More than half a decade on since the last installment, Samurai Warriors 5 has us return to Sengoku-era Japan in this fictional spin on the history of Oda Nobunaga. While not as popular as the Dynasty Warriors or Hyrule Warriors titles, this hack and slash series has a lot to offer.
War has engulfed the land and chaos reigns. Many generals with the power to overthrow their lords start to do so, whether out of a sense of justice or just a grab for power. After years of fighting, leaders start to emerge. There are those who may be able to conquer Japan and be able to put an end to the chaos; Nobunaga is one with such potential.
Samurai Warriors 5 allows you to play as many characters and even see things from other views in side-stories occasionally. Nobunaga is the star of the show though, with Mitsuhide a distant second.
With events such as arranged marriages, multiple betrayals, and stories of split loyalty, there’s a lot of complex relationships here. That said, as it mostly focuses on Nobunaga we primarily see things from his view; the player might hear why someone else has done something, but not hear their feelings on the matter.
Between the more serious events like battles and betrayals, we see more personal moments too. Nobunaga talks about why he wants to unify the land, we see his romantic moments and his thoughts on family.
Overall I don’t feel like it’s a standout story, but it kept things interesting. I do wish we could have seen more of other characters, but I can certainly understand the decision to focus on Nobunaga and his story comes out better for it.
For those less familiar with this series or its counterparts, they are 3D hack’n’slash games. You need to defeat many generals and millions of their disposable soldiers. You’ll do this by combining normal attacks along with a series of special moves.
As you mow through the horde, you need to complete objectives. Kill certain generals, wipe out all life at a base, and things along those lines. Most levels have a series of main objectives, with occasional optional ones that may only appear under certain conditions. You can usually switch between two characters while doing these, or let a player two take control of the other general. Typically the enemy and allied generals are based on historical figures. Due to the nature of the game, you may be fighting someone one minute and then the next they’ll be your ally.
Samurai Warriors 5 gives you a good selection of attacks to keep gameplay interesting. As well as the standard light/heavy attacks and dodging, you’re presented with a number of special attacks. Musou attacks where you use up a gauge to do a powerful attack that lets you wipe out nearby enemies are a staple of the wider franchise. What was a little different was ‘Ultimate Skills’. While the name is a little overblown, these worked as a range of attacks or buffs less powerful than musou, but powerful enough to turn the tide. The player can select 4 from a list with some unlockable, then use them between cooldowns. Between blasting through some more powerful variants of soldiers to interrupting a powerful general, these were really useful and helped to mix things up.
Overall this brings the same addictive gameplay that the Warriors franchise always brings, with some minor but appreciated unique points. Horse jumping is even useful this time!
I’ve already spoken about the story, so I should mention the modes. The main mode of Samurai Warriors 5 is ‘Musou Mode’, the story.
Musou mode is fairly standard. You play through levels and the objective is typically defeating a certain general. It always goes through a line of objectives before you can do this though.
When you clear a battle, it then typically unlocks a cutscene and the next level. Sometimes it may also unlock side-story battles. Mitsuhide has his own series of side-story battles and there are some additional ones with multiple people taking a brief spotlight.
While you could just play Musou mode, you’ll have a much easier time if you play through Citadel mode on occasion too. That said, you can’t do it the other way around. The more you play Musou mode, the more of Citadel mode is unlocked.
Citadel Mode is a collection of stages, where instead of tracking someone down to stick the pointy end of your weapon in them, they’re doing it to you. You need to defend a location against waves of enemies, while also completing some extra objectives where possible. This goes on until defeating their boss or the time runs out.
Completing these stages earns you resources in differing amounts. While some are to upgrade your character, most important are the ones to upgrade your facilities. Access to better upgrades in weapons, horses, and items needs you to upgrade the relevant places first.
I enjoyed both modes. Citadel mode did feel more repetitive, but the variety in map types and being able to use any character helped to offset it. Having another feature that lets you level up relationships between characters and unlock scenes was a nice bonus here too.
Upgrades and Unlocks
I wasn’t as impressed as I’d like with the upgrades, unfortunately. Upgrading the facilities took quite a lot of grinding through Citadel mode levels. It didn’t really feel like there were huge benefits though and some felt disappointing. Crafting weapons for instance took a lot of materials and only unlocked after chapter 4 of musou mode, which does take quite a while to get through. The actual function was pretty disappointing though, with it being more weapon-type switching rather than crafting. More around the weapon crafting unlocks as you get further in, but it still wasn’t too impressive.
The skill trees seem better at first. You can use skill points to increase the stats of each character and add some useful passive skills. I found that I had quickly maxed out Nobunaga’s skill tree though, as well as the skill tree of anyone else I had often played as. This was by the time I’d even completed half of the musou mode.
While I’m sure there was some improvement, apart from being faster I never really noticed much difference in my horse that I added skills to and leveled up to the base one. Grinding to get horses was also didn’t feel of much benefit.
I should note here that I’m not again grinding in these sorts of games. But I always want a suitably impressive reward for it.
On a more positive note, completing levels let you stock types of experience that could later be applied to other characters. This was a nice way of quickly bringing someone up to level to try them out. Unlocking the rare weapons was fun too, bringing in the challenge of needing to complete certain maps and achieving targets on hard mode.
Moving on from upgrades, I should mention that the difficulty of Samurai Warriors 5 feels quite low on the initial playthrough. At first, it was actually a bit difficult. Running through musou mode on normal started to get easier and easier. I switched over to hard mode and could barely tell the difference. This may not be the case for everyone, but I imagine it’s to do with almost always playing as Nobunaga. This levels him up quickly. If I switched to the second character on a map more often, this may not have been the case. I also played through Citadel mode, though only went through each level once at first.
With that said, I had enough stored experience to bring second characters up to level too, and often get many of their skills quickly. I’d be interested to hear other perspectives on if they felt it got too easy before unlocking the higher difficulty modes.
Graphics and Audio
I enjoyed the bright color scheme and art style used in Samurai Warriors 5. Overall I felt that it looks good in terms of characters, but they did occasionally suffer from jagged lines in close-ups during cut scenes. The level environments themselves weren’t bad, but certainly were nothing impressive.
While it only happened occasionally, it is worth noting that it sometimes zoomed into odd angles. This particularly happened after special attacks. This sometimes threw me off, which is the last thing you want when fighting a powerful general.
As always with this franchise, the music is top-tier. It’s perfect to just lose yourself while slaughtering the enemy. The voice acting is Japanese-only and the voices all seem to match the characters well and give a good performance.
Overall, I enjoyed Samurai Warriors 5. I generally do enjoy the gameplay of this Warriors franchise and they’ve kept it fresh by including some small changes. The ultimate attacks were a particularly appreciated spin. While the story is never really the focus of the Warriors titles, it was an enjoyable telling of Nobunaga’s tale too. It doesn’t steal the crown of my favorite Warriors title from Dynasty Warriors 8, but it’s certainly a strong entry into the series.
SAMURAI WARRIORS 5 IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Koei Tecmo for a PlayStation 4 review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.