Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 Review – You Make the History (Vita)
The Samurai Warriors series always seems to find at least moderate success, no matter where it goes. While the mobile editions have always felt held back due to the hardware’s limitations, the PlayStation Vita is still a pretty powerful machine, with a quad-core processor paired with a quad-core graphics chip. So here we have Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 for the Vita, with an aim to give you the full Samurai Warriors experience, on the go. Read our review to find out if the portable version is a success, or if you’re better off waiting until you get back home to play through Japanese history.
While Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 follows the history of Japan through the “Warring States” period much like any Samurai Warriors game before it, what makes this entry a Chronicles title is that the game puts you in the center of most of the stories. Once you create and name a custom character, you are thrust into the action and are immediately alongside many of the game’s key characters, even becoming a trusted bodyguard to the warlord Nobunaga Oda.
If you know the story of Samurai Warriors, then you aren’t in for any surprises here. Besides the liberty being taken with throwing the player’s character into the story, the same key events that occurred in Sengoku-era Japan happen here. So expect the same sort of alliances, treachery, emotions, and escapades as in earlier entries. Your presence is more like that of an onlooker, though at certain points in nearly every event you are given a choice between two dialog options. One usually rewards you with an increase of favor with the character that you are speaking to/about, while the other doesn’t do much other than branch the dialog in a different direction for one or two sentences. Other characters’ dialog is also geared to your player’s gender, which is a nice touch.
Gameplay-wise, the same control scheme that’s in any Warriors game is here. You use square and triangle in combination to perform basic combos. However, stringing those combos together in the best manner possible is where variety and challenge can present itself in this game. When you have an enemy (usually an enemy officer) who is blocking all of your attacks, for example, incorporating the X button at the right time will break their stance, opening them up to attacks. You can also stun an enemy with the right combo, and following it up with a press of triangle when prompted will begin a short sequence that deals a large amount of damage. It feels like overkill on Easy, but becomes a necessity on Normal and harder modes.
Upgrade to Win
While you can upgrade your weapons as before in between battles by using the items you’ve found during combat, you can also visit the town. Here, you can find the shop, blacksmith, and tea house. Each of these locations start at level one and can be upgraded by investing gold into them. This unlocks better equipment for sale, higher upgrades at the blacksmith, and larger parties that you can throw at the tea house. The game is pretty generous with gold as a reward for each mission, so you can upgrade these locations several times and still have gold left over to actually perform those newly unlocked upgrades and throw those lavish parties before going back out to earn more gold. You can also train other characters who aren’t going out to battle, which means that up to four additional characters will earn experience while you do all the hard work.
Beyond the main campaign, there’s also a challenge mode. This mode tasks you with keeping a timer going by completing various dynamic missions such as defeating certain enemy officers, or reaching a certain point threshold (points are collected by defeating enemies and breaking false walls in a castle). Eventually, a boss will be lured out, and if you defeat them an exit point appears. Now you have to choose — do you leave now to cash in the points you’ve collected to this point, or do you stick around for a new boss and new set of challenges, but perhaps with less time on the clock? It’s a fun distraction from the main campaign, and rewards earned here can help you out in the story mode, to boot.
Graphically, the Vita doesn’t seem too hard-pressed to render Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3. This could generally be considered a good thing, because it keeps the action fast and furious, with nary a frame drop to be found. Animations are smooth, if canned, and subtle effects let you know your and your enemies’ status and fighting enhancements, if any. This game isn’t giving Uncharted or Gravity Rush a run for their money, but then again you won’t see Drake or Kat face off against hundreds of enemies at a time, either.
Early on in my time with Chronicles 3, I realized why the graphics weren’t so shiny; one impressive technical feat by Omega Force is the fact that you can swap between up to five players at any point in a battle. While some characters can only be swapped to at certain points in a campaign, when a character is available, you simply tap on their avatar in the lower-left portion of the screen to instantly swap to them and take over control, no matter what they are doing. This is such a seamless process, that you take for granted what it means — the developer has ensured that no matter what character you switch to, the action will not falter. Many times when I switched characters, the character I had switched to was currently in combat with an officer and around 30 or more pions. This was likely no small feat for the developer to pull off on the Vita, and is commendable.
One major issue I had in my play through of Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 was the camera. It felt much too close to my character the entire time, with only brief moments of relief if I was heading down a hill. On a touchscreen device, pinch-to-zoom should have been an option to zoom the camera in and out at least a little bit, or a choice between a near and far camera would have been greatly appreciated. Everything just felt needlessly cramped.
New Options, Fun Finish
Poor camera aside, I did appreciate the new touchscreen options. Every character has something called a War Art, which is a special ability that can only be used once every few minutes during combat. The abilities vary per character, and as the characters level up more unique abilities can be unlocked. Tapping on the special button above the character switch avatars reveals all available War Arts. Each can be used at any time when available, and their effects affect every currently available character. These come in handy when low on health or when fighting a boss character to give you an edge in combat. As the Vita only has two shoulder buttons, a button will be overlaid on the lower-right portion of the screen when your energy gauge is full, and you can enter Rage mode with a tap. Follow that up with circle for a special attack that obliterates the area. Overall, you don’t feel that the Vita is lacking any buttons with the touchscreen being utilized like this.
I’ve enjoyed my time with Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3. I used to write off the Warriors series as a simple button masher. While it may be like that on the Easy modes, try any Normal or harder mode and you can see that the game requires strategy, timing, and patience. You cannot go into a battle and just kill every enemy; the battlefield is dynamic, and your allies will inevitably need your help. Switching between characters at any point is a particularly impressive feature, and placing your custom character directly in the story is a fun aspect that immerses you into the world much more than the simple animations of the characters could ever do. If you’re already a fan of the Warriors series, this will provide a great fix for you on the go. If you’re not a fan, then this is a good place to start, as Chronicles has many of the same features as its console brethren and will provide many hours of entertainment.
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