Shogun’s Blade PS2 [REVIEW] | #musoumay

Ah yes, one of the very first istances of “we have Dynasty Warriors at home”.

Obviously done on a budget and part of the Simple Series (this one titled simply The Kessen Sekigahara, quite to the point as these games’ titles often are), hence once could just assume this was developed by one of D3’s regulars, and if you guessed Tamsoft get yourself a big pint of beer, you know your stuff indeed.

Of course if there’s a cheap hack n slash from D3 the chances of being handled by Tamsoft are pretty high, which in hindsight makes it extra funny to me they went from Onechanbara, then Senran Kagura, to being given the reins of a Bandai Namco published Captain Tsubasa game.

But we’re getting off track, again.

The game (as laid out by its original japanese title) it’s set during the Sehikagara battle of the Sengoku/Warring States period of Japan, and pits you as a soldier (either Kojiro Sasaki or Miyamoto Musashi) that enters the fray and basically you play through an alternate scenario where is the Western Army that wins. Spoilers, much.

All told via text dumps at the beginning and end of missions.

Which is kinda expected since it’s a budget game published by D3, but they could at least have made still images with the characters, ANYTHING that would have helped give the narrative any kind of flavour, instead of dry walls of text that lack any personality or agenda or angle.

So, story it’s shit and beyond dry, whatever, again, budget game, one can gloss over that if gameplay is fun…. and this IS budget Dynasty Warriors, with some odd choices that technically make it not quite identical, but most of the surface elements are blatant, from the pre battle menus having the same “officers list” “warriors info” “War chronicles/log” menus with the same functions.

Also, there’s some oddly translated menus, so “Free Training” means you can select which mission you unlocked, instead of departing to the next chapter via the “Departure” option.

As aforementioned, gameplay is not quite identical, the controls for example are not the usual ones you’d expect (nor you can remap shit), but instead you have a single attack button that you can either spam for short combos (well, combo, singular) or hold for a “homing samurai multislash bullet time” that targets more enemies at once, you can guard, strafe, jump, start dashing after moving for a while (like the early Dynasty Warriors games), do a dash attack or use of the jewels dropped by enemies to activate a special “blast wave/explosion attack”.

Levels take place in a big war map but are actually more simple, with each mission/stage being giving the player an objective to complete, from killing enough soldier, taking down enough officer units, killing a specific officer… and that’s about it.

Even with low expectations that come from being a low (or lower, if you) budgeted knock off of Koei’s Dynasty Warriors (actually more Samurai Warriors, for the historical setting and some gameplay choices)…. Shogun Blade it’s a frustrating pile of budget ass.

The combat is way simpler and less satisfying than even Dynasty Warriors 2, and since it takes after the old titles in the series, it also copies the worse ways some of those approached difficulty…. and makes them worse, meaning that you might as well not have a guard button, since officer enemies will either be stunlocked by your combos or stunlock you, and they make up for their bad IA by doing way too much damage. Plain cheap and frustrating, because this makes you retry the otherwise small and short stages over and over, as you can easily lose because you got distracted one time and didn’t rotate (not with the analog stick, that would be too good) the camera or otherway used the map and radar in time to see where the named officer is, or got stabbed in the back by one of the many peons that still deal too much damage.

Stages do have some barracks or hills and something like that, but it’s nothing you can tell by looking at the awful map, or the in-game radar, not that it even lets you know if there is anything you can interact with, aside from enemies, officers (allies and enemy ones alike) and the pick up items dropped by enemies (and even those, barely).

Like, there’s nothing signaling you that there is a box/crate with an item inside, or you’re never told that you can save mid-battle by hitting jizo statues you can find sitting at the foot of hills or in some bases,

Targeting it’s shit too, so despite being in front of an officer, you can bet the game will decide to lock onto a random peon in the distance. Which almost makes me wish for DW 3 system of always targeting an officer when you’re near him, at least here it would have helped somewhat. Maybe.

Speaking of which, you will also wish the game had a proper musou attack equivalent, because only the “jewel blast” can be activated to stop the enemies wailing on you, and despite the HUD showing what looks like the musou bar, it not for that, it’s for the aforementioned “clearing area slow mo multi kill” that kinda reminds me of the PS2 Shinobi game.

Btw, be prepared to use that attack over and over again to make enemies drop gems/jewels, and be endlessly frustrated because the game sucks shit even at this, so often it makes enemies drop health pickups even when you don’t need it… and almost never does when you’re at a sliver of health and are running around hoping to find something before you get stabbed in the back by a peon with a spear, forcing you to keep farming items in hope of getting what you need.

When that special attack works and doesn’t decide to randomly fuck up, despite having done everything correctly and having still some or a lot of “combo bar” left.

