Sweet As Syrup: Way of The Samurai 3 Review

Recently, I talked about a rather obscure series of Japanese action RPGs called “Way of The Samurai”. Specifically, I talked about the third game, which I enjoyed quite a bit. The more I got into this game, the more I fell in love with its quirky and odd world. I thought it was time to do a fully fledged review on it, since I haven’t done a game review in quite some time. With that out of the way, let’s venture into the world of Way of The Samurai, and see if we can carve our own path towards enlightenment.

Background Info

20180101154642_1.jpg
Gotta get back, back to the past!

The Way of The Samurai series is a series of action RPGs, which are made by the development team over at “Acquire”. Most of the games were also co-developed by the franchise’s publisher “Spike”. Way of The Samurai 3 was released in 2008 in Japan for both the PS3 and X-Box 360. It eventually made its way over to American shores the following year, only to be greeted by very little fanfare.

Way of The Samurai 3 was later ported to PC in 2016, over a year after the semi-successful port of the 4th game had been released for the same platform. The game was released directly to Steam, along with several pieces of DLC. For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at the PC version. This is the only version I played, since I lack access to a PS3.

Plot

20180114235233_1.jpg
Character customization gone horribly right!

The plot of  Way of The Samurai 3 kicks off with your custom hero being the lone survivor after an intense battle. As a nameless samurai, you are then tasked with carving your own path through the Sengoku period of Japan. You quickly learn that the land of “Amana” is home to three different factions, all of which you can align yourself with. You can align yourself with the power-hungry Fujimori Clan, the bandit gang known as the Ouka Clan, or with the local villagers.

By earning favor within these factions, you can then choose which to side with. By interacting with the various characters in each faction, you get more info on the story and what is happening within the world. Something that may be good or bad depending on how you look at it, would have to be how the game handles narrative structure.

After 11 in-game events, the game will thrust you into its finale and make you choose which faction to align with. The problem manifests when you realize that the full story can’t be experienced on just one play-through, it’ll take multiple runs through the story mode to fully grasp what’s going on. Thankfully, each run will only take you a few hours each.

This is both good and bad. It’s good in that it gives you a lot of replay value, but it’s bad because you won’t fully get what’s going on with just a single play-through. This is a game that requires a fair bit of dedication, especially due to how sensitive the dialogue choices can be. Selecting certain options can lead you to a radically different ending, which is something rather unexpected for a little-known Japanese title.

The game also boasts 22 endings, several of which ware just variations on pre-existing endings. Still, the plot allows for enough variety to facilitate repeat play-throughs. Working for one faction may boast a completely different ending, than if you were to align yourself with the opposing faction. The game always finds a way to funnel the player into one of its many available endings, even if said player has no idea what they are actual doing.

In a way, the variable storytelling present in this game is its strongest attribute. Being able to return to the game once you complete it, with everything you’ve acquired and obtained is really awesome. Plus, the various endings and special quest-lines present a ton of replay value. Of course, the story isn’t the best. Some may call it a fairly formulaic samurai story, but it does have a fair bit of heart to it. Thought definitely went into the story, and the concept of allowing the player to piece together the larger plot on their own is much appreciated.

Gameplay

What makes WOTS 3 so special is its gameplay, which manages to be immensely engaging throughout. The game’s combat plays similarly to beat-em-up or fighting game. Whenever you get into a fight with an opponent, you automatically lock onto them. You have a variety of different attacks available to you, and can unlock more as you progress through the game and acquire scrolls. Using these scrolls gives you new techniques, most of which are tied to your weapons.

Certain combat abilities are linked to your character though, such as martial arts and dual-wielding attacks. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of options when it comes to combat. That’s not even getting into advanced abilities, such as “Instant-Kill” and “Push and Pull”. I’d be here all day if I tried to list off how all of the intricacies attached to most of these abilities.

What I will say is that the combat flows well, with enough weapon and ability variety to allow the player to craft their own unique fighting style. On top of having a good selection of abilities and moves available to the player, the game boasts an impressive array of weapons to use. You can choose from a variety of ninja blades, two-handed swords, and even massive spears to do battle with! Heck, if you don’t like the available weapons, you can just make your own!

The game’s crafting system is insanely extensive, boasting over 200 individual weapon parts. Crafting is pretty easy to get the hang of. You just grab enough weapon parts to build a sword, go to a blacksmith, and then have him put the pieces together. This weapon creation system allows you to create the kind of weapons you want, which is something I always find engrossing in games.

