The tower defense genre has boomed on handhelds, and the DS is no different. Abylight’s Dairojo! Samurai Defenders is a lightweight downloadable entry into the genre, and the $8 DSiWare title replaces faceless towers with traditional Japanese warriors. Does that make a difference?
Unfortunately, it really doesn’t. It makes for an interesting visual theme; various samurai and ninja opponents try to storm your castle, and it’s amusing to see the “flying” enemies and such, but essentially you’re running a tower defense game. Your units include the base spearmen, range-tastic archers and gunners, powerful cannons and stat-boosting generals. You’ll go up against burrowing enemies, enemies riding kites and other such things, which further emphasizes that this theme is just that: a coat of paint.
Dairojo includes 3 modes: Normal Mode, Score Attack and Random Mode. We can tell that the modes are different, but it’s unclear in what ways. You’re basically dealing with trial and error, as there’s no intuitive way to place samurai or tutorial explaining the differences. (You can look in the DSiWare manual, but there’s a lot of effort to get through to look at the section on the differences, and even then it’s not clear what each are for.)
A bonus we like very much: the game includes Download Play, where you can beam the game to any DS and play simultaneously, with the winner being whoever survives longest against identical waves.
Besides that, it’s a tower defense game with little accessibility and unknown depth. This would be a disastrous retail title, but as an $8 game only available to DSi owners monitoring DSiWare releases? Yeah, that’s the target market. It should be no one’s first tower defense game, but genre madmen want whatever they can get.