Reviews  |  Wii

Sengoku Musou Katana

By Alex Kierkegaard / November 21, 2007

I got thoroughly sick of this game within ten or so minutes of firing it up. By that point I had made up my mind to completely trash it, so the only question left was how much longer to keep playing before throwing it in the garbage bin and writing the review. Being unwilling to spend more time on a bad game than I would on a bad movie, I've set the absolute minimum play time for reviewing crap games to two hours, but since I couldn't face the prospect of another 110 minutes of waving that stupid toy in the air while dispatching hordes of identical enemies that just sit there and take it, to the sound of cheesy Japan-flavored electronica while vomit-colored environments occasionally scroll in the background, I opted instead to procrastinate.


I do that a lot when reviewing crap games -- procrastinate, I mean. Come to think of it, I also do that when reviewing good games. With bad games you need an excuse not to play, whereas with good ones you need an excuse to keep playing, instead of getting on with the business of writing the review. The moral is that review-writing is more fun than bad games and less fun than good ones. And since bad games easily outnumber good ones ten to one, you can go ahead and make your deductions as to whether reviewing games is a fun job.

So I stopped playing Shin Sengoku Warriors Katana and started doing related tasks, such as formatting the review page. I made the header, entered the necessary info in the appropriate sidebar fields, uploaded the trailer, and while waiting for it to get done uploading I actually watched it. And holy hell, it made the game look loads of fun!

I mean seriously, watch that shit and tell me it doesn't look like lots of fun. I mean, hell, it makes it look like an arcade game! Fast-paced, with enemies coming at you non-stop, lots of variety and bosses with smart attack patterns, all the while the player is slashing, thrusting, comboing, parrying and deflecting attacks, or firing arrows and bullets -- why didn't I see all that in my first ten minutes with the game?


Ummm... well, I guess the reason I didn't see it is because it's not really there. I mean it is there, I can confirm that all the scenes shown in the trailer are really in the game, but they are spread over so many hours of unnecessary padding; of boring, repetitive stages, and of taking on side missions to make extra cash to upgrade your weapons -- of, that is to say, grinding -- that whatever effect they may have had is so hopelessly diluted, to the point where you need to watch the trailer in order to recognize them. I guess they weren't lying when they stuck the Omega Force logo on the box!

You see Omega Force is a developer that's not in the business of making great games. And that seems certainly a smart move, since developers that go in the business of making great games do not remain in the business for long. I mean look at Cinemaware. Look at Toaplan. Look at Smilebit. Et cetera.


So what Omega Force does is come up with a single neat idea, and then they spend the next decade peddling as many half-assed half-finished games based on it as the market can conceivably support, making as few improvements with each installment as possible. The first such neat idea they had was with Shin Sangoku Musou seven years ago. The second is now.

I mean, again, just watch that trailer. It makes the game look like a light gun shooter fan's wet dream! Never mind that you can, like, block, slash with the sword and reload and shoot the bow within microseconds even though it's humanly impossible -- who cares when it's so much fun, and it's not like the heroes in these games are supposed to be human anyways. If you feel that light gun shooters have reached the end of the road (even despite stuff like Ghost Squad and 2 Spicy), you'll understand that games like this and the PS3 port of Time Crisis 4 are fumbling around in the dark trying to find the way forward. And out of all the Wii gun shooting/sword fighting games on the market right now this one's the most promising. Which is why I am saying it's the second good idea so far that Omega Force has had.

I can see the early brainstorming sessions as if I was there -- hell, I should have been there! They've thrown everything they could come up with in this game: there are even segments not entirely on rails, where you can look around with the nunchuk's analog stick, and other segments where you are supposed to run from point A to B either on foor or on horseback. And then there are the various weapons with their musou attacks, clashing, multiple paths through some of the stages, etc. etc...


But the execution is terrible. From the unwieldy weapon-specific attacks which take out multiple enemies (they require way too much force to register with the remote), to the annoying dashing gimmick (you need to shake the remote and nunchuk vigorously to simulate the motion of your arms as you run, only it doesn't quite work that way and you end up shaking them like maracas), to wondering what is the point of holding a sword-like gizmo in your hand if you still need to press a button for half the attacks as well as to block, to the primitive 3D engine, to the lack of even a single impressive sight in the entire game and to the sheer ugliness of everything, and to all the cheap shots and the grinding in-between tiny pockets of fun; it's way too easy to dismiss this game after... well, after about ten minutes of starting it.

So let's not dismiss it then. Let's watch that trailer one more time, let's recognize and point out all the cool ideas it shows us, and hope that one day a decent developer will come along and make a game worth playing with them. Amen.

The English version of Sengoku Musou Katana, called Samurai Warriors: Katana, was originally scheduled for a December 3 release in North America, but has now been pushed back to January 15. The EU version meanwhile is set to come out on January 26.