Action Anime Hack'N'Slash Review

Samurai Maiden – Review | Yuri and Kunai

When I first started Samurai Maiden, I thought that the main appeal would be that it has cute lesbian ninja fanservice. While this certainly does work as a hook for certain anime fans, I was surprised to find deeper mechanics than expected and a great game that unlocks more after the opening levels.

Samurai Maiden - Komimi is a Tsundere

Time Travel and Dimension Hopping

Samurai Maiden has quite a simple plot, primarily told through visual novel style scenes. Tsumugi, a mostly normal high-school girl from modern times hears an angelic voice and suddenly finds herself transported back to the Sengoku period. History knows this as just before the day of Nobunaga’s death, but Tsumugi’s arrival changed things.

Told that a prophecy foretold Tsumugi’s arrival, three ninjas from different worlds have come to protect Tsumugi. It was said that she would be able to finally defeat the Demon Lord, who her ancestor had sealed away. In the meantime though, we hear that another force wants to unseal them to gain the demon’s power.

With only a few characters appearing along the way and some not particularly unexpected twists, the more plot-related events in Samurai Maiden are nothing special. The enjoyment is more about the journey through the underworld to face the Demon Lord and the relationships that Tsumugi builds along the way.

New Bonds

Your three new allies are all quite different. Iyo is a ninja of the Oda clan. While not confident, she’s energetic and hard-working. Hagane is a mature beauty from another world with a mechanical arm. She’s the type to flirt and tease. Komimi is an ex-onmyoji and the descendant of a famous kitsune who comes from yet another world. An overly confident prodigy, she’s more guarded than the others.

Bonds are a focus in Samurai Maiden. We see a lot of touching moments where Tsumugi and the others get closer throughout the story. They share their histories and their worries. We can see them developing feelings for each other. This is more of an attraction than the plot events themselves.

Samurai Maiden - Kiss

Not only are the bonds important in terms of the dialogue, but they’re an important gameplay mechanic too. As you become closer to characters through using them in combat, an ‘Affection Level’ increases, and ‘Photos’ are unlocked. These are additional scenes that focus just on Tsumugi and the other character, usually being slice-of-life focused or providing some backstory not explained in the main story. They might talk about anything from eating cake to family problems.

One thing I particularly like is that there’s actual romance in Samurai Maiden, even if it’s only mild. A lot of similar anime titles only hint and bait.

Unlocking photos also unlocks extra moves for Tsumugi to use, extra levels, new weapons, and special skills. It worked really well to show the characters getting closer, while tying mechanics to it by having them train together or including other story ties to explain it.

Skeleton Slayer

Samurai Maiden has you hack and slash your way through the underworld, with occasional help from your ninja friends. Unlike the 1 vs 1000 gameplay of the Warriors/Musou titles, it usually focuses on defeating small amounts of tough enemies with a wide variety of moves.

With that said, players might think Samurai Maiden’s game is fairly basic if they haven’t played much. It starts with a standard set of light attack and heavy attack combos, with a dodge move and a gauge that allows for a special attack from an allied ninja. Throughout the story and photo opportunities, far more moves are unlocked. You’ll find yourself using midair moves, parrying, charges, thrusts, and a lot more. I found it worked nicely to ease me in and teach me how to play.

While I do enjoy my mindless hack’n’slash games, this isn’t one of them. I found myself often dodging, using a wide variety of moves, planning the best angle to attack, and learning enemy patterns to look for openings. Anyone who just tries to run at and light attack everything won’t survive long.

For example, most levels have a boss with a variety of minions that spawn in. I might decide to target the archers first as they often interrupt my special attacks, then combo some of the armored minions around to build up my special gauges, and next use a fire special to thin the herd. With no archers to interrupt, I’ll then look for an opening to target the boss with an ice special a few times to try and stun it so I can get in some combos.

This is even more important on hard or demonic mode (only available by completing all levels on normal and then hard respectively), but even the latter levels on normal are a challenge.

Underworld and Dreamland

Most of the 27 story levels of Samurai Maiden are fairly linear, with a couple of brief alternate paths or hidden areas with item upgrades and unlockables. They typically consist of areas to run through and kill enemies, with the occasional bit of platforming. A few levels are only boss fights, but most follow a fairly standard format of several areas to travel through, a minor boss fight or two, followed by some more areas, and then the actual boss.

While levels were fairly formulaic, there were plenty of different environments and I never felt bored going through them. It helped that some levels were quite short, being achievable in about two minutes, while some were longer taking closer to ten minutes. That said, certain boss levels were just repeated with new moves added in.

Unlocked through the photo system, the 15 extra levels are quite different. While there are fighting sections, most of the levels have you pair up with one ally and use their unique mechanics to activate switches and solve puzzles. Iyo can place items such as bombs, decoys, and healing pots. Hagane lets you attach to glowing points and swing over gaps. Komimi can pick up and throw existing items. These abilities are used in the normal levels too, but I found myself using them a lot more here.

Along with switches and puzzles, the extra levels place a much larger focus on the platforming. It was a nice break to occasionally switch over from mostly fighting to jumping between moving platforms or ones that will drop you if not acting quickly. Again, these mechanics are in the regular levels too but are far more prominent here.

Combined these took me about 17 hours, not counting replaying on hard and demonic difficulty levels.

Recolors and Models

Visually, the 3D models of Samurai Maiden look quite nice both in the visual novel style scenes and in combat. I liked how the environments looked too. There are a few hints of fanservice too, with panties on show during rolls, fox ears twitching, and jiggle physics often appearing with the energetic movements of Iyo. Each character has a few different outfits to change up their look, but they are fairly limited too, unless you buy the DLC.

The downside to the visuals is the frequent reuse of enemy assets. There aren’t too many types of enemies, so don’t be surprised when you find yourself fighting the same skeletons in brown armor, red armor, and yellow armor.

Performance was usually smooth, but on occasion, it started stuttering. In chapter 10, rolling spikes seemed to consistently trigger this, but I saw it pop up occasionally when there were a lot of enemies, explosions, and so on. I’m playing on PlayStation 5, so I’m concerned about the Nintendo Switch version particularly, but also the other platforms.

Music and Seiyuu

The audio is much more impressive. The game is fully voiced in Japanese, has suitable background music, and some impressive vocal songs. The three ninjas who accompany you are voiced by well-known voice actors too.

Iyo is voiced by Miku Ito (Miku Nakano from The Quintessential Quintuplets), Hagane is voiced by Sumire Uesaka (Hayase Nagatoro from Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro), and Komimi is voiced by Miyu Tomita (Miko Iino from Kaguya-sama). I’ve listed a popular role for each, but they all play a lot of notable characters in anime. They all have amazing performances. Tsumugi is played by Yuki Yomichi, who is fairly new as a voice actor, but was Serene Hozumi from Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory and played a few other roles.

Samurai Maiden - Final Photo


What Samurai Maiden lacks in plot, it makes up for with excellent relationship-building scenes, and surprisingly tactical hack’n’slash gameplay. While there were a few issues, I had fun throughout. It goes beyond fanservice and delivers a surprisingly great game.


Platforms: PlayStation 4|5, Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam)

If you enjoy Hack’N’Slash games, then perhaps you’d like our review of Utawarerumono: ZAN or Samurai Warriors 5.

Many thanks go to D3 Publisher for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.

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