As the ferryman paddles the boat to dock, a ronin departs the floating vessel, setting foot into the villiage of Amihama, a town rife with tense conflict. The violent dispute is a direct response to Japan’s transition of isolationism to active foreign diplomacy, and the warriors to lead the challenge are a group of Radical nationalists, the “Disciples of Prajna,” the Shogunate government, and British diplomats. Each of the groups being at odds with one another, The ronin plays a deciding factor towards the destiny of Japan, and his actions will forever alter the fate of Japan.
Enter Acquire’s latest entry into the series, Way Of The Samurai 4, which is exclusive to PSN. While the game has plenty of new features to offer, the lack of polish and grossly evident age of its mechanics do more than hold it back from fame.
Way of the Samurai 4 aims to simulate the era of fuedal Japan through the eyes of a samurai, and albiet some slight exagerations to the premise, the experience of a wayward ronin looking to make a difference feels incredibly authentic, thanks largely to the care put within it’s presentation.
Visuals deliver gorgeous detail with the enviornments. No matter where you are, subtle features like the sounds of merchants preparing their products for sale, or the clacking of the courier’s geta sprinting across the ground, help the aesthetic hit on nearly every level. However, the same can’t be said about the music. Though the composition is definitely influenced by the game’s setting, the instruments are remixed to such an extent that the melody sounds much too modern, resulting in an awkward mismatch compared to what’s on screen. The user interface is another issue, as you attemt to navigate through different options that you have to dig for. Text appears very small, regardless of your desired display specifications. Sadly, the shortcomings don’t stop at the music and user interface.
The core mechanic and focal point that drives gameplay for Way of The Samurai 4 are the branching narrative paths that you can take, which determine causes you support by taking on events. The events, however, are not only indistinct, but needlessly abstracted by the many different outcomes that can come of it. Taking on an event quest from one of the factions -- Prajna, Shogunate, Magistrate, and the British -- will always conflict with any of the other's desire. And unfortunately, these quests can end up hurting the same cause at another possible event further down the time line if you're sucessful. Hell, failing the mission can, at times, irreversibly benefit the cause of the other factions with no way to know way to know if your efforts will hinder your cause or benefit through some strange twist of fate.
With such an obtuse progression curve, the events don’t really follow what’s transpired, and operate on little rhyme or reason. Your actions affect your title and karma score for experience, and lead to frustrations on your end with whatever goal you had mapped out or outlined to advance your character. Speaking of which, the karma system apes the formula of Dead Rising to where if you’re killed while playing, you’re given the option to either retry whatever objective you were attempting or save and start over, losing everything but your experience and stats. It’s impossible to advance in this game without restarting; you’re obnoxiously weak from the start. Restarting the scenarios over and over just to stand a chance quickly becomes repetative. Regardless of the cause you choose to support, they’re equally difficult and result with the same disdain you’ve felt for other causes.
Combat also plays an active role towards renforcing the negativity behind the difficulty curve. The options of switching different weapons and fighting styles are novel, but executing strikes feels stiff and delayed, noticibly more so when you’re breaking out of a combo to evade and you’re attacked, regardless of your reaction because of the input delay.
Overall, the branching plotlines are well written and authentic towards selling the feel of the represented era, and visuals are a dream to stare at. But this experience is simply too rough around the edges of its gameplay. While not neccassarily broken, flaws in Way Of The Samurai 4 demand much more patience from your end than they should warrant, and hardly compensate you for your efforts.
Two out of Five Hadokens