Samurai Warriors: Katana has neither. The potential is there, though, so hopefully Koei can take the groundwork laid with this game and make the next Wii killer app.
- Score: 5
- As a budget title, it might be easier to overlook the flaws, but there’s not nearly enough polish to justify the full price. Maybe next time, Koei.
— Stephen Woodward