The game’s biggest draw would have to be exploration, since this is an open-world after all! The game has 9 areas in total, some of which are actually fairly expansive. The game is far smaller when compared to most open-world games, but you’ll quickly find yourself getting lost due to the sheer amount of things to do.

The game is bursting with side-quests, mini-games, and entertaining events. The area of Amana is ripe for exploration, and there’s enough stuff to do to keep you playing for hours on end. Where the game begins to falter is in its design, as the game isn’t built to be very beginner-friendly. The game doesn’t tell you where to go, what you need to do, or how to use its more intricate systems.

Sure, you can talk to a NPC at the beginning of the game, but she only gives out a select amount of info on how to proceed. If you’re like me and playing this on PC, then getting a grasp on how the game is played can be difficult, especially without an instruction book. You’ll start off the game not knowing all that much about what you can and cannot do, and will most likely get one of the worst endings in the game by accident.

As previously mentioned, this is a game that’s meant to be played many times, in order to see all the endings and story choices. So, if playing through a 3-4 hour long story mode 20 times to unlock everything isn’t your cup of tea, I suggest picking up a different game. Still, Way of The Samurai 3 can be a lot of fun, especially if you’re looking for a zany samurai adventure.

Visual Stimuli

Let’s be real, this game looks like garbage. Despite being released for the PS3 and later ported over to the PC almost a decade later, the game still looks like its a console generation behind . This shouldn’t be too surprising, as the series got its start on the PS2 and the graphics themselves haven’t advanced past that, even in recent years. Backgrounds have a tendency to look rather bland, though some areas can look rather beautiful at times.

Character designs are good, with each character having a unique look about them that helps them stand out from all the other NPCs. Voice acting is solid in the Japanese version, while being fairly cheesy in the English version. To be fair, I kind of prefer the English version. The campy portrayals of most of its main characters make it feel like a poorly dubbed Samurai film, which is something I quite enjoy.

The game lets you choose between both the English and Japanese audio tracks, which I appreciate quite a bit. The game runs fairly well on most modern PCs, but is locked at 30 frames per second. Still, I very rarely experienced slowdown or glitches, so it wasn’t that big of a problem.

The game’s presentation is overall a mixed bag. While the voice acting and character designs are great, the game looks outdated in terms of graphics. The soundtrack is good, but you’ll be hearing the same songs a few too many times. The game also boasts ambient sounds during a few of the night-time maps, which adds a great layer of atmosphere to the mix. Despite the games fairly flawed presentation, it still manages to hold up decently well.

In Summation

Way of The Samurai 3 is a game that’s hard to recommend. It’s not beginner friendly, it looks terrible in terms of graphics, and it does a poor job on directing the player. Still, it’s a game that manages to impress due to its shear amount of things to do. The various endings, multiple factions, and insane amount of weapons provides a ton of content for the player to delve into.

Combine this with a fairly entertaining (albeit formulaic) story, a weapon creation system, solid character customization, and a strong sense of exploration, and you have a game that becomes strangely engrossing after a while. Still, it’s a game that isn’t for everyone. Heck, I didn’t really get into it at first, at least not until I had completed my first playthrough.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: You skipped the first 2 games in the series! Sad fact of the matter is that I don’t have easy access to WoTS 1 and 2. I hope the first 2 games eventually get a PC release, so I can experience them on Steam and see what I’m missing. If they’re even half as fun as WoTS 3 is, then I think I’ll have a good time! With that being said, I can definitely say that Way of The Samurai 3 is as sweet syrup, despite its many issues.

Advertisements

Marvel’s Spider-Man Season 1 Review

It’s often rare for a series to start out somewhat mediocre, only to get REALLY good halfway through its first season. This is something that happened with the recent Spider-Man cartoon, and it was definitely a pleasant surprise. Last year, I gave my first impressions on “Marvel’s Spider-Man”. I felt the series was off to a rocky start, but hoped it would get better as it progressed.

Well, it turns out I was right! The show not only got better, it also became a truly enjoyable superhero show! So, what’s this show about and what makes it so good? The series revolves around a teenage Peter Parker, who has been accepted into the prestigious “Horizon High”. In this school for super geniuses, Peter has to balance taking classes with fighting super-villains on the side.

