The Way of the Samurai series has been around since 2002. While it hasn’t garnered the most favorable of reviews throughout its lifetime, it keep getting released year after year for the niche crowd that seems to like this series and its sometimes-bizarre nature. Do the problems that plagued the previous versions continue to prevent the series from advancing? More or less, I suppose.
The game’s story lands you Japan in 1855 in the fictional town of Amihama. Upon your arrival, you see a huge battle taking place between the three different factions in the town. At odds are the Shogunate Forces, the established military and government of the town; the Prajna, an anti-foreigner group in the town; and the British Consulate, foreigners hoping to expand relations to the Japanese locals. It’s at this point where you’re left with the choice of either joining the fight and helping out a specific side or just completely avoiding the fight altogether. Depending on your choice, it starts a large chain of influence that will further affect how your game is played. Overall, the choices you make over the span of five in-game days will determine your ending.
An interesting element of the endings is that every choice you make in one run will actually affect your next playthrough. For example, if you somehow kill the successor to the blacksmith in one run, he’ll never appear in another, nor would you be able to finish the mission set out for him. Every choice makes a difference. From main characters related to the plot to how you interact with the townspeople, each interaction plays a role in how the game will progress and restart.
Another large part of this game is the battles. While the game gives you a ton of options for different styles with swords, spears, and hand-to-hand combat, it falters due to the lack of a proper system to make it all flow. A lot of times I had trouble locking on to an enemy, or even redirecting my focus to another character, since there was almost no way to switch your character unless you were free-running. The various amounts of styles available were nice, but almost felt useless since the fighting didn’t work out the way I had hoped.
Graphically, Way of the Samurai 4 looks stuck in the PS2 era. It seems like lost potential when your customization options are as limited as they are, and they don’t even look that great. Environments are okay-looking and the character models are only adequate, but everything is tolerable for the most part.
Weapon enhancement and creation is nice in the game. The game allows you to enhance attributes, as well as repair, appraise or even melt or breakdown weapons to make better weapons. Newly introduced into the series, since the British make their appearance, are muskets and pistols.
Overall, the game is exactly what you’d expect: A cheesy plot that seems to play out like a B-movie (but decent enough to still be interesting), a mediocre battle system and okay graphics. The game isn’t anything to write home about, but if you have the chance to play it, it’s still worth a shot.
Pros: Setting, New Game+ elements keep things interesting
Cons: Dated graphics, battle system still needs work