[PSN Review] Way of the Samurai 4
Way of the Samurai 4 takes place in the harbor town of Amihama, several years after the arrival of the â€œblack shipsâ€ from the West ended Japanâ€™s long history of cultural isolation. Amihamaâ€™s downtown area has been converted to a â€œLittle Britain,â€ complete with European-styled buildings occupied by adventurous foreign settlers. Not everyone welcomes these new residents, though, and three distinct factions with opposing ideals begin to take shape. Itâ€™s up to the player â€“ a wandering samurai whom fate has drawn to this conflicted land â€“ to decide which faction to support, potentially shaping the course of Japanâ€™s history.
Will you aid the traditional isolationists in their attempts to exile this potential threat to the Japanese way of life? Will you aid the shogunate government in their attempts to keep the peace and establish cordial (but limited) relations with the foreigner contingent? Or will you aid the foreigners in their attempts to establish silk trade and foster cultural exchange, even at the expense of a few traditions? Who will you support? Who will you betray?
Come join the denizens of this conflicted harbor for upscaled and updated versions of all the series staples you’ve come to expect from Way of the Samurai: branching storylines, multiple endings, event choices, character customization, and all the sword collecting, enhancing and modifying you could possibly ask for.
Become the ultimate bastion of virtue or the ultimate disgrace to humanity, and do it however you’d like. The choice is entirely your own…
Choices are the foundation upon which your path will be built, and luckily choices are all over the place in this game. Within the first 10 minutes of the game you are tasked with picking sides between those opposing the foreigners, and the foreigners themselves who are being protected by the shogunate. The choice you make from the start will determine the paths and events you can take in the days you spend at Amihama, and skipping or missing the available events for the day can in turn unlock or block subsequent events and choices.
When you arrive at Amihama, the conflict is just getting started and you are given a small tutorial on how to engage your enemies in order to avoid defeat (in case you haven’t played any of the other games in the series). You start with a simple sword, and this tool of death can help you get the job done from start to finish, as long as you take good care of it. If you want to diversify your arsenal, you can pick weapons left behind by defeated enemies and keep them in your weapons bag or sell the surplus to get much needed funds for your journey.
An interesting aspect of Way of the Samurai 4 is how you are given an option to interact during most of the cutscenes, doing something as simple as interrupting whoever is speaking by saying something out of place, or giving an answer that could potentially ruin your chances of getting the best ending because you’ve chosen poorly.
There are a LOT of ways you can complete the game, and your first run can be as short as a couple of hours. But as any fan of the series will tell you, Way of the Samurai IV is not about your first run from start to finish, but about your 10th (and beyond). As an example, here is the intro to the trophy guide over at PS3trophies.org, being worked on by Mitsuru Kirijo:
Way of the Samurai 4 is a game that requires you, on one playthrough, to beat up a character without killing him in order to recruit him as your blacksmith, to then kill him on that or a subsequent playthrough in order to acquire the weapon he carries, to then kill him twice more on two other playthroughs in order to acquire his two alternative weapons, and then, on a fourth playthrough, to again beat him up without killing him in order to recruit him as your blacksmith once more…
Sounds like fun, right? Now multiply that by the side missions available, main story quests, main story NPC, extra NPC that play a part (like the blacksmith), the buildings you can unlock (one of them being a hospital were you can get free treatment at any time, but that ends up raising cost of living by 10%, and thus all items now cost more), or the quest for becoming the master of a Dojo, were you are tasked with bringing in new disciples while defending the honor of the Dojo from rivals… and you can start to understand how big this adventure really is. The fact that it goes all “Groundhog Day” on us and returns to day 1 after finishing the game is how fans of the series like it, and they would not change a thing about it. Speaking of this “Back at 1” feature, one of the things that carries over which can be very useful for subsequent playthroughs is the Language School you can unlock. Be sure to try and do this as soon as possible because until you do so, you won’t be able to communicate with any of the non-main story foreigners, which in turn locks some side missions.
Every time you complete the game, you are rated depending on the choices made, the enemies you killed (or didn’t), the time spent from start to finish, your overall behavior (did you ever steal from a merchant?), and some other criteria. You will then be awarded Samurai Points that are used to obtain more clothes, hair styles, mask, etc., to dress up your character, giving way to a crazy thought afro and tutu wearing samurai that is out to clean the streets of all bad seeds…
The game is certainly not too serious about itself, and a lot of humor is dropped all over the place, starting with the clothes your character can wear (or the lack of said clothes, should you decide to go low on fabric). And the fun doesn’t stop there. Where else can you get your groove on with a 70 year old woman while wearing a dress and an Oni mask? Don’t judge me. She was gentle, and I shall never forget her… oh, the 20 year old hostess at the Casino heard about what happened and wants to see what the fuzz is all about? Sign me up!
You will find several materials in your journey, and you can use them to create new and powerful weapons thanks to the local smith. Doing this will allow you to best even the strongest of foes, and it will also help you to unlock several trophies during your long road to Platinum (which should take you around 70 hours, give or take a few).
If you want even more content, there is DLC available that bring new missions for the game, and some of them even unlock extra characters. You can also buy rare weapons to increase your odds, a pack of materials to create weapons from the smith, or a set of scrolls that unlocks extra moves and skills for your samurai warrior. The rare weapons and material packs will greatly help trophy hunters, so definitely be sure to give those a try. Just saying.
Way of the Samurai 4 is a game that has a lot to offer for those that are in it for the long haul. There are so many variables to consider and so much content to experience, that your first and your 30th run from start to finish can still feel fresh and unique.
[review score=”87″ pros=”A LOT of content.
Most of what you do carries over to each new playthrough.
Several ways of solving each situation.” cons=”Some graphical hiccups here and there”]
This review is based on a PS3 copy of Way of the Samurai 4 provided by XSEED Games.