Samurai Warriors: State of War PSP Review

When Dynasty Warriors arrived for the PSP last year, a few of its hardcore fans were left a bit dejected. After all, the battles were now broken up into little segments instead of one long fight to rack up the kill count into the hundreds. Worse yet, the presentation was flawed, filled with bothersome slowdown and pop-up all over the place. The game could've easily benefitted from some kind of clean-up, and I have a sneaking suspicion this is where Samurai Warriors: State of War comes into play.

Like the console edition, Samurai Warriors puts you in the shoes of one of several warriors in feudal Japan who take their side in an army and then go into battle with other armies. A lot of the mistakes from the original Dynasty Warriors seemed to have been cleaned up a bit, but there's still a few glaring flaws that prevent this game from being something along the lines of a must-have.

There's a decent new battle layout that comes into play, taking the formula from the Dynasty Warriors Tactics chapter that involves movement on a map to position armies into certain spots. To help boost things along, there's also the inclusion of charms, which allow your armies to get a little better in strength and use other benefits to conquering the areas of land they're trying to get on the map. These are novel ideas and help bump up the gameplay considerably...and, boy, did it need bumping up.

That's because Samurai Warriors still possesses the hack n' slash gameplay segments from the first game. Once you get yourself into these battle positions, you find yourself hacking and slashing away at enemies pretty mindlessly, using Musou powers to carve up the high numbers before they're eventually defeated and you're back to the strategy play. There's nothing wrong with a little hack-n-slash action, mind you, but, really, you'd think that the series would move forward somehow in terms of the gameplay. Oh, well, if you liked it before, you'll still like it now.

The graphics look a little better than Dynasty Warriors did, but new problems are at hand. Koei's fixed up the slowdown to the point it barely exists now, so thirty-plus characters can be on the screen at once without a hint of it. That's good news, but now draw distance has become a victim, forcing you to sometimes deal with disappearing enemies or some distorted view problems that result in you not racking up the kills so smoothly. Furthermore, the game's done away with its beautiful CG sequences, instead providing the story through lame cards and talking heads. I can understand having to cut back, but this seems a bit off.

And another thing- why bother including a Multiplayer mode if it isn't going to be fully interactive? Samurai Warriors does support four players through AdHoc hook-up, with a couple of different games (Vanguard and Bandit) that are rather competitive, but the interaction is way off. Your fellow players actually never appear on your screen at any time, but instead are interpreted through AI companions that basically go after you every time they strike. This level of multiplayer never gets to the point that it feels real, and seems like a novelty at best. There's no sign of co-op gameplay either, which would've been marvelous here.

Samurai Warriors: State of War isn't a terrible game, by any means. Its new strategic elements and slightly cleaned up issues make it worth at least a look to the curious or the hack-n-slash fans. But those looking for a fully invested turn into the action scene may be a bit disappointed by the shortcomings at hand here, especially in the multiplayer. That's like going to the amusement park and taking your turns on the bumper cars instead of going all out at once. What's the point?

What's Hot: The strategic elements are awesome; the slowdown's long gone.

What's Not: Multiplayer is surprisingly uninteractive; graphic problems aplenty.