Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada Review

It’s fairly old news now that the typical Warriors gameplay will be overhauled for Dynasty Warriors 9.

To be fair though, it’s about time – there’s been so many releases using the same hack and slash template this generation already that it’s starting to become a bit stale. But before we say au revoir to the old and step into a bold new world, Koei Tecmo wants to give us one last fling with the classic gameplay while spicing things up a little with a few tweaks here and there. Enter Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada.

Chronicling the rise and fall of the Sanada clan, Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada has a story that spans 54 years; its characters aging accordingly before giving way to new blood. As a result, it’s a much more focused and personal affair, and it’s all the better for it.

Twists and turns hit closer to home and you get to learn about those around you more intimately, leading to game that feels warmer and more fulfilling. In gameplay terms, however, it means you won’t be playing as quite so many characters as you normally would, but there’s still a sizable roster of companions that you can take into battle and switch over to at will. Many will need to be sweetened up with gifts first though, but Samurai Warriors Spirit of Sanada makes it an easy process thanks to its introduction of exploration stages.

New to the series, exploration stages consist of many small connected areas and are usually visited to complete menial tasks between large battles. That doesn’t mean that enemies don’t also sometimes lay in wait for a bit of a tussle though. One of the best things about exploration stages, however, is that they are rife with items just waiting for you to collect them, and you can return to do so as often as you like.

Spirit of Sanada body

Aside from making great gifts for your friends, the items that you find have a range of uses. Materials can be used to upgrade your weapons at the blacksmith, for instance, whilst bait can be used to improve your chances when fishing. That’s right, fishing, in a Warriors game. You can even sow seeds in a farmer’s field and harvest the crops once they’ve grown. There’s a wealth of busywork to be done in Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada’s hub if you want to, offering a nice respite from battle.

When the time does come to wage war,  Spirit of Sanada’s hack and slash gameplay is essentially the same as that found in Samurai Warriors 4 and its two standalone expansions, though there are a few changes made to keep you on your toes. A day and night cycle has been implemented, with ninja springing out from the cover of darkness to stab you in the back, and there’s a stratagem system that enables you to gain the upper hand in battle providing you have enough Sanada Coins to spare.

The biggest change, however, is that battles are now multi-stage affairs; your exploits in one stage possibly having an effect on how the successive one pans out. Ensuring someone survives an ambush in the second stage of a battle may mean they’ll be able to assist you during an arduous moment in the third, for example. It adds more weight to your actions, giving you greater impetus to complete the many objectives you are presented with in the heat of battle. Though, to do so, you’ll have to move around the battlefield effectively, learning to prioritise the most critical tasks.

For any Samurai Warriors veteran, Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada will feel like a pair of comfy old slippers – easy to slide into, and once you’re in their warm embrace you won’t want to part company with them until they’ve become a little too sweaty and overbearing. In layman’s terms; the core gameplay hasn’t actually been changed all that much at all, meaning that the thick action synonymous with the series eventually just becomes as tiresome and repetitive as it always has. Until you reach that point, however, it’s a great deal of stupid fun that’s easy to love.

Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is available on PS4 and PC. We reviewed the PS4 version.