As i previously said while discussing the demo for it, i eventually did get the pricey ass retail North American version, since i wasn’t paying full price for digital, or 100 bucks for the game and one of the most desperate and worthless example of season pass content ever devised by a publisher.
Due to import taxes i paid the same anyway, but we’ll talk about that later in the review.
FIY the game is also available worlwide digitally on Steam.
Touken Ranbu Warriors story is set in 2205, about a group of Touken Danshi sent back in the Sengoku period in order to avoid timeline alterations by the History Retrograde Army.
What are Touken Danshi? But beatiful boys with the souls of legendary japanese swords (often as iconic and famed as their possessors/wielders) bestowed upon them, because nothing else aside “bishounen sword boys” would strike fear in those dastardly time travelling history revisionists.
Which is a cool premise, honestly, even if this is kinda par for the course, being basically the same plot of the original game this Warriors spin-off is based about, a browser title called Touken Ranbu Online, because Touken Ranbu Warriors is clearly made as a level-entry musou game to a series’ fanbase that might be unfamiliar with the musou formula. Nothing wrong with that.
Story it’s actually not bad, not original and there’s a lot of cliched plot devices, but i found myself more engrossed and intrigued than anticipated, even if it’s a bit weird how it being set into a far off future never comes too much into play despite the entire “past altering time revisionists doing a time travel” hook, shame if we ever got anywhere out of the “Sengoku comfort zone”.
If you played any Warriors game, you honestly won’t need any of the tutorials, as the formula is the familiar one you’d know to either love or hate by now.
Normal attack, charge attacks, special area clearing “musou attacks”, with the usual design choice seen in crossover Warriors game of having a dodge instead of a jump (or a parry, here absent), and the recent trend (seen also in Fate Extella Link) of ARPG style special attacks with cooldowns that you can equip in a 4 slots loadout, the ability to team up with another ally character on screen for a quick double attack , alongside some old stuff as the “duels clashes” where you cross swords with a named enemy and have to button mash in order to win the clash.
There’s also battle damage for the clothes, like there was in Fire Emblem Warriors, but honestly the new feature that stands out is the ability to call the fox Konnosuke to show you where to go on stages, making it extra clear that this is aimed to potential newcomers.
Still, it ain’t bad, still better combat than DW 9, though the symplified approach comes with some.. more or less expected caveats, as in, beside the absence of a move list (a big pet peeve of mine) anywhere in the game, there’s the fact the ALL special moves/attacks that you can equip in the loadout can be done via mixing light and heavy attacks, so the loadout ends up being simple shortcuts, instead of supplementing the normal combo system like in Pirate Warriors 4.
You can expand the combo strings of Normal Attacks, so there’s stuff to look forward to in terms of getting longer combos, though there’s not much in terms of strings, heck, there’s less, a bit less, but the Charge Attack system is pretty much there untouched (even if a bit simplified), as most of the systems, most renamed but working as in most Warriors title, like the Rage mode equivalent, etc.
Plus a Senran Kagura style system where having your clothes torn off by enemies attack make you enter a state where you have way less defense but higher offense power.
Also, while you select two characters for a mission, you can’t switch between them, the first selected one is the one you use, you can summon them for a simple assist attack, make them attack alongside you during the Rage mode, and if you improve the bonds you’ll be able to have the partner character provide a combo follow-up attack, or auto-guard you from an attack.
When i talked about the demo i joked about this being better than Samurai Warriors 5 in terms of roster… and it kinda is and kinda isn’t. The characters are less, 15 playable in total, and do NOT have shared movesets, not even the “twins”, but on the other hand there is the aforementioned issue of the special skills being just shortcuts to certain combos, and the movesets themselves, while not bad, were better and more varied in Samurai Warriors 5, as it was the overall feel of the combat.
It might not be totally fair as a comparison, but it’s kinda inevitable, especially due to the setting, though it doesn’t help that the first part of the narrative puts you in story battles where you -almost – exclusively play as the Yanbangiri “Twins”, as in one it’s the real sword, the other is a replica, so with characters that are even more similar to play as, since they’re supposed to be similar by design.
