With a long-running reputation and numerous spin-offs, sequels, and offshoots, saying that either of Tecmo Koei’s Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors series have “grown long in the tooth” wouldn’t be too far-fetched of a statement when it comes to following their various story arcs, characters, and worlds.
However, to the devoted fans of its hack ‘n slash series, it’s instead easy to say that both series have delivered instead on unabashed solid gameplay and combat, and in the case of the most recent installment, Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3, the series fast-paced combat has once again been shrunken down to portable systems for on-the-go action.
While many of the elements that have carried over from previous Warriors games are intact, Chronicles 3 adds a bit more of a personal touch in providing players with their own take on historical Japanese events.
Set in the midst of 16th-century Japan’s struggle for unification, Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 provides players with their own custom character seeking to alter the course for varying clans and forces seeking to unite the country.
While starting out on the side of the Oda clan as a supporting general, the game then, most or less, let’s players allegiances and support sway between varying clans while completing missions and, ultimately, figuring out on their own where their loyalties lie.
Using a combination of quick-paced action and combat while bouncing between missions, the title uses its historical-based story rooted in the struggles of 16th-century Japan to allow players’ custom characters to help sway the tides of battle.
In this sense, those new to the series will be able to dive in relatively painlessly, using your fresh-faced custom character to engage in battle alongside up to three additional NPCs from the series.
Given the scale of battlefields from other Warriors games, players will be forced to divide and conquer by switching between the four playable characters at one time, allowing players to not only spread their forces across a battlefield and tackle different objectives, but also to experiment with the different combat styles and abilities that each playable character offers.
While Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 may be among the more newcomer-friendly installments of the Warriors games with its firm focus on custom characters, veterans of previous Warriors games will surely find much to like — in particular those who enjoyed last year’s Samurai Warriors 4 as it borrows numerous elements from the latter mentioned title.
However, this title’s familiarity with previous Warriors games proves the biggest double-edged sword in the gameplay experience.
Where the Warriors games are known for their fast-paced combat, they are also known for their monotony and limited variety of missions. Unfortunately, Chronicles 3 won’t do much to change your opinion of the franchise if that’s the case.
Although the character-swapping mechanic provides some moments of levity and variety to the basic hack ‘n slash mechanics, the ability to swap between playable characters introduces other issues aside from the lack of depth in combat.
In particular, a constant challenge arises from the implementation of new characters starting at Level 5 each time. In the beginning of the game this is less of an issue but it becomes far more taxing in later stages when missions become more difficult and enemies more challenging to take down.
In this case, having new characters at the lower levels hinders the game balance, and instead makes most missions later on a challenging task of babysitting the lower leveled characters that often get quickly overwhelmed in the battlefield.
The alternative then comes down to repeating easier missions to grind and level up weaker characters, adding more repetition to the game’s already repetitive nature, yet proving necessary in less painful story and character progression.
While the combat offers a fast pace, the game balances its more action-heavy moments with cutscenes and story-driven segments to supplement its shifting alliances and constant introduction of new characters.
Though the efforts show through in trying to craft a compelling story, the cutscenes by-and-large are drowned out by boring cinematics lead by wooden, poorly-animated characters.
Even someone like me who’s been tuned to the dense line of characters from a title such as Game of Thrones, Chronicles 3 proves a more complicated challenge with constantly introducing new characters, switching allegiances with different groups, and not doing much to inject some life into its dull story.
Visually the game follows suit in the presentation of previous Warriors-esque titles with large battlefields and vast collections of enemies to fight at once.
While the 3DS screen can get overwhelmed with the amount of enemies to face (even while playing on the 3DS XL), it still provides some visual splendor, though not to any particularly memorable degree.
Combined with often forgettable music, Chronicles 3 gives an adequate presentation on 3DS from the visual and aural front. Compared to some of the console’s more impressive offerings such as Kid Icarus Uprising or Resident Evil: Revelations, however, Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 is far from a 3DS benchmark title.
As the latest in a long-established series like Samurai Warriors, Chronicles 3 is the type of title that, for better or worse, preaches to the choir.
Though impressive with its scale and dedication to thrusting players deep into the conflicts of Japanese history, for newcomers or veteran players alike, Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 often feels like a foot soldier in the rankings of the Samurai Warriors army.
It does its job suitably and admirably where it matters, though in its desire for greater ambition it’s just one in a sea of many faces.