Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is a more than competent Dynasty Warriors clone that is better than it’s muse in every way and comes complete with a light coat of awesome sauce. Normally I don’t enjoy this particular sub-genre of hack-n-slash but this game is just plain fun.
At the start of each session, players have the ability to choose from one of 16 playable characters (half of which are available from the start with the rest as unlockables), all with their own unique abilities. Unlike Dynasty Warriors, you can really feel the difference between how each one plays. Some are more similar than others but by and large there are enough subtle differences to keep the game feeling different with each person you use.
The story lines mix and twist together to reveal an interesting spin on Japanese history and the people who made it. Flamboyant, colorful and comical, the various motivations surrounding our heroes reasons for beating the snot out of hundreds of onscreen foes at a time are good enough to keep you going. But you won’t be glued to this game for the story. It’s all about the action and SBSH does a good job at satisfying your need for mass scale destruction. Bows and arrows, giant swords, guns and even a giant ship anchor serve as your cudgels of chaos. The weapons and special abilities are as varied and creative as the characters themselves with surprisingly few being annoying. Be it the stoic samurai or the slap-stick warrior, there is a character for everyone to enjoy.
The maps vary in size and layout but they are never so big that you’re running around forever looking for enemies to vanquish or so small that your back is against the wall in the face of so many attackers. This game is very good at balancing key gameplay elements for a title of its nature. It is loaded with little things that cumulatively make a big difference in setting it apart from other games offering a similar game experience. For example, there are special attacks that once activated can be prolonged by continuing to press the basic attack button. Not everyone has that ability and it’s up to you to figure out who does. This is also the case with “hidden” combos for characters. You aren’t limited to just hammering on the square or triangle button like you would in DW and like the special attacks, it’s different depending on who you are using. Capcom’s rich lineage in the action/adventure and hack-n-slash genres is obvious and seeing how the creator of Devil May Cry 4 helmed this game, the combo influence is hard to miss. It really gives the actual mechanics of the game a different feel.
Provided that you survive your rampage of melee destruction, you will be treated to various power ups including health packs in the form of rice and Basara (magic energy if you will) that refills your special meter. Weapons and a varied assortment of items can also be earned. Each weapon has different strengths and weaknesses and they also have slots allocated for items that give you various enhancing abilities. Simply create them in the in game market and stick it in a slot. Status affects, better defense, increased item drops…the list is almost endless. There are a ton of things to create with the only stipulation being if you have the necessary pieces to make them.
You can also earn allies who follow you in battle, bringing to the frontlines a myriad of skills that benefit the player. They are just as varied in their support as the items you create and they can be leveled up. What’s really cool is when you go into mega kick arse mode. If your AI controlled buddy is in the immediate vicinity, he will go nuts with you and together you can whip up on your not so smart enemy opposition. You have a plethora of combat options to choose from with nearly every button on the controller being used; yet you don’t feel overwhelmed with complex controls. You can even grab a friend for some split screen beat downs!
With vibrant colors, competent graphics-nothing face meltingly awesome-and one of the catchiest theme songs in recent memory, SBSH is the DW for people who don’t like DW. I picked it up used for $30’s and for that price it’s worth it. I wasn’t expecting much but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. If you are looking for something to hold you over until other, bigger titles release, you can’t go wrong with this one.