Once you get hold/get able to use other characters you can find some variation, from the short sword/dagger shota, the buff and grizzly Tonbonkiri lance, the Naginata “megane twink” swordboy, but there isn’t enough to shake up the “sameness” baked into this one, an unescapable one one might argue since the roster it’s all “swordboyz”… but then again, it’s probably Omega Force not feeling that bothered to try, so it didn’t more than the bare minimum.
In terms of level designs, Touken Ranbu Warriors does not throw you into the familiar huge maps with bases, officers and various objectives, but instead opts for lots of short, linear stages, with the first major gameplay difference being that some battles will have an Analysis Percentage that must be filled or otherwise you’ll find yourself unable to win/complete the battle…
….meaning you’ll have to listen to character’s dialogue, visual hints and explore the level, see where the fox thingy is going or hinting at, so you can increase said percentage.
It ties into the idea you’re intervening into the Warring States era to undo alterations to history, but since the stages are themselves fairly small, what this means it that you’ll have to look out for hidden walls, routes that lead to new areas where the big enemy is perched on, or just kill the guys with the ! mark, while searching the backroads for extra troops that will increase the Analysis rate.
Not bad, but nothing great or never seen before, it could have used a proper new mechanic tied to this “time altering” story leit motif to show in gameplay, like branching alternative versions or multiple variations to how a mission would proceed, with branching possibilities, etc.
Because while emphasizing exploration is not a bad idea, the level often are almost completely linear and a lot smaller than usual Warriors fare… so the “Analyze Percentage” thing it’s kinda vestigial in the end, and if you fail the mission the game will unveil the secret objective needed to actually get 100 % analysis or victory, which makes sense but also kinda defeats the point.
I must say, if you’re a fairly seasoned Warriors players, you’ll be kind taken aback by how short the missions themselves are, and how easy the game is at the Normal setting, though it does become more challenging as it goes on, i must say, and the levels start to use more small set pieces of the various Sengoku historical famous battles, so some stages do feel more like a traditional Warriors game, while some levels are just a boss fight, or a stealth runs, not the worse “stealth levels” Omega Force crammed into games that don’t really need it…. though this is not the usual case where they put one or two of those in a specific point of the game and then never bother again, here they are a recurring thing, and they kinda tries with these.
Though (as usual for Omega Force these days) though they don’t commit so they cop-out with the visual cones/range dictating everything means enemies won’t see you even in theory they just could see you by looking in a straight line…..but then again it would have meant building some mechanics expecially for stealth in a 99 % hack n slash game.
Stealth missions aside, some require to find out what’s fucking with the analysis percentage in order to 100 %, or why it’s not rising even if you keep defeating officers the enemy spawns in constantly, some require you to avoid ally characters and keep enemies from running into said characters, so there’s an attempt at variety, and it’s not bad because the levels are short-sized and there some surprises to see as the game progresses, like some missions throwing in the classic Empires style base capture system. Or some puzzle-esque level where you have to manipulate levers to open and close doors for other characters to pass through.
There’s an effort to vary things up, undeniably, but they could have gone a lot more in terms of trying new things or adding more new elements as they went further in the story, but you don’t get much, aside from a slightly better variety of enemies, with weird fodder insect enemies, demonic samurai officers, regular humans army officers, spider-like monsters, etc.
In terms of progression and equipping and grinding stuff, there are multiple tiers of upgrades, extra combo strings, but there’s not much depth here too, with the most being equippable items you can obtain or buy that enhance normal attack strings, net you extra gold from end mission rewards, etc.
you can have characters set into the various rooms of the main base, the Honmaru, which nets you exp, materials and money to spend in either the upgrade screen or the in-game shop, and you can partake in some mini-games like tea pouring, harvesting from the garden, making onigiris, which can net you some exp and improve bond levels, unlock support conversation but also gameplay bonuses like partner follow ups and auto-guard, as already discussed.
On a technical standpoint, Touken Ranbu Warriors looks fairly good for a Warriors game, with some concessions in terms of enemies on screen that give out to more stable and less jittery performance than usual, and the different art style it’s a welcome change, something different. From what i’ve seen the Steam version runs better at 60fps, but even on Switch the situation is not bad, especially for a Warriors title.
