Played on PlayStation 4
A Warrior’s Spirit
Spin-off titles of the Warriors games are nothing new, both Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors have Xtreme Legends and Empires offshoots. Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada however is a bit different, it’s more story focused and features some gameplay elements which are new to the Warriors franchise. Is Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada a side title worth getting and is it worth getting if you’ve played all of the Samurai Warriors 4 side games?
The Samurai Warriors games have always had a story, it follows the events of the Sengoku Period leading up to the unification of Japan. Spirit of Sanada is set during the aforementioned historic period but this time the narrative focus is on the Sanada Clan, one of the most famous and well-known clans of that time period. The story starts off with the Sanada Clan being allies or retainers if you will, of the massive Takeda clan that is ruled by Shingen Takeda. Certain events unfold that eventually lead to a time of continuous and seemingly never-ending conflict, a conflict that they find themselves in the middle of. If you are knowledgeable about Japanese history, the Sengoku Period or the Sanada Clan then you’ll know how this story ends.
Given that the story primarily revolves around the Sanada Clan, you’d expect to see the Sanada brothers, Noboyuki and Yukimura. You do see the brothers but you also get to see them as children and watch them grow up into adults. There are three ages that you see the brothers; child, young adult and mature adult. You can even play as child Yukimura and it’s hilarious watching him defeat soldiers that are twice the size of him. I think it’s cool that developer Omega Force, went the extra mile to make actual models that show each stage of their ages.
There is a new member of the Sanada Clan who is playable this time around and that is Masayuki Sanada, father to Noboyuki and Yukimura. Throughout the story you will be mostly playing as Masayuki and Yukimiura but there are missions where you’ll be playing as other characters such as Sakon Shima, Hanzo Hattori and Kunoichi. Like in Samurai Warriors 4 you can switch characters on the battlefield, in battles where you can choose two characters. Depending on what difficulty you’re playing on, you’re looking around 20 hours.
As mentioned before there are some new gameplay elements introduced in Spirit of Sanada, one of them is a day/ night cycle. It’s a little bit different to other games that feature a day/ night cycle as it has its own twist. The day/ night cycles are only active when you are on the battlefield. During the day, the enemy will have red zones where enemies are stronger and their morale is greater. At night however, these red zones disappear thus making it easier for you charge in and lower enemy morale but there is a catch. Fighting at night restricts visibility, so you can’t see enemies and officers on the mini-map unless you are close to them. It’s nice see a day/ night cycle in the Warriors games but it’s cool that combat in the day and combat in the night play a little bit different to each other.
Each battle you do will have side objectives for you to complete, some come naturally as you work your way through the battlefield, for others you have to go out of your way to complete your objective, like defeating certain enemies in a specific order. Side objectives within battles is nothing new for Samurai Warriors as completing them gives you XP and items/ weapons. Completing optional objectives has another use this time around as some stratagems are locked behind them. Fulfilling the conditions of objectives could give you a stratagem which could help you in the next battle.
Stratagems can’t be used repeatedly and if you don’t have any of the Six Coins of Sanada, they can’t be used. The Six Coins of the Sanada allow the player to use stratagems in battle. The Six Coins of the Sanada meter which is found in the bottom left corner of the screen when not in combat, is filled up by completing the side objectives and the grade you get when you complete a battle. It adds a bit of depth to the gameplay which is welcome but I especially like how developer Omega Force have incorporated the Six Coins of the Sanada (the symbol of the Sanada Clan) within the gameplay.
There’s also several hub locations where you can roam around, interact with people and partake in activities such as farming and fishing. Yes, there is farming in a Warriors game. You plant seeds and after some time you can reap them up with mashing a button. You can sell your crops to gain money or create medicines that can be used in battle. Fishing is pretty much self-explanatory, you need bait, you cast your line out and wait for the fish to bite. Like the crops the fish can be sold or used to create medicines. You can also make an offering at the Jizō Statue and after a completing a battle, an item will be left for you.
That’s not all the hub world offers you. As mentioned before you can create medicines, you can buy and upgrade weapons, shop for items and mounts, upgrade your characters and there is a library and a vault. At the vault you can check your progress, play music, view each battle’s objectives and watch cutscenes. At the library you can replay previously played battles and read the Sanada Clan Chronicles, which leads nicely up to my next thing I want to talk about.
The Sanada Clan Chronicles is effectively an encyclopedia which gets filled up throughout the course of the story with historical accounts of locations, battles and people from the Sengoku Period. Samurai Warriors has always had an encyclopedia of sorts but the one featured here goes a little bit more in-depth, especially about the Sanada Clan. Personally I like the Chronicles/ encyclopedia, I find it extremely interesting and I spent an hour or so just reading through the entries that I had obtained though the course of the game.
That’s not it for new features though, there are multi-stage battles. Multi-stage battles contain multiple skirmishes across different battlefields, what links these together is the overarching narrative at the time of the conflict. The main battles are Sanada Clan related however, there are secondary battles which don’t involve the Sanada Clan that happened around the time of the main conflict. These allow players to plays other characters such as Magoichi Saika and Masamune Date. They also give players a break from the main narrative.
Another new feature are exploration areas, where you go to gather resources, complete the area’s objectives and to complete side missions or “requests”. These exploration areas vary in size some are small and some are about the same size as the battlefields. They are open for you to explore but some areas are locked until a certain point in the story. Exploring isn’t just roaming around collecting resources, there are enemies that will attack you and there is a time limit. You can’t explore forever in Spirit of Sanada, there is a time limit and once you near that limit it’s best you make your way to the checkpoint which is in the north of the map.
I like the exploration areas, despite the time limit. You can explore these places at your own pace which is nice given the frantic speed on the conflicts on the battlefield. I can’t help but think Omega Force were somewhat testing the open world element here, it’d make sense given that the upcoming Dynasty Warriors 9 is open world. I could be over thinking it but I’m throwing it out there.
Up to this point it probably sounds like I’m singing praises about Spirit of Sanada and I am but like everything else in the world, it isn’t perfect. Graphically it isn’t anything special, it is best looking Samurai Warriors game to date for sure but, it is looking dated now. I think it’s time for a new engine to be used for the Samurai Warriors series like what they have done with the upcoming Dynasty Warriors 9.
Spirit of Sanada is fun but it lacks the same level of replay value Samurai Warriors 4 and 4 Empires did. Once you complete the story, the only things that are left to do are to complete all exploration areas (which by the end of the story you’ll probably be about 75% complete for this), complete every objective for every battle (which by the end of the story you’ll probably be about 80-85% complete for this) and of course going for the platinum. By the time you have completed the story, there isn’t much else to do which is a shame.
There is one big question concerning Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, is it worth getting, if I have played Samurai Warriors 4 and it’s sequels? I say yes, the story is much more focused this time around and as a result, it is stronger. I think that despite the game’s flaws there are enough new features implemented in Spirit of Sanada that it stands strong on its own legs.
The story of the Sanada Clan is one worth experiencing, it’s a tale of conflict, a tactician, a warrior with an indomitable spirit and family. If you’re a fan of Samurai Warriors or the Warriors franchise, then this is a game that is worth your time. Go forth, warrior of the legendary Sanada Clan.
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