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Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada
Score: 97%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: KOEI TECMO America Corp.
Developer: Omega Force
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:
Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is all in Japanese with English subtitles. As I have said many times before, this can be quite annoying during battle as it is hard to fight and read at the same time. You have to get used to pausing the game and reading the log to find out what you missed. Even then, the log doesnít have all of the dialogue between the characters. It is annoying, but itís better than not having the game brought to the US at all.

There is a lot of music in the game. You can go listen to it all at the vault, after you have unlocked it. Personally, I found it all fit the battles well, but it isnít necessary. If you want to mute the game, you can, but you will miss little things that can be very helpful though, like the ding when your musou is full.

They really put a lot of effort into the characters in Spirit of Sanada. Your favorites are still there and look like they always have, but there are some completely new characters, like Sasuke, a fictional character based on real life ones, who hasnít been playable before. This is the first time that characters have really aged as well. You will get to see them at various stages in their lives, some from birth on. This makes it so that it is much easier to keep track of how old the characters are in relation to each other, which, in turn, makes it feel more historical. I really like this change. In the previous games, I kept having to look up how old someone was in a particular battle. Now you can more or less tell this by their age, at least in the men. The men definitely age more than the women. Kunoichi, for example, never seems to age! Time now passes in battle as well. I mention this here because they did a fantastic job with changing the scenery based on the time of day. They even made sure to get the shadows adjusted for the placement of the sun, all of which gives things a more realistic look and feel.

When you first launch Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, it will try and detect previous game saves. If it detects that you have save data from previous series games, you get free stuff. I received 10,000 gold and 10 glittering gold ore for having a Samurai Warriors 4 gamesave, 10,000 Sanada Clan EXP and 5 conch shells for my Samurai Warriors 4-II save, and 5 conch shells and 10 fresh seeds for Samurai Warriors 4 Empires. These things were quite useful to start the game with. After that, youíll head right to the story, which starts in 1561. Masayuki is making his start in his first battle. Masayuki Sanada fights for the Takeda clan and he is the third son of his father. Katsuyori Takeda, next in line to run the Takeda clan, is one of Masayukiís friends, fighting by his side and it is his first battle as well. They are fighting against the Uesugi clan. This is the fourth battle, one where they hope to finally crush the Uesugi. I donít think that anything was ever that quick and easy in Japan. The Sanada clan will go through a lot of changes in personnel and loyalties over the course of Spirit of Sanada.

This game has a bit more than just fighting battles. You will have a castle town as a base and will unlock more towns as you go. You can talk to people here and even accept tasks to clear. When you clear tasks and get various information, you will fill the Six Coins of the Sanada. You want to fill them as much as possible to use in stratagems. You can also fill these coins after battles, depending upon your performance. In towns, you can only talk to people with a sign above their heads, although the other NPCs might talk to you. The information you learn will automatically be recorded. You can find glowing spots on the ground in towns. Check these to find various items. You will also see glowing blue spots in exploration areas and these also have items. If youíre running low on items and/or money, take a break from battle and go exploring. You will have to fight there too, but not as much. Donít forget to break open wooden boxes and such as well.

Multi-Stage Battles are new to the series. Rather than just fighting a stage and either winning or losing, you now have a series of battles to win. When you complete tasks and such, it will unlock more stratagems for the next battle. If you didnít complete something that you wanted to, you can go back and replay the previous battle. Once you complete all of them, you will move onto the next phase and will not be able to replay that set until you unlock the Library. At the Library, you can replay previous battles with any character you have unlocked. You will often find a Secondary Battle available as well. These have characters that are not part of or related to the Sanada Clan. In the Secondary Battles, you will find the other characters that you know, like Tadakatsu Honda, Hanzo Hattori, and more. You can choose to return to town in between the stages, but you will not have a lot of the characters there to talk to. I found it beneficial to return and boost my weapons or characters at times.