There aren’t just villains to fight, but also a couple of groups that would prefer to see good ol’ Spidey dead. Not only does our hero have to contend with Norman Osborn, but also the maniacal mad-scientist known as “The Jackal”. Now, the biggest flaw this show had going was its structure. For the first half of the season, the story was extremely episodic in nature. By the end of each episode, the characters learned some kind of forced science-based moral.

This changed during the “Rise of Doc Ock” story arc. The show started to get really good around this point, taking on a more serialized nature. There were now multi-episode story-arcs, which usually led directly into the next story arc. The Rise of Doc Ock also did a good job in establishing the Sinister Six, in a way that felt more believable than the previous series had.

In the last show, a bunch of villains just got together and decided to form the group. This was especially confusing, since Kraven wasn’t really a Spidey villain in this show when he was introduced. It seemed like he didn’t have a big reason to be in this group. However, this new series tackles it differently, having Doc Ock brainwash various students and faculty into being his own Sinister Six. Not only that, but he improves their tech and makes them into a viable and powerful villainous group.

This eventually leads in to what I believe is the best part of the entire season: The Spider Island story arc. This five-part story-line focuses on the entirety of Manhattan gaining spider-based powers. This is where the show really started to shine, as it gave characters who were rather unimportant up to this point a chance to become more relevant to the plot. It also allowed Peter to fight crime as himself, rather than as Spider-Man.

The idea of everyone getting spider powers really gave this story arc an identity, especially with how it was structured. We got to see how civilians dealt with having such amazing abilities, and how their lives are much different now. The story arc also manages to include Black Widow in an Avengers tie-in that feels surprisingly natural.

If there’s anything bad that can be said about this awesome second half, is that the friendship between Harry and Peter got really annoying. Harry will hate Peter in one episode, like him in the next, and then go back to hating him right after. It got really annoying, to the point where it felts like the writers were constantly flip-flopping.

Still, it did lead into the awesome 2-part Hobgoblin finale, so maybe it wasn’t a total washout. The season’s finale was a good end to a show that started out fairly weak. It brought back the Sinister Six, introduced this show’s version of the Hobgoblin, and had some fantastic writing.

Now, you may be asking: What episode out of this season is your favorite? Well, normally I’d say “Spider-Island Part 3”, but I feel should highlight an episode from the first half of the season. Mostly because I’ve been trashing a lot on that first set of episodes, despite the fact that a few of them were actually pretty awesome.

So, I’d have to say my favorite episode is “Halloween Moon”. Not only did this episode bring in The Hulk, but it also focused quite a bit on Bruce Banner. The episode’s Aesop about finding balance between having both a heroic identity, as well as a civilian one is definitely a good lesson. On top of this, the inclusion of Man-Wolf and an army of werewolves really made this episode into something special.

We not only got to see the students using their tech to fight the werewolves, but we also got to see a werewolf version of The Hulk! Truly, this was an amazing Halloween episode. So, what do I think of this season altogether? It had a rough start, but it improved greatly after that halfway point.

The show manages to focus a lot on characters before giving them their powers, while also allowing for non-powered civilians to join the fray occasionally. Is it as good as Spectacular Spider-Man? No, and I doubt it ever be. That show was fantastic and it’s hard for really any other cartoon in this franchise to top it. However, I’d be lying if I said Marvel’s Spider-Man didn’t do a lot of things really well.

So, if you’re looking for a good action show, then this may be up your alley. It’s not for everyone, but I think if you’ll like it if you are a fan of Spidey. Just don’t expect some amazing show that will rock your world. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a cartoon that really managed to turn itself around halfway through its first season, let’s just hope they can keep the momentum going in season 2.

My Thoughts on Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2

I’ve talked about Dragon Ball Xenoverse a lot on this blog, but I haven’t really discussed the game’s sequel. That’s because until now, I hadn’t really played the game. Which is pretty crazy, since the game has been out for over a year and half at this point. Just a week ago, I purchased the deluxe edition of the game and beat its main story. Now, the full review isn’t ready yet (and won’t be ready for a while), but I thought I’d get my opinions out on this game just to form a sort of basis.

So, what is this game exactly? Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is a MMO-styled take on Dragon Ball. It’s an action RPG, one with emphasis on getting stronger and customizing your character. Xenoverse 2 came out over a year after the first game, improving quite a bit on the original did. In this game, you play as a “Time Patroller”, and have to go on missions to make sure the Dragon Ball timeline isn’t compromised.

