Way of the Samurai 4 review
The idea of a Saints Row: The Third-esque samurai game is quite intriguing. When I first witnessed Way of the Samurai 4, that’s what I thought the game was – an over-the-top open world romp where you could mess around and just have a blast. After actually playing the game, I can certainly attest to the fact that it’s a crazy action-adventure experience with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Is it as effective as the Saints Row-inspired action-fest I envisioned? No, it isn’t. But is it still worth playing? For a lot of gamers, I’d say it definitely is.
You take on the role of a wandering samurai. A fictional port town known as Amihara is in a period of turmoil as Europeans attempt to colonize, causing friction between the strict Japanese government and the wary citizens. Way of the Samurai 4 tasks you with choosing a side. Do you want to aid Amihara’s militant governing body? Are you all for the union of European and Amihara folk? Would you like to aid the disgruntled and xenophobic denizens of the small town? Or heck, do you just want to run around creating havoc and stabbing random people? The decision is yours to make.
Speaking of decisions, Way of the Samurai 4 is chockfull of ‘em. You’re constantly tasked with choosing sides, aiding people, and agreeing or disagreeing to conversation-initiated proposals. It’s awesome that Way of the Samurai 4 lets you make so many decisions, because the game then becomes somewhat of a create-your-own-adventure experience. Throughout all of Amihara you encounter individuals with a variety of plights. A lot of these missions are assassination jobs, requiring you to run around town to take down a specific target.
Because a lot of what you do is engage in sword fights with other characters, combat is an important part of Way of the Samurai 4. Sadly, the mechanics aren’t that great. Entering a fight will cause your samurai to automatically lock on to his target. This is a plus, but the camera can get a bit finicky, and the actual swordplay is on the simplistic side, relying heavily on button mashing. You do, however, upgrade your skills and gain new techniques, but even then, the bulk of what you'll be doing is timing your offense and then tapping away at the attack buttons.
Amihara isn’t exactly a big town, so prepare to see a lot of the same areas over and over again. Despite the lack of changing scenery, however, revisiting the same locales isn’t as tedious as one might think. I never went back to the same area multiple times and said, “Hmm … This world is kind of small. I’m getting bored of seeing the same things.” The hook in Way of the Samurai 4 is the ability to travel about, visiting different areas, and stabbing some fools in the gut with your sword. Because of that, the game is surprisingly rewarding, even if the combat isn’t as deep as it could’ve been.
Aside from standard story missions, there are various side quests and distractions you can sink some time into. Want to help a damsel in distress by killing her peeping tom? Feel like breaking some expensive jars just to make a statement? Want to buy a new sword and then leave the smithy without paying? Or would you perhaps be interested in participating in a little late-night shenanigans with a willing female NPC? You can do all of these things and they’re, for the most part, highly entertaining.
Way of the Samurai 4 isn’t a good-looking game by any stretch. The whole thing actually looks incredibly PlayStation 2-ish. Still, this isn’t a game that you play for its technical merits (or lack thereof). Way of the Samurai 4 is a game you play if you’re a fan of the series, crazy samurai flicks like Riki Oh, or nonsensical chicanery in general. The language tracks are in Japanese with no English option, which means a lot of gamers will have to do some reading. At least the music design is pretty cool, featuring some traditional-sounding themes, as well as remixed Japanese music.
You can get through Way of the Samurai 4 in about four hours. That’s pretty short, especially when you take into account the game’s $40 price tag. But a lot of the lasting value in this title comes from exploring Amihara multiple times, making different decisions, and seeing the game’s 10 endings. Way of the Samurai 4 isn’t for everyone, but gamers who this particular niche caters to are bound to find an enjoyably ridiculous experience. Is it Saints Row meets Drunken Master? Not quite. But it’s still a pleasant amalgamation of ancient samurai themes and modern absurdity that’s just begging to be played.
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