As you beat more stages, you will unlock more things in your camp, like a Dojo where you can train your officers in various things, including Rage and Exploration, using Sanada Clan EXP, a tea house where you can raise friendship levels, a shop where you can buy materials and make medicines, tonics and more, even a warehouse where you will find the Vault and the Library. I swear it feels like every game has added fishing to it recently, including Spirit of Sanada. You use bait that you find or earn. The rarer the bait, the better the fish you will catch. When you hook a fish, you will get a gauge on the screen. You will need to time it to press (X) at the best moment to land the fish. You can then give the fish you catch as gifts or use them in medicines. In addition to fishing, they have added a farm where you can plant seeds and grow crops. This seems extremely out of character for a samurai, but itís kind of neat. You will need to plant them and then come back later to see what grew. You can only plant one seed at a time. You can give other characters gifts to raise their friendship level. Different people like different items, so be sure to try a variety of things out. I highly recommend figuring out who likes what because you can basically use it like an item exchange. Once you have raised their friendship to the highest, you can give them the item type that they like best and they will give you something in return. I found it quite handy to give Naiki Takanashi the Killifish in exchange for iron sand, so I didnít have to buy more as often. You can also take some of them on explorations with you.

Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada provides four difficulty levels unlocked from the very beginning: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Nightmare. By default you start on Normal, which I found to be an appropriate level. I could beat levels on Hard, but without leveling up the characters some, it was almost impossible to complete all the feats and objectives. Nightmare will require leveled up characters for sure! It feels to me more or less the same as the previous games.

You will need to watch your Weapon Proficiency. The more enemies you defeat with a weapon, the better your proficiency. Once you are proficient enough, your rank will increase. An increase in rank makes the attack strength higher. You can also upgrade your weapons with materials that you find or earn in battle. When you choose to upgrade a weapon, you will be adding or upgrading a skill on it. Eventually you will unlock the ability to duplicate your weapons. This will let you have a copy of them with all the proficiency and rank, but you can put in different skills. Weapons can make or break your gameplay, so treat them well!

Before battle, you will be given a chance to check and change your equipment. I highly recommend you do so, unless you enjoy making your life more difficult. You can also check your feats before battle. You want to meet them if possible, because some of them unlock stratagems for use in future battles. Stratagems can definitely make it easier to complete a battle! I would recommend keeping an eye on your time. I was used to the default 60 minute time limits and wasnít paying attention on the first board. I was just exploring everywhere and barely made it to the end, when the two minute warning showed up at the top of the screen. As you get further in, you will be able to purchase longer exploration time, for explorations only. You canít change how much time you have for battle.

Watch out for Red Zones. You want to try and keep the enemy morale low or you might find yourself in a Red Zone. Inside these, enemies are stronger. Look for Standard Bearers. If you can kill them, it will help lower morale quickly! Search troops can be a pain if youíre not careful. You have to avoid them on stealthy missions because if they find you, you are defeated. You canít kill them or anything to stop them from giving away your position. Some of the search boards definitely frustrated me. I prefer to kill everything, not avoid it!

Game Mechanics:
If youíve played any games in the Dynasty Warriors or the Samurai Warriors series, then youíll be quite familiar with the controls in Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada. For the most part, things are as they have always been, but if you happen to not like the controls, you can change them all up. You can change up every single button setting. I am not sure why you would want to, since theyíre the same as all the rest of the series, but the option is there. You can turn off or on several options, like health gauges, costume changes, various graphics, and more, so that you can make things appear much more like you prefer.

As a refresher, the Touchpad opens your information screen. You should find everything you need here. (R2) runs in town, (LS) moves you, (RS) moves the camera and (X) at the town gate will bring up a map of Japan, so you can choose where to go. If you are headed into a multi-stage battle, you can press (Triangle) here to go to the next battlefield or the castle towns, so that you can go back to town in-between these battles. If you press (O), it will take you back to the last castle town you left. Use (X) to mount/unmount horse and (L2) to call a horse. If you hold (L2), you can hop on while moving. If you press (R3) when your Rage is full, you can really do some damage. To execute the stratagems, press (L3) while the stratagem message is on the left of the screen, but you will use up one of your Sanada coins. I do recommend using these stratagems, especially since you will refill your coins pretty easily. When you have more than one character, you can issue commands to the others. This keeps you from having to switch back and forth to do everything yourself. The game will autosave before you head to battle. It always uses the first save slot, so keep that in mind.

I have asked before how they can keep going back to the exact same histories and yet we still keep buying the games. This time for sure, I recommend you pick up Spirit of Sanada. All of the requests and such in town give Spirit of Sanada much more of an RPG feeling than any of the previous games. The fact that the characters age makes the history so much more accurate looking. They did a wonderful job of centering the story around one clan, but still bringing in the others so that you donít miss out on using your favorite characters, whoever they might be. It is definitely not a short game, as you have many hours of gameplay available (Iíd estimate at least 40 if you go as fast as possible). My only real complaint is the lack of a two player mode. Overall I can confidently say that Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is now my favorite game in the series!

-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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