As an agent of the Time Patrol, you do battle against a villainous group called “Time Breakers”, led by the villainous demon Towa. Now, Xenoverse 2 is arguably one of the largest Dragon Ball games ever made. I’m talking hundreds of quests, side activities, and things to do. The story mode will take you about 10-20 hours, but the copious and insane amount of side-quests will keep you busy for months!

Sadly, most side-content involves fighting other characters, collecting Dragon Balls, or doing weird little mini-games. Sadly, there’s not a whole lot of variety in this package. Still, the awesome combat system and massive amount of skills and characters more than makes up for it.

Something that was carried over from the first game and improved upon was the “Mentor System”. They fixed it greatly, so now you don’t need to complete a ton of random side-quests in order to receive the next training quest from a mentor. Much like with the side-quests themselves, there’s not a whole lot of variety in what tasks you are given.

Worse still, some of the requirements for these mentors are insane. For example, you need to buy the overtly expensive Bojack and Bido costumes, just so you can be mentored by Bojack! Get ready to grind the game’s secondary currency known as “TP Medals” for at least 20 hours.

The game also introduced “Expert Missions”, which involves you and other players taking on extremely powerful bosses, with the promise of rare items for doing so. The general hub city has also been expanded greatly, giving the game a semi open-world. Of course, the biggest problem with the game would have to be how close it feels to the last game.

Some people call it an expansion, but I feel it adds just enough to feel like its own unique thing. I’ll get more into detail on that when I write the actual review on it, but I’ll just say that it definitely does feel more like a sequel than a meager expansion pack. It’s also nice to see a Dragon Ball game getting continuous support, even after it’s been out for over a year. I always love it when developers actually care about improving their product. That’s why I can easily say that this game is amazing!

One Piece Movie 6: The Film That Was Too Good For The Franchise

One Piece is an anime that has been around for ages, to the point where most people either love it or hate it. It tells the story of “Monkey D. Luffy” and his seemingly never-ending quest to find the ultimate treasure known as the “One Piece”. With his colorful crew of friends / crew-mates known as the “Straw-Hat Pirates”, they fight off various threats using their super powers and combat skills on their quest for the ultimate prize. That’s a cliff-notes version of the plot of One Piece.

One Piece is at its heart an action show, one with a fair bit of blood and violence. Despite the battles getting pretty intense at times, One Piece never really got too dark. It retained that childish and goofy atmosphere throughout much of its run, with a few exceptions. The fifth One Piece film was a fair bit darker than most One Piece materials, though still keeping in with the the tone of the series.

The next proceeding film was “Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island”. Trust me, if you’ve only seen the show and never the movie, THEN YOU ARE NOT READY! Thing is, Baron Omatsuri is a film that is so dark and messed up that it transcends it source material. How so? Well, let me explain! The film centers on our heroes winding up on a tropical island.

They meet the eponymous Baron Omatsuri, who proceeds to issue a challenge to all the pirates. This involves the pirates participating in a bunch of sporting events against the Baron’s crew. The film starts off pretty colorful and energetic, albeit with a darker mystery bubbling below the surface.

The Baron and his crew slowly start to mess with Luffy’s Straw Hat Pirates, turning them against each other. All the while, the Baron prepares his trump card. This leads to one of the darkest and best films based off a children’s anime I’ve ever seen! One Piece has always been a series that likes to delve into dark subjects or topics, but never explores them too much.

There’s blood, violence, and death on the series, but it lacks the impact other shows would give it. When a character dies, it’s usually an unimportant side-character. Primary characters very rarely die, causing certain fights to have little stake. When an important character did die, it wasn’t until very late into the series.

This is what makes Baron Omatsuri a truly great film, it does stuff that the show never tackled. This includes a villain who has a history with the infamous pirate captain Gol D. Rogers, tons of death, intense action scenes, and a truly heartfelt ending. The film definitely has some issues, such as awkward pacing at times, bad character portrayals, and an overtly dark second half.

Still, this film manages to take the One Piece brand and mold it into something completely memorable. I may not be the biggest fan of the One Piece series overall, but I love this movie! It’s by no means a masterpiece, but it’s something that really captures the feel of the series, while putting its own spin on the source material.

That’s something few films based off of anime can pull off! Baron Omatsuri transcends what most One Piece (and by extension most anime films) can pull off, managing to become one of the best examples of an anime-based film in the process! And that’s not something one can take lightly.

