Samurai Warriors 5 Review – Artistic and Stylish Musou

    Title: Samurai Warriors 5
    Developer: Omega Force
    Release Date: July 27, 2021
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Koei Tecmo
    Genre: Musou Action

Samurai Warriors 5 is the newest entry in Koei Tecmo’s Samurai Warriors franchise that acts as a reboot of sorts with an updated artistic direction. The question is how developer Omega Force approached this task without alienating long-time fans or deviating too far from the established formula. After playing, it’s easy to see that there are still awesome stories to tell in this series, and I’m all here for this action-filled experience.

Samurai Warriors 5 is a reimagining of the story from the original Samurai Warriors told through the perspective of both Nobunaga Oda and Mitsuhide Akechi. Nobunaga begins his ambitious plan to unify Japan with his clan and alliances made during these historical events in their younger years.

The story is condensed into two routes focusing on Nobunaga and Mitsuhide, but the focus shifts to other characters such as Ieyasu Tokugawa and Hideyoshi Hashiba. These different stories occur during optional stages unlocked through gameplay.

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The narrative is a loose adaptation of the events that happened during the Sengoku era. There are liberties taken regarding events, but the characters make the historical beats enjoyable and easy to digest. For instance, Nobunaga Oda was typically portrayed more cheesy, but seeing him in his younger years was a nice contrast. The Japanese voice acting enhances the experience fueled by big-name voice actors who do a standout job. I enjoyed the soundtrack a lot as it had many tracks and remixes from the previous entries.

The most significant change in Samurai Warriors 5 is its new visual style and presentation inspired by traditional Japanese art. The vibrant and colorful battlefields make the redesigned characters look incredible with cel-shaded models and capture the conventional Japanese ink art aesthetic with bold brushstrokes showing on their outfits.

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This is especially the case when you perform a Musou Frenzy attack capped off by beautiful artwork of the character striking a pose. It adds a lot of flair to the presentation and action, which continually impressed me.

The game performed smoothly on the Playstation 4 with a steady 60FPS, but that can sometimes dip when things became overly hectic. However, this didn’t occur often, and it didn’t detract from the experience.

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Playtime is spent between Musou Mode, the game’s main campaign, and Citadel Mode, which requires you to defend your base from enemies for a certain amount of time or beat the boss. You are encouraged to play both modes as it affects progression.

Citadel mode rewards you with materials that upgrade your castle. Throughout this mode, you can improve your Dojo to manage character equipment, raise levels and weapon mastery, and acquire new skills which range from stat boosts to passive. Further, there’s the Blacksmith, where you can upgrade weapons with Skill gems and crafting new weapons. Citadel Mode also features events for characters who share scenes to raise their bond levels. These modes can be played co-op with a friend online or with a friend on the couch.

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During gameplay, you’ll fight through a good amount of varied and expansive stages. There are main and side objectives to clear that have you tearing through thousands of enemy soldiers who stand in your way. This is done with a mix of normal attacks, power/charge attacks, and the special Musou and Musou Frenzy attacks that can wipe out your enemies in a spectacular manner. Hyper Attacks make a comeback from the previous entries where you can zip across the battlefield while attacking enemies. It’s an effective way to fight but doesn’t perform well against officers or special units that have powerful weapons or shields with a blue glow to prevent you from performing these moves without previously comboing them.

New features have been added to the combat system, such as the Ultimate Skills. These vary from special attacks to limited-time buffs on a cooldown timer with expanded aerial combat options. There are also some pretty neat additions that I recognized from One Piece Pirate Warriors 4. Even though these were part of a spin-off title, the features worked well in execution. Still, Samurai Warriors 5 doesn’t change too much from the gameplay formula of Samurai Warriors 4, but returning fans will notice the more nuanced updates to the mechanics.

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Ultimately, gameplay provides a fast and frantic experience, and that’s all I could have asked for. In addition, I ended up with a few new favorite characters throughout my playtime, such as Sandayū Momochi, Kazuuji Nakamura, Sena, and Yasuke.

Strangely, a majority of the fifteen available weapon types are preferred by two or more characters in the roster of 39 playable characters. As a result, these characters have cloned movesets with a few minor differences, such as unique charge attacks in their combo strings.

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Still, some weapon types only have one character associated with them, such as the drums, which are preferred by Hanbei Takanaka, and the Kusarigama, which is Sandayū Momochi’s weapon choice. Of course, you can equip any weapon you want to any character, but that feels like a band-aid solution to this flaw that has been a source of debate within the community.

The implementation of Ultimate Skills while welcome is also a bit flawed as most of them are tied to the equipped weapon. The characters can learn one unique ultimate skill from their skill trees, but I would have appreciated it if there were multiple ultimate skills to learn for each character.

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Samurai Warriors 5 provides a fresh start for the franchise through a focused narrative while retaining what fans love. It builds on the established formula rather than overhauling it completely creating a balanced action experience. Despite issues with repetitive movesets and the limited Ultimate Skills, I had a great time returning to the battlefield that has only been better with this updated aesthetic.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Heather De Boer

Been around the block as a Games Journalist for a year. Loves JRPGs, Fighting Games and Action games a lot but loves to dabble in adventure, horror and visual novels as well.