Plus, it’s not the “asset recycle fest” i expected, despite the setting, though in some cases i had that “ almost too familiar” feel about some locales, like i’m fairly sure they nicked and reused some assets from Samurai Warriors 5, i played it enough to say that the section with the ramp leading from ground to the houses’ roofs might be nicked from that game.
in typical crossover Warriors games, there’s also a giant “puzzle picture” to fill in by completing “secret missions”, as in game achievements like defeating 50 named officers, but it’s kinda disappointing as it just unlocks various voicelines of the japanese VAs either reading the title of the game, or humming, or stuff like that but as their respectively voiced characters.
In terms of content, it’s a mixed bag.
the story mode sure isn’t short, clocking in at 21/22 hours , but while i do like the story, it feels a bit stretched compared to the gameplay offered, overly padded by the cutscenes and honestly longer than it needs too, as made kinda obvious by how it starts reusing bosses because “it has to”.
in terms of extra modes… i guessed that there were none, you can replay stages but since you don’t get graded, i wondered if or how the game would incentivate replaying it…. and i was right, since after finishing it you can save the clear data and play from before the final battle so you can unlock all bond conversations, upgrade the characters all the way and complete the “special missions”, but there’s no real valid incentive to play the missions again, like, some redux versions (which would make EXTRA sense given the story hook/system of time travelling through alternative timelines) or extra side-stories maps/levels/stages that unlock after beating the game would have done… well, ANY way into giving some reasons why not just “feel done” with the game after beating it once.
Yeah, the story mode is longer than anticipated, not bad because of it, but i could have traded some hours of circling about and refightng older bosses with some extra modes, heck, even a wave based survival thingie would have helped, and don’t think they did so in order to sell the content back to you as paid DLC, because it’s all cosmetic fluff, from costumes to music to… backdrops for the Honmaru, the main base thingie. And they want 50 bucks for the season pass content.
Or 110 bucks if you want the “full package”. Utterly disgusting, even if KT did worse with the DOA series, this is… unbelievable, as in i doubt even fans of Touken Ranbu will see any value in paying the same amount of money for the base game, only for very LITTLE content.
Plus, this is a single player only affair.
Again, because Omega Force loves cutting corners.
In conclusion, i must say i did enjoy Touken Ranbu Warriors more than i expected, expecially going by its lukewarm reception… which is actually quite fair, even if i did get some enjoyement out of it, fully knowing its not really made for long time musou buffs like me, quite the opposite, aimed as it is to people that never played a musou before, as an entry-level affair to entice fans of Touken Ranbu into trying the “1 vs 1000s” (kinda) gameplay formula.
But even for a Warriors crossover aimed at a more general audience, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen done better even in flawed entries, like even Berserk Musou had more enemies on screen, scratching that itch better even in cases of linear level designs that rarely venture into proper Warriors maps, character felt distinct when here they mostly feel too similar as Omega Force did manage to feel a lot of sword users distinct in various titles like FE Warriors, but here not quite so there is some expected sameyness due to almost all character being sword users, all exarcebated by the combat being less deep and more basic by design.
At times a little too basic for many seasoned hack n slash players that will found the loadout system for special attacks to be kinda redudant, as you can perform those moves via the standard combo strings anyway, but it’s still a better combat system than DW 9, even if that one had technically a better load out system… which meant nothing due to combat complete regression into utter shit.
I mean, here they actually made unique character-tied movesets, so it’s already better than DW 9 in that regard, and partly better than the SW 5 weapon sharing bullshit.
My big gripe is that there’s no big new system that enhances or tries to shake up the formula, nor it’s a good traditional Warriors games, so you kinda wish it had some of the deeper unlock systems that expand gameplay, or a new hook to spice up the familiar formula, like maybe lean into the sci-fi elements of the game that’s set in 2205, a transformation state that expands or modifies movesets, heck, even a Soul Eater-style system where you can have one character transform into a weapon that then the other character in the team can use… SOMETHING.
Not the worse fix for a Warriors addict, but yep, it’s pretty middle-of-the-road and with so little replayability (once you beat the 20 hours long story mode you’ll be basically done with it), i can only recommend it when it goes on sale, since it’s a digital-only release (unless you can buy or import the american Switch release like i did), long-time Warriors buff might… ok, let’s be honest, will get more out of replaying WO3 Ultimate or most of the older Warriors releases.