Samurai Warriors 2 Story Mode Hands-On

We check out a work-in-progress version of Omega Force's upcoming sequel to Samurai Warriors, now on the Xbox 360.

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Currently scheduled for release in September, Samurai Warriors 2 is a third-person action game set in feudal Japan. Like its predecessor and the Dynasty Warriors games before it, Samurai Warriors 2 will see you donning the armor of a legendary warrior and mowing down literally hundreds of enemies as you move around large battlefields and complete mission objectives. We recently received a work-in-progress Xbox 360 version of Samurai Warriors 2, and we've played through some missions from several of the 26 characters' story modes so that we might share some impressions with you.

After you opt for Samurai Warriors 2's story mode, the first thing you'll need to do is decide which character you want to play as. Only seven of the game's 26 characters are available from the outset, including four of the 10 new playable characters and three familiar faces from the previous game: Yukimura Sanada, Mitsuhide Akechi, and Oichi. Each warrior will play through the game's story from their own perspective, and each has his own strengths and weaknesses, as denoted by their ratings in a handful of different attributes on the character screen. The special moves available to each character also vary a great deal, so while one might be able to summon lightning from the sky or whistle for a horse, another might be able to lay mines or grab and throw enemies. After settling on a character and opting for one of Samurai Warriors 2's three difficulty settings, you'll be presented with a map of your first mission and given an opportunity to customize your equipment and such before going to battle.

The Xbox 360 game looks a lot better than its PS2 counterpart, but it hardly appears to be taxing the system.
The Xbox 360 game looks a lot better than its PS2 counterpart, but it hardly appears to be taxing the system.

In addition to listing the key victory and loss conditions for your upcoming mission, the map screen shows you the locations of both armies as well as the other legendary warriors that will be fighting alongside you. Your other options at this point will initially be very limited, but as you play through the story you'll gain access to new abilities and equipment that can be swapped out in between missions. Some of the weapons that you find on the battlefield will boost certain attributes when you wield them, for example, and when choosing which bodyguard you'd like to have watching your back during battle, you might decide that an archer or a musketeer is more suitable than a sumo or a ninja for certain maps. You'll earn gold as you progress through the game, which can be used at the store to buy new guards, upgrade weapons, purchase a mount, or add new skills to your repertoire. The Xbox 360 version of Samurai Warriors 2 will make special bodyguards and mounts available for download post-release, though no specific information has been given about the game's downloadable content at this time.

The skills system in Samurai Warriors 2 has arguably received the most significant changes since the original game was released in 2004. Rather than spending points to learn new skills, you'll now learn them either by slaying enemy officers or by purchasing them at the aforementioned shop. Skills in the game come in four distinct flavors: ability skills raise the maximum strength of abilities such as defense, luck, and your life gauge; growth skills increase the bonuses that you get when your character levels up; battle skills determine how often you get critical strikes and are able to resist enemy attacks; and special skills include things like making healing or power-up items more effective, learning new skills from defeated enemy officers more frequently, and restoring some of your life every time you kill 100 enemies. The skills system is quite interesting and certainly affords you some freedom to create a warrior well suited to your play style, although given how mindless the majority of the gameplay is, style is rarely a consideration.

Although you'll be accompanied by your personal guard and a handful of soldiers for much of the time that you're on the battlefield, you can think of yourself as a one-man army, not only because your character is so immensely powerful, but also because your colleagues won't always be as helpful as they should be. The combat in Samurai Warriors 2 is simplistic but satisfying--melee attacks and very lengthy combos are performed using only two buttons, powerful musou attacks can be used frequently, and the guard and evade commands are very effective when used correctly. Special attacks are new for Samurai Warriors 2, and they can be executed by holding down a shoulder button when performing a melee attack (these are significantly more powerful than the regular attacks, but they're also noticeably slower).

Battlefield updates and pleas for help from allies flash on the screen quite frequently.
Battlefield updates and pleas for help from allies flash on the screen quite frequently.

While the actual combat in Samurai Warriors 2 rarely requires much thought, prioritizing and completing mission objectives can certainly be quite challenging. Each mission has victory and loss conditions, so, for example, you might be tasked with slaying an enemy officer while ensuring the safety of your main camp. All of the maps that we've played on thus far have been quite sizable, and even with a mount to get us across the map more quickly, there were occasions when we simply didn't respond to an allied officer's plea for assistance in time. Assisting allies in trouble is definitely something that you'll be spending a lot of time doing throughout the course of a mission, but you'll also find some far more interesting objectives that can have significant repercussions later in the battle. For instance, we played through as Mitsuhide Akechi in one of the missions, and we were asked to escort a group of engineers from one allied base to another so that they could use explosives to blow a hole in the wall of an enemy stronghold. Failing to complete this objective didn't mean that the mission was lost; it simply meant that getting into the stronghold to assassinate our target was a lengthier and slightly more difficult process.

Although we haven't had an opportunity to try them yet, both the PS2 and Xbox 360 versions of Samurai Warriors 2 will support cooperative play for two players. The Xbox 360 game will also support competitive battles between two players across Xbox Live. In addition to the story mode that we've been playing, the finished game will feature a free mode, which lets you play through any stages that you've cleared previously; a survival mode, in which you battle through an endless castle to see how many levels you can clear; and a board game named Sugoroku that supports up to four players. We'll bring you more information on Samurai Warriors 2 as soon as it becomes available.

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