Samurai Warriors: Chronicles
A cut above the rest? No, but it's better than we expected.
If you're a fan of button mashers (and just happen to own a Nintendo 3DS), consider Tecmo Koei's Samurai Warriors: Chronicles. This hack and slash adventure plays almost exactly like its predecessors, as you charge through feudal Japan wailing on hundreds of enemy soldiers and taking down key commanders. Although it does little we haven't seen before, the cool special attacks, on-the-fly character swapping and slick looking graphics make it a guilty pleasure, providing you're OK with pressing the X and Y buttons most of the way.
Like its console counterparts, Chronicles immerses you within epic 3-D battles, where you and your computer controlled buddies chop, stab and slice your way to victory. You literally run into a group of dudes and make them eat cold, hard steel, or if you prefer, the business end of a loaded firearm. Along the way, you'll discover new weapons, level up and learn new moves, some of which help you kill multiple bad guys at once, and are therefore extremely satisfying.
For the most part, the combat's repetitive, though Tecmo Koei adds variety in the form of side missions that appear every couple of minutes. These help break the monotony by sending you on various tasks, like taking down a key warrior or capturing a part of the battlefield, either with a specific character (just tap the person's icon to switch) or a certain period of time. It's a bit spastic, but the on-screen map always points in the right direction, while the promise of new items encourages you to keep fighting.
Meanwhile, the developers incorporated some under the radar features that help make the game more interesting. Assisting fellow combatants, for example, improves your friendship level, and you can strategically place these guys around the map. In addition, the game has StreetPass functionality similar to what we've seen in Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, where you pit four characters against another person's while both 3DS systems are in sleep mode. Nice touch.
Then we have the presentation, which is among the best we've seen in a 3DS launch title. The artwork looks outstanding, while the in-game graphics are clearly PlayStation 2 quality, impressive for a pintsized handheld. As we previously mentioned, the game engine can display a bunch of enemies at one time without a hitch, and the various magic attacks pop off the screen, particularly in 3-D, where the art and combat take on a newfound sense of depth. Factor in the catchy music, and this is a great package.
That said, Samurai Warriors has some glaring flaws. First, you can't skip cut scenes until a certain point. Even worse, the game doesn't appear to have an auto save, so if you need to exit a battle for any reason, you must restart from the beginning. Since battles take upwards of 15 minutes, this could be a potential deal breaker if you prefer casual friendly games; it's best to just close the system and resume later. Thankfully, you can fast forward intros for previously completed battles.
As for the story, the narrative tends to drone on for too long, creating a strange contrast between it and fairly mindless gameplay.
Bottom line, if you grew tired of this type of game, there's little about Samurai Warriors: Chronicles that'll pull you back into the series. At the same time, it's still an impressive and surprisingly enjoyable title that showcases the 3DS' graphical capabilities. Definitely worth a look.
What's Hot: Slaughtering multiple dudes at once, switching characters on the fly, cool 3-D effects, sharp graphics, beautiful soundtrack, StreetPass support.
What's Not: Repetitive combat, no auto save, lengthy cut scenes.