Sometimes the limitations of the PSP work to its advantage. Other times, it cripples otherwise playable games. Samurai Warriors – State of War, Koei's latest attempt to milk its button mashing beat-em-up engine, is an odd one that manages to fit into both categories.
Before heading into a battle amongst hundreds of enemies, State of War requires a little thinking. Instead of an open field, battles are fought across a board game-like grid. Your range of movement is dictated by how well you perform in each square. Friendly NPC characters also begin taking pieces of the grid at their own will. Moving into new territory begins a fight.
It's a simple system with its enjoyment increased by scrolls that can weaken the enemy or strengthen the player. These are found in various places around the playfield, and used before heading into a melee. The enemy, of course, can likewise do the same. Each square has its own requirements for clearance, sometimes a simple task like taking out a certain number of enemies, or other times looking for certain foes (amongst others).
This new grid system is radically different from its console counterpart which followed Koei's other beat-em-up franchise, Dynasty Warriors. Open battlefields are fun, but this is a unique experience and a nice way to work around limited hardware. It leads to some superb strategy, which is unfortunately spoiled by AI generals that lack the common sense to defend territory. Be prepared to see entire segments of a map taken back as other generals in your army completely ignore their own base being dismantled.
That leads to some extended battles, which isn't too much of an issue given the smoothness of the gameplay. Load times only occur as the entire map is loaded. Every move brings up the third-person battle screen instantly. Going back to prepare for your next move is just as fast.
This leads to the actual gameplay, and where the PSP fails to handle the core of the series. Enemies appear, literally, a few feet in front of the player. Outside of that range, you'll need to rely on a small, hard-to-see radar. The draw-in for the backgrounds is equally terrible, made worse by bland environments.
It's a rare instance where graphics truly affect gameplay, and significantly. Bosses could be right in front of you. You'll never know until you take out brain-dead grunts standing in front of him, and by that point, he very well may have taken the opportunity to make the first strike. This is truly some of the worst draw-in you'll ever experience, and it drastically takes away from the thrill of wiping out countless enemies.
Fans of the franchise and this equal spin-off know of the guaranteed repetitiveness. Samurai Warriors does nothing to change that, and the simplicity of the combat is still a problem, especially in the throw away ad hoc multi-player. However, this translation also loses all of the thrills and intensity. It's a missed opportunity, especially given how fun the pre-battle planning can be.
Samurai Warriors – State of War is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Violence.Powered by Sidelines