Remember those side-scrolling, beat-’em-up arcade classics? The ones we’d play at places like Chuck E. Cheese’s or laser tag joints, and they usually featured X-Men or Ninja Turtles? We can all agree they’re oldies-but-goodies, and every once and a while, the greatness tries to be replicated. Samurai Warriors 3 for the Nintendo Wii could have been such a game. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t cut it. And there’s a lot more missing than a pizza grease-slathered joystick.
In the latest installment of Tecmo Koei’s Samurai Warriors series, the action/adventure story takes place smack in the middle of a war in feudal Japan. Choose from a variety of famous warriors to control (including a ninja modeled after Hattori Hanzo, a real-life ninja from the 16th century who was honored in the Kill Bill films) and fend off attacking forces. In Story Mode, each level begins with a mission outline, explaining step-by-step objectives you need to accomplish, like defeating a certain foe or protecting a certain lord. You can replay missions in Free Mode, and in the unique Historical Mode, you participate in reinterpretations of actual battles.
As for the action itself—well, there’s not much of it. Things get tedious, and fast, with the battling system being one of the biggest problems. Like paparazzi to a celebrity, at least 50 guys can gang up on you at once. But unlike the paparazzi, they’re less bloodthirsty, and more vegetative. As in, they simply crowd around you and then do nothing. Enemy AI probably doesn’t get much lower than this. Plowing through your “opponents” is like Indiana Jones-ing your way through a cornfield maze with a machete. (The baddies’ graphics are flat and dull, to boot.)
There’s not a lot of variety in gameplay. Your character can find new equipment and even level up like in an RPG, but you’ll essentially be hitting the A button over and over, as it’s the quickest way to dispatch the jokes of opponents. You’re also given a “strong” attack and a special move. However, you may as well rapid-fire with normal attacks, which means giving your Wii remote the Jeopardy! buzzer treatment. Another ill-conceived idea was including the ability to fight on horseback. The steed is awkward to control, and again, you may as well steamroll the countless (and I mean countless) enemies you’ll encounter with your standard attack. You can see how gameplay gets old. Throw in annoyingly distracting voice acting and bad camerawork and you’ve got a game with a cool premise but frustrating execution.
The game does offer a co-op mode and online play, which makes the title a bit more attractive. It also gives you the choice between the Wiimote and Nunchuk, classic controller, or GameCube controller, so you have some freedom in choosing how you want to enjoy the experience.
But the game could’ve been improved in a lot of ways. It would’ve been nice to encounter enemies that challenged you (or at least posed some kind of threat), and more interesting and diverse abilities available to your character. Overall, I’d rather stick to the token-eating classics the game reminds me of.