The moment the Wii’s control scheme was initially announced, gamers worldwide were abuzz with ideas for games, and the concept of a swordfighting game was usually at the top of the list. Ubisoft’s Red Steel was the first attempt at this, but many found the controls inaccurate and the game lacking. With Samurai Warriors: Katana, Koei took a simpler approach, putting levels on rails like Ghost Squad and focusing on controlling the sword itself.
Unfortunately, this was ultimately not a success. The Samurai Warriors license feels like it should be accompanied by feverish, wild slashing with the Wii remote, and instead most of the time players end up aiming and shooting instead of hacking and slashing.
Katana feels like an attempt to capitalize on what made Samurai Warriors fun, but it seems to have missed the mark a bit. Sure, the initial excitement of the series comes from 50-hit combos and cool animations, but fans stick around for the strategic army movements and RPG elements. There is some weapon customization in the title, but nothing really changes in the base gameplay. All it allows is for one less slash to take out an enemy or a bit longer life for the player.
The graphics for this game are almost laughable. Almost everything looks recycled from the original PS2 title, which was designed to display dozens of enemies on screen at a time. The more powerful Wii and gameplay with less opponents should have made Koei go with higher polygon counts and more detail. Also, be warned: Katana suffers from the all-too-prevalent gimmick syndrome. As if a swordfighting game wasn’t gimmicky enough, Katana has players shaking the remote and Nunchuk for no reason as well. This is the time in the system’s lifespan that these sort of knee-jerk reactions should be fading away, but we’re not so fortunate yet.
The title isn’t a complete failure, though. Boss fights are certainly more epic than in the main series, and require knowing some advanced tactics to succeed. Also, the one-player campaign, if repetitive, is relatively long and includes a few attempts at variety. Finally, though it’s not a deep mode, there are a few 2-player minigames for a few seconds of fun.
That’s the true nature of Samurai Warriors: Katana, really – it’s for a burst of fun. In many ways, that makes it an ideal rental. Anyone hoping to get a full fifty bucks of enjoyment out of it, though, will be sadly disappointed.