Review: Samurai Warriors Chronicles

It's without a doubt an ideal sort of game for on-the-go play, but a few minor annoyances stack up to prevent this Samurai Warriors from being as good the console versions.

It's time once again to kick ass through ancient history in Samurai Warriors Chronicles, part of Tecmo Koei's long-running series last seen in Samurai Warriors 3 on the Nintendo Wii. Chronicles is somewhat based on SW3, which is good news, because it adopts some of the tweaks that helped it, such as more obvious directions on the mini-map and a more straightforward equipment shop and upgrade system.

But Chronicles also adds some features new to the series, chiefly the fact that you play "yourself" -- a fictional male or female character that joins the various factions of the Warring States period. In battle, the generals that join you in the massive fights can also be controlled by tapping their icon on the touch screen to quickly switch to them (which will be necessary in almost every stage, as mini-missions occur all over the map). Alongside that, upgrading equipment is done by synthesizing weaker weapons or extra items you've collected, which is quick, easy, and better than the annoying "gem" farming in SW3.

Other than those additions, there's little that differentiates Chronicles from any other Warriors game, but so be it -- all you're obligated to do in these games is set up your weapons, review your team, and leap into battle. But before that, you're treated to introductory story sequences that you cannot skip, and they run for a couple of minutes.

Well, you can skip them... after you complete or fail a stage. That's kind of a big crutch for this game, because sometimes I just want to jump right into the battle rather than be force-fed the history leading up to it, especially in a portable game where I often want to get the most play in the least amount of time. It's extra questionable when the newest console Warriors game, Dynasty Warriors 7 -- released in the same week as Chronicles -- has no problem letting you skip similar scenes whenever.

The unskippable scenes were frustrating, but they didn't totally ruin the game for me. Once in a fight, it's easy to settle in (in a manner of speaking) and start slashing away. If I had my druthers, I'd typically go for Capcom's Sengoku Basara games, which I feel nailed the feeling of instant gratification in the same type of game, but I can't resist coming back to Koei's series, either, and there aren't any portable Basara games in America yet.

Regardless, these games all provide a certain kind of mindless fun you can't get in overproduced big-budget action titles, and that includes Chronicles. And the fact that you can level-up your weapons to prepare for the next big fight adds at least some purpose to the whole affair. It's not easy to explain why a non-fan should give these games a try; you just have to try them somehow and see if that mindless fun strikes a nerve. Otherwise, being loosely tied to the last Samurai Warriors should make Chronicles a fine choice for the series fan who bought a 3DS.

PROS: Decent hack-and-slash action based on the last and best Samurai Warriors; suitable 3D effects; Japanese voices only (definitely a welcome feature in this franchise).
CONS: Pre-battle cut-scenes you can't skip the first time; enemies sometimes pop into view a little too closely for comfort.

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