Starting out as a free-to-play collectible card browser game, Touken Ranbu is now a massive franchise. And so of course it’s got the full video game treatment.
For those not familiar with Touken Ranbu, it involves a sage who travels to the past in order to defeat evil forces that wish to change the course of history. But more importantly, he has the ability to bring legendary swords to life. It’s the fact that they’re all depicted as attractive-looking young men that has made the franchise particularly popular with young women. You don’t need to swoon over the characters of Touken Ranbu Warriors to enjoy it, though. You just need the desire to slash at hundreds, if not thousands of foul demons and monstrosities.
It’s perhaps best to think of Touken Ranbu Warriors as “My First Warriors Game”. Designed for Nintendo Switch and aimed at a hugely casual market, what’s on offer here is toned down in numerous ways from a typical Warriors release such as Samurai Warriors 5 and Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires. Players can opt for a simplified combat system, for example, where simply mashing the standard attack button will perform flashy combos. And then there are game’s battles, which take place on much smaller maps and play out in a largely linear fashion. Generally, each battle lasts just a few minutes.
Still, if players opt for the standard battle system, this plays much like a recent Warriors game but on a much smaller scale. In each of the game’s story missions you’re able to select a character from a small pool of those available, and then it’s simply a case of moving across the map while wiping out key enemy forces and achieving objectives. Standard attacks are your bread and butter, but you can use special attacks as contextual finishers. Then, to add additional combat options, a range of assignable special attacks are available, as well as team attacks and a screen clearing Hissatsu attack.
As ever, combat is fast, frenetic and fun. The removal of a block function also keeps you on your toes, with you needing to dodge incoming attacks instead. And some missions require you to analyse the battlefield for clues; fail to discover all the information you’re after, and upon reaching the end point you fail. It’s just a shame that the short and claustrophobic map design suffocates you, keeping the fun merely bite-sized and removing any depth. It soon becomes more repetitive than ever.
But there’s more to Touken Ranbu Warriors than just battles. Between each bout of action you return to your Honmaru, and it’s here that you can upgrade your characters using the materials you’ve acquired, buy items, and more. You can station your characters to various areas of the Honmaru so that they acquire experience and materials even if they don’t play an active role in battle, for instance. You can partake in mini-games, too, such as harvesting crops and arranging flowers. They’re simple distractions, but fairly entertaining nonetheless.
For most though, it’s the story here that will be the driving force. And it’s told in a way that even if you’re not familiar with the franchise, you can get some enjoyment out of. There are many story scenes, and while they’re not presented in the most engaging way, with largely static characters and text boxes accompanied by Japanese voice acting, the tale here is at least interesting. How many other games feature a demonic army, travelling into the past to change future events? Not many, I’m sure. And chances are you’ll grow to like the Touken Danshi – the warriors called into action to combat the movement.
We’ve been playing the PC version of Touken Ranbu Warriors, and unfortunately the port isn’t perfect. The are no graphics options beyond a generic Low/Medium/High setting, for example. And even though the game isn’t exactly good-looking at the high setting, it’s not very well optimised. Even with a Ryzen 5 3600 CPU paired with a NVIDIA RTX 3070 graphics card, considerably exceeding the recommended specs, we couldn’t maintain a constant 60fps at 1440p.
Fans of Touken Ranbu will likely enjoy Touken Ranbu Warriors, but those who are also keen gamers will see its obvious flaws. This is a cut-down Warriors experience, for better and for worse. Newcomers may appreciate the more bite-sized maps that you move through in a linear fashion, but others will find them suffocating. And ultimately, the gameplay just feels more repetitive than ever. Still, if you want to follow the story of Touken Ranbu and feel like you’re part of the action, it might be worth a look.
Touken Ranbu Warriors Review – GameSpew’s Score