No Amount of Sharpening Can Save Samurai Warriors's Dull Blade
The very first time I saw the Wiis motion-sensitive Wiimote (and after the initial Wha-huh? reaction), a single thought bounced in my head, like a
Finally were gonna get an f-ing brilliant lightsaber game.
It was inevitable, a perfect match for the technology. Never again would I be caught doing the Star Wars geeks dance of shame (humming through pursed lips while swinging a broomstick). Surely, developers were already hard at work on a game where youd be able to pick up a Wiimote, flick the A button to ignite your Jedi weaponcomplete with the buzz of crackling energy through its speakerand make Vader pay for that crack about shtupping your mom.
Samurai Warriors: KATANA
Platform: Nintendo Wii
ESRB Rating: T (for Teen)
Score: 5 (out of 10)
Its so obvious, it might even be a launch title!
Oh, what a naive little nerd I was. In the 14 months or so since the Wii has landed, every conceivable (non-X-rated) motion has been simulated except lightsaber play. Theres bowling, batting, golfing, suturing, fishing, grenade-throwingeven sautéing, for Gods sakewithout even one game that invites you to send cauterized hands pinwheeling through the air.
Its in this field of slim pickins that gamers hungry for swordplay of any kind might want to give Koeis promisingly named Samurai Warriors: KATANA a try. But in Star Wars parlance: The Force is not strong with this one.
Set in feudal Japan, Samurai Warriors has you fighting on different sides during the time of Oda Nobunaga, using era-appropriate weapons to slice, stab, and bludgeon your way to victory. (A quick aside: After 25 years of making games about Nobunaga, Koei has officially beaten this narrative dead horse with such merciless enthusiasm, all thats left is a saddle and a puddle of glue.)
The important thing to know about Samurai Warriors is that theres virtually no motion-based swordplay to it at all; its more of a light-gun-type game, like House of the Dead: Theres an onscreen crosshairs you aim at approaching enemies, slashing them by pressing the A button. There are a few sword-like swiping motions, but theyre not typical or even that necessary; the majority of the game is simple pointing and clicking.
Also similar to light-gun games is the fact youre playing mostly on rails, the game advancing you on autopilot to face groups of enemies that youll hack until theyre all defeated, at which point you move on to the next batch. Occasionally youll get some limited control over your movement, but those moments are rare.
To Samurai Warriors credit, it does what it can to make whats essentially a painfully repetitive, Sengoku-era shooting gallery slightly more interesting. Players find different weapons and improve their skills, but none of that really distracts from the muddy, PlayStation 2-level visuals or voice acting that meets EPA standards for noise pollution.
It may seem harsh to criticize Samurai Warriors for not having very good swordplay when it could be let off the hook as a mediocre shooting game. But in subtitling its Wii game KATANA (with the annoying pretension of all caps, no less), Koei seems to be hinting at game play that doesnt really exist in this package. At the very least its misleading, and at most its manipulative. And either way its disappointing.
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in New York.