Review By: J.
has charmed its way into the hearts of gamers everywhere. It
could be because what the game lacks in production values it
makes up for in personality. It manages to perfectly capture the
feel of low-budget samurai swordplay films by placing you in the
role of a wandering swordsman who must ultimately decide the
fate of a small village. There are many paths to follow along
the way, and each path leads to a unique outcome. This
open-ended structure, combined with the gameís intuitive
combat system, will keep you coming back for more, despite some
the first thing a gamer will notice about WOTS are the
visuals. While not downright ugly, per say, the game is a far
cry from what one would expect of a next generation title. The
environments are repetitive, the textures flat, the palette
dull, and the models barely above standard. Jagged edges
surround everything on the screen and locations feel more like
static backdrops than anything else. Overall it seems like the
graphics engine dates back to the days of the PSone, as it would
have barely passed as a Dreamcast launch title three years ago.
graphics could have been worst, sadly the same cannot be said
for the music. This game features one of the most schizophrenic
soundtracks in gaming, fitting off-kilter drum-and-bass tracks
and bad 80s hair metal into a feudal Japanese setting. The few
quality songs present in the game only serve as a painful
reminded of what could have been if the developers chose to
stick with a traditional swordplay soundtrack.
far the sound effects are this gameís biggest failing. Way
of the Samuraiís "voiceovers" are just about the
most pathetic ever seen in a game. It would have been a blessing
to hear voices of the same "quality" as, say, Resident
Evil, because instead of clunky, emotionless soap opera
dialogue, these characters are limited to neanderthaloid grunts,
groans, and other monosyllabic exclamations, begging the
question, "Why even bother with voiceovers at all?"
Sound effects are equally slipshod as everything else so far,
consisting of a maximum of maybe 10 different sounds. Overall,
one could gather that very little effort was put into the visual
and auditory presentation of the game. But once gamers begin to
explore the game a bit, however, they will discover where all
that excess effort went.
By now you
must be thinking to yourself that this game sounds pretty
terrible, and it would if the review ended here, but it doesnít.
Luckily for everyone this game has "it" in all the
right places, which is in Way of the Samuraiís gameplay
and enjoyment level. For starters the combat in the game is
surprisingly open, allowing players to unsheathe their blade at
any time and engage in combat with just about anyone they see.
Once locked in battle, players move and attack under mechanics
similar to Bushido Blade 2. These mechanics work
perfectly in the world of WOTS, making this one of the
few 3rd person action-adventure games to rely on
melee combat that never becomes troublesome, awkward, or
tedious. And good thing too, because this game is very combat
heavy and would have become unplayable after a few minutes if
the fighting was cumbersome or shallow in any way.
If you look
for a little more substance in your games then what none-stop
fighting provides, youíre in luck, as Way of the Samurai
adds enough story to keep gamers interested for weeks. The
breadth of this game is enough to overcome itsí homely visual
appeal and sloppy soundscape. The story places you in the middle
of a small-town conflict that will ultimately be decided by whom
you pledge your allegiance. All this is done in a very free form
method that letís you be as active or as passive in as many
story arches as you wish. You can change alliance as often as
you choose, get involved in any number of side quests, or you
can end the game at any point by simply leaving the town
in Way of the Samurai is only a few hours long and able
to be completed in one sitting with no saves. This comes in
handy too, since Way of the Samurai only allows you to
load once before erasing your save file automatically, to both
ensure that any experimentation will be done on a new game and
to give each adventure a sense of high stakes. And does it ever
work, as most gamers will give WOTS at least half a dozen
run-throughs correcting the mistakes of the past or exploring
other possible outcomes. Itís this idea of the
"bite-sized game" that makes WOTS so much fun
and so unique.
strength is in itsí length. While most games try to be as long
and complex as possible, WOTS tries to be very simply and
very short. That is because the game is designed to be more of a
collective experience rather than a singular story. Each ending
reveals a piece of the whole picture; each character you
complete the game with becomes part of a tapestry of
possibilities, an experiment in tampering with the past. Itís
this aspect that sets this game apart from others. Dieing is no
problem, taking the cowardís way out or becoming the villain
makes me difference, because you can always go back and become
the hero, save the day and ride off into the sunset. Each new
game starts in the same situation, but could end in any way at
consent in each new game is your armory, which can be carried
over from adventure to adventure, serving as relics of your
previous lives. Weapons in your arsenal improve over time,
enhancing with upgrades provided by the local blacksmith at a
small fee or gaining more powerful attacks and longer
combinations. The finding of new weapons, like in any good
"role-playing game", eventually becomes major
incentive to push onward and tackle greater odds and to complete
the game as many times as possible in an effort to collect all
the most powerful weapons.
the building up of weapons, the game also features a number of
other incentives for completing the game numerous times, most
notably a verses mode that should sustain anyone whoís play Kengo
to death while waiting for a sequel. Each time a new
character is introduced in the main game he or she is made
selectable in the verses mode. Weapons in your inventory can
also be imported into the verses mode allowing you to gain some
much-needed practice with your blade of choice. Practice can
also be found in the gameís tutorial, which features both
basic and advanced fighting lessons.
that you are simply an observer, simply a passerby who can
involve himself in the events of the game as much or as little
as he chooses is a very unique one for a game. It creates a
blank slate in which you can paint any number of adventures on,
and all of them are worth experiencing. Way of the Samurai
isnít the prettiest game ever made, it may not have the best
music or sound effects every recorded, nor is the saving system
the most user friendly, but it does create the feel of an
interactive Kurosawa film in which you write the story as you
go. And for anyone who ever dreamed of doing just that it is
worth putting up with dated graphics and irritating music. This
game is a real gem and although it may not appeal to everyone,
those who it will appeal to will be grateful that it got
- Combat is
intuitive and entertaining.
storylines provide plenty of replay value.
concept and feel.
- Plenty of
reasons to come back to the game time and time again.
mode is a nice bonus.
music and sound effects.
feature is a pain in the rear.
game wonít appeal to everyone, those who place entertainment
value well above presentation will find this game well worth their
time and money. Highly recommended for fans of Asian cinema.