Title: Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story
Release Date: February 20, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
I’m always up for a roguelike dungeon crawler, no matter how frustrating they can be. Running through dungeons with the chance of death around every corner is a test of skill and patience, and I love it. When it comes to developer Spike Chunsoft, I often find myself spending hours upon hours with entries of the Shiren the Wanderer series.
However, we aren’t here to talk about that title. Instead, the team has set their dungeon crawling development skills on the Way of the Samurai series to release Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story. After dozens of dungeon floors cleared, and many frustrating deaths later, this is the roguelike dungeon crawler that you’ve been waiting for.
Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story has you assume the role of a mysterious samurai named Ronin as he comes across a blacksmith who has fallen into debt. While his offense is really none of your business, his daughter is kidnapped by the debt collectors as collateral for him to pay them back. Ronin offers his services to help the man, and your adventure begins.
The story begins rather abruptly and seems small in scope at first, but that’s just a facade as it evolves after the first hour of gameplay. The gameplay is broken up between day and night cycles where the player will run blacksmith duties by day and fight through dungeons by night. However, there is a time limit on these events as the debt collectors will put a deadline on when you need to pay a fee.
During night time, players get to explore a strange dungeon that appears within a tree. Each time you enter, the levels are randomly generated, and you must move from floor to floor, collecting items, and learning new skills. Dungeon crawling is shown at an isometric camera angle that can’t be adjusted. This took some getting used as I’m used to over the top dungeon crawlers.
I will say that the developer did a fantastic job of bringing this genre to the 3D space. Running dungeons have a nostalgic feel to them, but the presentation makes it come across unique. Dungeons are dark and full of materials to collect. After several floors are cleared, you’ll fight against a boss. Following the boss battle, it’s possible to warp to checkpoints within the dungeon if you die or leave to return to the real world.
Leaving the dungeon results in your level being reset, but you hold onto your skills and materials. Trust me when I say that it’s better to leave than to die in the dungeon since death makes you lose all the items you were holding onto at the time. It’s possible to store items and money in you blacksmith, though, so preemptively doing these tasks will save you a lot of grief.
During the day time, players are in for many surprises throughout the adventure. In the beginning, there’s not much to do around the area, but after some time, vendors and events occur the liven it up. There are times when your dialogue choices can result in a nice reward or extra feature, which makes each conversation unique.
In the beginning, you’ll quickly realize that you’ll never have enough money to pay off the debt by running dungeons alone. This is why the blacksmith becomes your priority. Using materials found in the dungeons, players enhance the blacksmith and sell to local groups. This also increases your affinity with these groups for additional rewards.
There is a ton of optional quests to go on in this game, but sadly the organization of it all gets a little confusing. Players will need to remember to check specific signs and talk to the right people to get anything done. It doesn’t help that the menus are more confusing than the maze-like dungeons you’ll find yourself in.
Additionally, throughout your adventure, there is so many subevent that need your attention. Dealing with them can mean gaining a lot or losing everything. It’s also possible to deliver items to the kidnapped daughter and receive special items because, well, you see, the reasoning you’re doing all of this could be because you want to marry her.
Weapons in the game come with a variety of different styles. This also changes the way players should approach battles. Fights are kept engaging as the player will need to block and dodge to avoid damage. Some enemies can be pushovers, but late-game enemies don’t mess around. Figuring out your favorite weapon types and utilizing the skills gained through battles is necessary for survival.
Also, weapons can break and will need repair. Enhancing weapons comes at the cost of materials, and there is a deep layer of possible options to make your favorite swords stronger. The game does a pretty bad job at teaching the player many of these features and realize on text boxes to quickly show you the ropes. Incorporating these small details into the opening of the game would have been much more beneficial during my first hours of gameplay. Elements like the effects of cursed swords or what happens when vigor runs out are things that I’d like to know.
Graphically, Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story is a beautiful game that reuses many set pieces through its dungeon design. The simplistic presentation of these dungeons doesn’t have a lasting effect on the experience since you don’t really spend much time in them as you move on to the next floor. Sound design is decent, but the noises that some enemies make can get somewhat repetitive.
There are also online elements of the game where players can team up to take on dungeon floors alone. I was able to find a partner as well as a rival during my travels. Defeated an enemy player will allow you access to all of the items that they lost, which was sad for me because I knew the feeling of losing everything, but I took it all anyway.
I found some issues with the hitboxes during battles. Some of my attacks simply didn’t connect, and I could clearly see that it connected. This happened numerous times, but thankfully the special attack earned after dodging or blocking at the right moment was always responsive.
Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story is a must-play for roguelike fans. The game loop of earning money by day and fighting monsters by night creates a fantastic gameplay experience. Still, there are some features that could use some clarity and confusing menus do more harm than good to its accessibility. Now, if you are a fan of the Way of the Samurai series, you’ll feel rewarded many times during this adventure as there are many cameos and callbacks to the series.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.