When you pick up one of Omega Force’s Warriors games, you know what you’re going to get. All play similarly, with huge casts of characters, weapons to collect and maps with officers to hack and slash to death. Samurai Warriors Chronicles is very much one of those games, and people looking for a profound shift in what the game is are out of luck. There’s quite a contingent of people who love the feeling of playing these games, though, as it’s the game equivalent of a cheap pizza: it may not be a high-quality meal, but it’s comforting to kick back with a slice.
This time, you’ll be kicking back in 3D, though. The game implements it subtly, and that’s nice. the engine runs well, and the smaller viewing area helps with the series’ trademark framerate and slowdown issues. It certainly isn’t trying anything new, but that’s not exactly unexpected. Thankfully, though, Chronicles doesn’t use the segmented-map tactics of the series’ previous portable titles, as the grand map is what really makes the game fun.
In the campaign mode, you create a character and play through his or her life. There’s not that much to the customization, but you do name the person and answer some personality questions to determine base attributes. The visuals aren’t customizable, but the protagonist is in many cutscenes and that’s probably the reason. The one twist in Chronicles that changes the gameplay? You control a group of up to four different warriors on the battlefield, and over the course of the battle you’ll be presented with short-term goals to complete. These often have time limits of as low as 30 seconds, and that’s where the switching comes in: battlefield positioning can keep you from losing valuable seconds in completing missions. Some missions even require that a specific character complete a task like defeating an officer or defending an area. Most aren’t vital to winning the whole battle, but each gives a bonus like experience or items, and it’s recorded for people who strive for completion.
There are some things included to keep you busy after completing (or between advancing in) the campaign. You can return to battles you’ve cleared to grind for levels and try out new strategies. You can also use StreetPass functionality in a similar way to Street Fighter, with your characters’ stats used for passive skirmishes with others’ team. It’s a fun diversion, but there’s not much depth there. Sadly, there’s no actual multiplayer here either, and we would have liked to see that, since co-op makes the console versions a lot more fun.
Sure, Samurai Warriors Chronicles feels a bit recycled, but in a launch lineup of recycled games, it has an interesting storyline, a polished engine and a formula great for just passing the time. Your level of enjoyment entirely depends on whether you like the series, but there’s no fatal flaw here to keep you from having a good time.
Pros: Progression and replay value in a depth-starved launch, smooth controls
Cons: Too frantic at times with character switching, Warriors fatigue in full effect