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PS2 Review: Samurai Warriors 2 Empires

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Just as sports games get their annual updates, so do the titles in Koei’s long running Dynasty Warriors series. After shifting the game’s focus from China to Japan, the Samurai Warriors series was born and as we are set to enter spring, Koei has sprung Samurai Warriors 2 Empires onto the Playstation 2.

Unfortunately, much like the Dynasty series, aside from Empire’s pre-action strategic setups to the game’s massive battles, nothing sets the new title apart from others in the series. As the series definitely begins to show its age after its humble PS2 Dynasty Warriors 2 origins, Samurai Warriors 2 Empires may please hardcore fans of the series but with the core mechanics of the game play go unchanged, owners of the first Samurai title will find little reason to put money down on this version.

As you may have guessed, SW2E details historic Japanese eras and battles in a campaign mode that sees players taking over as much territory as they can in order to have their clan rule over Japan. With the Empires tagline, Koei implements a dose of strategy into the title with Japanese culture cards, 50 of which are new in SW2E, that issue commands and political policies.

Different formations raise army stats in battle, taxes rake in precious gold from the citizens, and offers for employment can net valuable allies and more. Players will have to balance what types of policies they enact as their own clan can rebel against them if they carry out too many unfavorable actions. On the other hand, the nation’s people will be more eager to join defensive stands if favorable actions are carried out.

There are a ton of neat options to fiddle around with in micromanagement fashion if players are inclined to do so, but, of course, the main staple of the game is in its over-the-top warfare action. In beat ‘em up style, the game play revolves around multiple button presses in order to lay the smack down on thousands of soldiers on the battlefield. By tackling gate captains, officers, bases and more, the morale of the opposition sinks as the army falls apart and makes the general an open target.

The somewhat interesting game play mechanics of the title, however, are once again hampered by sore presentation. The famous fog and flickering pop in of characters is still in full effect in the newest iteration. While nothing special, the game’s menus are very clean and easily navigated, but otherwise, very little has changed graphically in the long line of Warriors titles.

Furthermore, while little has changed visually, the same can unfortunately be said about the title’s audio. Some of the battlefield music can at times feature a little energy to drive the action along, but elsewhere, very little can be found that pleases the ears. Whether it is a recognized trademark or not, atrocious voice acting for the officers makes its return and the same generic yelling and weapon battle ambience that could very well have come straight from Dynasty Warriors 2 fills SW2E’s battles.

Honestly, I could detail how SW2E is similar to every other title in the series in every aspect of the game until I’m blue in the face. Yet, somehow, through some sort of Koei charm, the titles continue to feature a sort of “je ne sai quoi” addictive nature that can easily weed away one or two hours at a time. There’s just something about lighting up a crowd of chumps with a spin attack and sending them flying and through the game’s create-an-officer feature, players will be going out of their way to find a few extra soldiers to cut up to level up their custom officer.

Regardless, this is still the same concept introduced in Dynasty Warriors 2, with all the fine-tuning introduced in part three (such as the rather fun two-player split screen co-op mode). While raising horse, four-character multi-musou attacks and a handful of other features are introduced, game play is still hammered out as pressing a button or two repeatedly with little strategy outside of the policies.

While players wait for Koei to start the series anew on the new generation of consoles and implement much-needed online multiplayer features, Samurai Warriors 2 Empires isn’t that bad of a pit-stop, but those who have never played a Warriors title can find better titles in the series if they ever get the urge to club legions of soldiers. The title can best be described as a “guilty pleasure” game in which its extreme simplicity in the action segments is oddly quite appealing.

However, it is clearly time for the series to take a risk and stray from its beaten path. Releasing on the Playstation 2 format, everything in Samurai Warriors 2 Empires from its aesthetics to its game play is severely outdated and is in need of fine-tuning. Anyone who owns any of the other Samurai Warriors titles isn’t going to miss anything by not picking up this installment but for those who need to have all of the newest updated goods, extreme fans of the series may be able to squeeze even more from Samurai Warriors 2 Empires – what little there is left to squeeze.

Samurai Warriors 2 Empires is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence.

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