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Samurai Warriors 2 PlayStation 2 & Xbox 360

Published by Koei
Developed by Omega Force
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99 (PS2) £34.99 (Xbox 360)

Samurai Warriors 2, an introduction.

The Dynasty Warriors series has been popular for years and gamers seemingly can’t get enough of the series. Of course the Dynasty Warriors series is set in China and is based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel. If you want a Japanese flavour to your mass combat action game then the Samurai Warriors series is for you. The Samurai Warriors series is very similar to the Dynasty Warriors series, although fans of both will tell you there are some subtle differences. Earlier this year we reviewed Samurai Warriors: State of War on the PSP which mixed mass combat action with turn-based strategy gaming. It was a mix that worked well. Samurai Warriors 2 doesn’t attempt anything quite so bold but it does have enough differences to make it interesting.

What’s the game about?

Samurai Warriors 2 offers a Story Mode, a Free Mode, a Survival Mode and a Sugoroku Mode. The Xbox 360 version also offers an Xbox Live mode but no online mode is present in the PlayStation 2 version. The Story Mode allows you to play through a handful of missions with each character. There are 26 characters (which includes 10 new characters such as Miyamoto Musashi and Tokugawa leyasu) to play as although only 7 are initially available. Free Mode allows you to play through a mission of your choice with a character of your choice. Survival Mode allows you to battle through an endless castle whilst completing quests along the way. Finally there’s the Sugoroku Mode that’s essentially a board game that’s kind of like a samurai flavoured monopoly game.

What’s good about the game?

If you’ve enjoyed the previous Samurai and Dynasty Warriors games you’re going to enjoy what Samurai Warriors 2 has to offer. That’s not to say this is simply more of the same though. In fact Omega Force has added some nice touches to the successful formula that fans of the series will really appreciate. Battles can now seamlessly switch from the outdoors to inside a castle in a single mission. A new skill system has been included and each of the game’s 26 characters can be levelled up to level 50 and each of them has their own skills and abilities. You can now place each of the characters in a special stance that allows them to perform special attacks. It’s also possible for developed characters to have a triple Musou gauge. Traps and ninja decoys can be set once the forbidden techniques for a warrior have been learnt. Linked charge attacks are now also possible giving each of the characters more powerful attacks.

One of my favourite new features has to be the Sugoroku board game that allows between 1-4 players to take part. You’re going to need a Multitap device to have four players on the PlayStation 2 though. As we said earlier it’s a kind of samurai flavoured monopoly game where the idea is to amass a predetermined amount of gold (5,000 G, 10,000G, 20,000G or 50,000G). Games can either be played on a small or large map. Like a board game you’ll roll the dice and move the number of squares that appear on the dice. Around there are a variety of squares that you can land on. Each player has a home square. You can purchase normal squares which will allow you to charge rent from any player who lands on that square. Purchasing a square that’s next to a square that you already own will create a link and increase the rent for both properties. A wasteland square is worthless but still enables a link to be created (when it’s placed next to a square you already own) so it does have a purpose. You’ll also earn gold for landing on your own square. Port squares allow you to move to other port squares on the board. When landing on a shrine square you’ll get to roll two dice and depending on the number you roll, you’ll receive an event. These events range from all the players being relocated to losing a certain amount of gold. Around the board there are three flags for each player and collecting these flags and taking them back to your home square will not only raise the player’s level but also earn some gold. Should you land on a square that is already occupied you’ll have the opportunity to challenge the other player in some form of mini-game. The Sugoroku game is actually quite enjoyable and it’s a real shame you can’t play it online.

What’s bad about the game?

If you were hoping for a major overhaul of the Samurai and Dynasty Warriors formula then you’re going to be disappointed. Whilst the new features enhance the experience quite a bit for fans of the series, they don’t do a lot to change the formula. Perhaps the biggest disappointment for Xbox 360 gamers is that their version of the game still doesn’t look like it is making anything like the full use of the console’s graphical capabilities and essentially looks like a polished, hi-res version of the PlayStation 2 version. Online play is non-existent for the PlayStation 2 version and the Xbox 360 online play seems a little odd as you play on different maps to your opponent with the winner being the first to defeat their AI opponent.

How does it look?

Essentially Samurai Warriors 2 retains the same graphical style and quality from previous Samurai/Dynasty Warriors titles. As we’ve already mentioned the Xbox 360 version doesn’t take full advantage of the consoles extra power but whilst it’s only a cleaner, hi-res version of the PlayStation 2 it would be unfair to say it’s an ugly looking game as for the most part it looks OK and actually quite a bit sharper when playing on a HD display.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Samurai Warriors 2 is not completely subtitled but on the whole is fine for deaf gamers. The introductory cutscene isn’t subtitled but all of the other cutscenes in the game are. On the PlayStation 2 version the subtitles are shown in the lower border whilst on the Xbox 360 they are simply displayed on the bottom half of the screen. None of the cutscene dialogue has character portraits or character names placed alongside it. All of the important dialogue during the Story Mode missions is shown in text and you’ll always be made aware of what needs to be done. Comments that the characters make when you’re selecting them to play as, in the various modes, are not subtitled which is of no great importance. All the comments that the characters make in the Sugoroku board game are subtitled which is rather pleasing as it means that deaf gamers are allowed to capture the full atmosphere of the game. The dialogue displayed during the missions and the Sugoroku game is displayed in speech balloons making it very easy to read. All tutorial messages in the game are displayed in text.

Final thoughts.

If you enjoyed the Samurai Warriors/Dynasty Warriors take on mass combat action you’re going to enjoy Samurai Warriors 2 as it sticks closely to the tried and trusted formula. The Xbox 360 still doesn’t look as good as it should although it does look sharper and cleaner than the PlayStation 2 version (even when playing on a standard TV). The Xbox 360 isn’t a full price game though and only costs £5 more than the PlayStation 2 version, although it can be found for as little as £25.99 on some Internet stores. Personally I would opt for the Xbox 360 version given the choice simply because it looks better and load times are faster (not to mention the downloadable bonus items) but if you’ve been a fan of previous Samurai and Dynasty Warriors titles you’re not going to be disappointed with either version.

Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Samurai Warriors 2 is a game that's going to please fans of either Samurai Warriors or Dynasty Warriors. The amount of content in the game is impressive and the subtle game play tweaks help to improve the experience. The Xbox 360 version has a slight edge with it's sharper graphics, the inclusion of online play and downloadable items (not to mention quicker loading times) but it still doesn't look as good as most would have hoped for.