But wait, Shogun’s Blade is even more awful than i imagined, as Tamsoft was somehow able to make a Dynasty Warriors wanna-be game where you don’t wanna fight the peons en-masse, as the controls are stiff, the combos often make the character move out of reach of the enemy, and since the design is so cheap, eventually you’ll just run to the officers you need to kill and will kill peons just because they’re in the way, you need items or because they will stab your ass.

I’m also NOT surprised the game gives you 1 hour to finish each chapter (2 for the last chapter), since these are designed to be slogged through, when you don’t manage to luck out and corner the officers in areas where there aren’t many enemy soldiers.

Heck, the last stage has you fight 10 officers, which is even more of a slog because you can’t seek em by choice, unless you somehow can read the map (or have played this turd before), so the game points you to them and has them come to you… or come closer. But for Eiyasu you also gotta walk a lot of the final map (which at least looks more like a Warring States battlefield)…. with your character than even at full speed looks like he crapped his armour, and of course horses don’t exist.

And since by that point you’ll have mastered how to exploit the system and cheap out the game back, Eiyasu not being any different from any other officer outside from an even larger HP bar, but again, you most likely are accidentally overleveled, so it’s ironically easy compared to a lot before it. Typical PS2 era Tamsoft bullshit, in a way.

At least the game doesn’t force you to go inside the last “base” and has Eiyasu appear when near it, it could be much worse.

In terms of rpg elements, you can improve the expected stats (and some others that are kinda nebulous) by getting exp via evaluation at the end of every stage (with bonus for slain officers that are oddly referred to as “captured”), but as the stages up the officers HP bar and the game being cheap as shit, it barely seems to make a difference to level up the stats… until you level up a lot in two last chapters/mission, especially the last mission, but by that point you’ve beaten the game (you don’t keep any xp or stat increasing item if you die, of course you don’t), and there’s not really any point to keep playing it, as i will discuss later.

To make things even worse, there’s not even a proper attempt at replicating the large scale battles of Dynasty Warriors or their feel, there are bases and stuff being noted on screen, but it’s a bad pantomime, since the armies can’t really damage each other, or if they can the damage it’s so ludicruosly puny it doesn’t matter. I had a nearby ally officer attack an enemy officer but sure as shit his health wasn’t going down, i saw that fuckin clearly. But then i also saw an enemy officer take down a peon enemy, so at least the IA can make each other stagger, that much i can say.

Don’t expect any tactical bent either, or even an attempt at the optics of tactics or organized chaos.

It’s all small stages that all look almost identical (aside from the last one) in overly big plains with enough fog to sustain all the Universal horror cinematic output of the 30s, fighting the same boring enemies and then what should be more challenging but are just annoying cheap arseholes, etc.

All the worse of the musou game, without any of the positives… besides the “multi slash time freezing samurai special attack”, that remains kinda fun and cool to pull off despite how you’re forced to abuse it.

Overall, Shogun’s Blade it’s very BAD, the view distance it’s even worse than expected and like most Tamsoft games, there are traces of fun to be somewhat squeezed out of the awfully designed gameplay and levels, like, there are specs of competence to some elements, but here, in the end, are drowned by the game’s awful design serving the need to give this thing more playtime, just ramping up the cheapness to try and making you spend more than the 1 hour of content the game actually has.

But nope, down the line even this slither of kinda fun is drowned by pure frustration, and only spite will motivate people like me to finish it, because i hated every minute of it but i wanted to get it over with for good for this review, taking me 8/9 hours total.

And as i far i can tell replayability it’s almost nill, since you don’t unlock shit by beating the game, you only can choose between 2 playable characters that feel very similar, there’s not even the sort of “ingame achievements” menu Tamsoft usually sticked in there, like, even Demolition Girl had that.

I think i do have the physical manual for it, where i can’t say, i can’t find the PDF, so if people didn’t bother scanning the manual for this game…. i really can’t be arsed, because i don’t believe there’s any hint at any secret or unlockables there. No guides or cheats to be found online, so i’m not gonna spend extra time trying to figure out if there’s anything left to to in this awful, terrible game.

Heck, this is worse than the first Onechanbara, or pretty close.

But it’s less viscerally infuriating and frustrating than Spartan Total Warrior, at least this one was a budget release that wanted a budget version of a more famous game… and was not designed to “fix” the formula by making it far worse. Shogun Blade actually wanted to be Dynasty Warriors, but as with many knock-offs or attempted takes on the formula… you’d just wish they stuck with replicating DW or doing a straight up 3D beat em up/hack n slash, instead of… this.

And it’s not like it can be partially excused by them jumping in too early, by the time D3 Publisher put this out in Japan they were already up to Dynasty Warriors 4 in its Empires iteration, and the first Samurai Warriors released 6 months prior.

At least if you’re a complete masochist it’s still cheap to get physical in its PAL release by 505 Game Street, and as you’d expect it was a fairly common “bargain bin” inhabitant back in the day. Deservedly so.


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