It seems like 2014’s Samurai Warriors 4 is an unstoppable force, receiving two updated releases that added better graphics and story elements to the main campaign. Now, Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is here and yet again we are in the same time period as Samurai Warriors 4. However, Spirit of Sanada’s story focuses solely on the Sanada clan and gives insight into characters and situations that none of the previous games had time to do.
The story begins by introducing a young Masayuki Sanada as he prepares for battle. It’s during these first fights that it’s discovered just how skilled a warrior Masayuki is, which will show even more as the Sanada clan grows stronger. The introduction is rather quick and allows exploration of only a small section of the town, but this works for the benefit of the player in order to find their bearings in this time period. For someone who has played Samurai Warriors 4, the fights and skirmishes amongst clans wont come as a surprise.
The first mission drifts away from typical musou gameplay by allowing the players to explore a map with branching paths while collecting items. Missions that take place on these areas take place on smaller maps and are usually short in playtime. They offer a way to break up the often hectic action that takes place on the larger missions and provide a setting for some of the more intimate story scenes to take place.
While exploring these trails and collecting items is interesting at first, the game has a knack for reusing maps, which can make these missions overstay their welcome towards the end of the game. Although as I previously stated these missions are short and some of them have pretty clever objectives such as avoiding enemy detection and choosing an alternate path.
The other missions are that of what musou fans have come to expect from the Samuria Warriors series. Being that the game is based in the timeline of Samurai Warriors 4, a lot of maps are being reused as well as battles. However, Omega Force has given the levels a complete upgrade, so while areas will be recognizable to returning players, it can be clearly seen the amount of work that has been put into the stages even when compared to levels from Samurai Warriors 4-II.
Spirit of Sanada takes the story of the Sanada clan a bit slower than other entries in the series. The developers were able to accomplish this easily because of the focus on one clan instead of many. So when battles that took place which were featured in Samurai Warriors 4 will return in one shape or form.
However, instead of only focusing on only major events, Spirit of Sanada takes the player through many of the battles leading up to the larger encounters. The game sets a great pace throughout the campaign which took me almost 20 hours to complete. There are even multiple side missions that you’re able to participate in that don’t even feature members of the Sanada clan. Instead, they create the atmosphere of the battles that are taking place around the Sanada clan’s war.
Missions in Spirit of Sanada are timed with a day and night cycle, where one second is equal to one minute in the games world. This means that the longest mission will only be 24 minutes long, which is more realistic when compared to the 90-minute mission times given in the previous games.
Also, players will acquire Sanada Coins as they talk with towns people or completing “Feats”, or sub-missions during battle. These coins can be used to trigger “Stratagems”, which can summon aid from an alley or do other helpful things if your stuck in a bind.
Back at the Sanada clan’s town, players can take there time talking to town’s people and accepting side quests, which are usually just item collecting requests. Additionally, there is a fish and farming mini-game that require quick button presses for a variety of different items. There’s also a training camp where you’ll be able to spend gained experience and level up characters that you don’t use too often.
I’ve always enjoyed the training camp implementation in previous Warriors games, but Spirit of Sanada makes you spend money on character skills during each level up. I don’t know why they just didn’t implement that into the EXP required to level up the character. I always had to double check if not only my characters were at a high enough level, but they also had their weapons and combo skills leveled up properly before leaving.
As in the battlefield, time passes throughout the story. Watching Masayuki and his family grow older throughout the game is a treat. Mainly because the intimate nature of the story telling allowed me to easily feel connecting with the Sanada clan.
There are a few issues in the game that I encountered such as texture pop-in and the reuse of towns people that can be seen performing the same gesture over and over again. The latter is not that big of a deal, but I feel like in this generation it comes off as lazy being that there isn’t even that many town’s people to begin with.
There are moments in battle where the music picks up and you must push your way to an enemy stronghold. However, there are generals and loads of enemies standing in your way. As the music gets louder, I’m cutting my way through them inching my way closer and closer to my destination. Spirit of Sanada provides a sense of accomplishment that is felt during many battles and I can’t help but feel awesome when I accomplish a mission against all odds.
Although Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is a spin-off of the mainline series of games, it shouldn’t be seen as anything less than the best companion to Samurai Warriors 4. I enjoyed returning to the battlefield once more and learning all that I could about the Sanada clan while following their lives over the course of the game. The character driven plot was much appreciated as well as the graphical improvements made to the battlefields from previous games. I would definitely like to see more spin-offs of the series that focus on some of the other clans.