Old School Review: Way of the Samurai.
(AfroGamers.com) What game is the most samurai game ever? Is it Samurai Warriors? Not close. Actually, if I could write out the sound effect for a buzzer, I’d do it but that’s bad taste or something. How about Bushido Blade? If you guessed that, you’re definitely in flavor country but not exactly.
The question falls apart once Kengo is mentioned. Depending on you ask, Kengo is either truly amazing in how realistic it is or really boring in how overly realistic it is. I’m in the first camp but we’re talking about the most samurai game that would be fun to roughly anyone. Not the most Dark Souls of samurai games.
A Tale of Two Clans
That’s where we get to Way of the Samurai on the Playstation 2. It came out in 2003 and had you take the role of a ronin who arrives in a small town facing change as the new, foreign-influenced government rolls in. Yes, we’re out of the Tokugawa Era and now we’re in the Meiji Era. It’s 1878 and Japan has been opened.
There are two main factions fighting for power in the area, the Kurou Clan, lead by Tesshin Kurou, has had power for years and wants to hold on against the new government. The problem is that the new government, heavily influenced by western innovation and culture, have the advantage in weaponry.
To prevent loses, the Kurou opt to sell the iron foundry in the area but have to deal with the villagers who won’t leave. Mind you, it looks like everyone already bounced outside a few villagers and the rival clans. The village is bare, just about devoid of life and its just weird how the Kurou assaults the few folks still left.
The other clan is the Akadama Clan was formed by the illegitimate son of Kurou’s leader. Young and hotted, Kitcho wants to defeat the Kurou whom he can feels are traitors and smash the Meiji government. Tall orders right? Especially when your base of operations is a near ghost town where the population is mainly split between your two clans!
Where It Shines
There are two areas where Way of the Samurai shines. The first is the gameplay, it’s a straight up slash ‘em up action game. In some ways its similar to Samurai Warriors or Dynasty Warriors only you’re not mashing square over and over until its time to pop a Musou attack and clear the room. Instead, it’s a not-as-flashy version of the Warriors approach and it works since you’re not fighting on wide battlefields.
It’s also cool that you collect swords from fallen foes and can have them improved. Of course, since you only have a handful time to make money to do this. Also, you can only have two or three swords at a time. Swords gained can dull and break, losing their effectiveness.
The other area where Way of the Samurai shines is the story. Depending on your actions the game can take several different paths for six endings. You can avoid conflict and just leave Rokkotsu Pass without becoming involved or removing your sword. You’re also able to pick one of the clans or side with the villagers–all four of them.
From there, depending on how you carry out certain missions for the faction or what time of day that you run into main characters, the story can branch off. Character deaths also play a role in how the story unfolds. Way of the Samurai was pretty much ahead of other games in this respect.
The glaring flaw with Way of the Samurai is that you only have two days of story. This changes with the sequels but this game gives you a little time to do quite a bit of story. On one hand, there’s not really much going on in Rokkotsu Pass because there’s no villagers. On the other, there’s a lot going on, you just showed up at the tail end of everything.
The bright side to this limitation is that it cuts down on the whole “I’m just gonna run around aimlessly!” style of plan. Some love that, I’m not a fan of it and it’s boring to watch and do. Doing that in Samurai and the game is over before you know it.
That aside, the actual combat is very solid, allowing for heated duels and intense melees. It’s a combat mechanic that totally works. Definitely pick up Way of the Samurai if you can. It’s available on PSP and you’ll have to hunt for it Amazon or eBay–where it’s most likely worth more than it was at launch.
Rating: 7 out 10 (Recommended)
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.