Once upon a time, way back when video game arcade machines roamed the earth, a Japanese-based company known as Capcom developed an coin-operated game called Street Fighter. It was painfully simplistic: players would pump several thousand dollars in quarters into the machine in order to mindlessly beat up one opponent after another. Through repeated exposure to the game’s hypnotizing 8-bit graphics, latchkey children in malls across the world were able to learn a variety of advanced fighting moves via the process of pushing assorted combinations of several buttons: actions that they later came to dub “Combo Moves.”
In the end, the grand winner would receive… well, nothing, really — save for a chance to have their initials proudly displayed in the Top Score screen that would flash by while the game was in demo mode: a monument that would be reset as soon as the arcade shut down that same night. The fighting arcade game phenomenon continued for many years, ultimately migrating to home consoles, wherein latchkey children around the globe could now sit safely in their bedrooms and tackle one opponent after another for the low, one-installment-only price of $59.99 (US).
With Capcom’s latest installment, Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes — the third in their own Sengoku Basara series — the once-powerful video game publisher has proved that one doesn’t necessarily have to move forward with the world in order to stay afloat. In fact, all you really need to do is take an old formula like Street Fighter and “modernize” it ever so slightly.
From the very moment that the extended opening animated sequence prominently introducing all of the game’s heroes flashed upon my television monitor, I knew that Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes was going to be just another fighting game (well, I also kinda gathered such from the back of the case, too). And, while some things have changed over the years — at least now we have three-dimensional environments with limited exploring options, to say nothing about the improved graphics and audio — I’m sorry to say that Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes hasn’t strayed from the “old school” arcade game a whole lot.
Players get to choose which character(s) they wish to be, and there’s a fanciful assortment of outrageous anime-style versions of classic Japanese warriors to choose from. If you’ve played any of the previous Sengoku Basara games, you’ll notice a few familiar faces as far as the characters go — with several new cast members onboard for the ride. Unfortunately, the inclusion of new characters must have cut in on Capcom’s budget to up the amount of interestingness here. The game is as cut and dry as you can get: it basically amounts to running around and killing the bad guys (via combo moves!).
Speaking of bad guys, wait ‘til you see how they all look the same, act the same, die the same. Imagine that epic moment at the end of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace where the Gungans are dancing. It’s like that. Only worse. Much worse.
As I stated before, the audio and video aspects seen and heard in Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes are definite improvements over earlier Capcom games, but that doesn’t mean they’re great. The graphics aren’t bad, and resemble the quality you’d see in a 1080p-upscaled DVD. And, while the audio is fine and dandy, the game’s repetitive sound effects and silly dialogue really take away from any element of enjoyment I might have had. Granted, I love how the voice for the character of Oichi (voiced by Laura Bailey) sounds like a gothic phone sex operator.
In the end, however, not even the alluring sounds of a gothic phone sex operator can inspire me to rate Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes more than a 2. Sorry, Capcom. Better luck next time, though.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on: Wii.