Games I’m Excited About: Sea of Thieves

If there’s anything I’ve ever had mixed opinions on, it’s pirates. I’ve got nothing against the idea of pirates, but they’ve just never been where my interest lies. Sure, I’ll watch or play stuff with pirates in it, but I won’t actively seek out pirate-themed things. Pirate games are something I really never dabbled in all that much. The only pirate games I’ve ever really played are from the Risen franchise, and some of those games are mediocre at best.

Suffice to say, pirates aren’t usually my cup of tea. This changed recently however, due to the announcement of “Sea of Thieves”. This is a game that advertises itself as an “an open-world multiplayer action-adventure pirate game”, which is a rather enticing proposition. Most pirate games are often single player adventures, so having a pirate game with the player-base of a MMO is a really cool idea.

What makes the deal sweeter is that its being made by Rare, who are known for the amazing games they made for the N64 back in the 90s. On top of this, the world in which the game takes place in is seamless. You travel from area to area in a pirate ship, obtain gold, ally or betray other players, and live the kind of pirate fantasy you want. There are also monsters in the game to fight, such as living skeletons!

The game lets you have your own crew, by working together with other players to adventure across the open-seas. The game boasts a wealth of content to indulge in, including missions and a vast amount of areas to explore. You can get your own ship, purchase new equipment for yourself, and interact with the world in any way you see fit. Heck, you can even do missions for various factions, reaping untold riches in the process.

All of this sounds really cool, but it has one huge problem: It’s not going to be on Steam. Yes, Microsoft is once again putting a hot title on their floundering “Microsoft Store”. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s Microsoft’s attempt to create their own digital store. It sells computer games through the use of digital distribution, not unlike that of Steam.

However, the big problem with it is that no one really uses it. The store is flooded with crappy phone games, an ugly interface, and a general lack of big-name titles to choose from. The game will also be available on X-Box One as well, but people who don’t own that console won’t be able to play it. So, the only choices you have are between a console you may not own, or buying it off of an over-glorified app store that you will most likely never use again.

It’s also been proved that games just don’t sell as well on the Microsoft Store, due to its main audience consisting mostly of casual players. Now, does that mean this game is doomed? Not necessarily, it could still sell really well. For an online-only game though, it would need a bigger platform if it wants to foster a strong online community. Steam is perfect for this, as it’s more mainstream and has an extremely massive player-base.

Will I ever play this game? That remains to be seen. While I don’t want to support the Microsoft Store, I do very much want to play this game. An open-world pirate game, where one can adventure with their friends and collect mountains of gold? Sign me up! I just don’t want to invest cash into yet another digital game-front, especially when I get a far better selection of games from both Steam and Good Old Games. Still, there’s always a chance I may decide to pick it up in the future. Let’s just hope that the game is actually good, like classic Rare games.

Gaming In The Clinton Years: The Tommy Wiseau of Game Reviews

Video-game reviews have been around for decades, first existing within the confines of gaming magazines. It wasn’t uncommon to spot reviews of recently released titles in the pages of Nintendo Power, PCGamer, or Electronic Gaming Monthly. In the 90s, gaming started to become more mainstream and extend beyond the printed page. As a result, gaming-related shows became more commonplace.

Enter George Wood, a man with a public-access show called “Flights of Fantasy”. The show was pretty bad, in my opinion. It’s lacking production values, deadpan review style, and awkward editing made it often painful to watch. Despite this, there was something strangely enticing about how awkward George Wood was and still is. The way he talked, the way he acted, and the way he presented his material came off as rather alien.

The man was basically the Tommy Wiseau of video-games, which got him a fair bit of infamy. Flights of Fantasy was not a very popular show, but that didn’t stop the series from inevitably returning years later. A Youtube gaming network called “NAVIGATR” hired George Wood to work for him, who promptly gave them the entire Flights of Fantasy catalog.

After re-branding the show as “Gaming In The Clinton Years”, the series was released to Youtube. The series came out in a time when game reviews on Youtube were a relatively new thing, so this series definitely stood out. However, what really made it stand out wasn’t the concept, but generally how bad the series was overall.

As previously mentioned, George Wood is an extremely awkward and weird individual. This is a man who spends most of each individual review rambling about the game’s controls, wondering if the game uses digital movie graphics, or just generally saying out-of-place and occasionally offensive things.

A good example of this is in his Toy Story game review, where he constantly wonders out loud if they used the graphics engine from the film to build the look of the game. He spends way too much of the review on this subject alone! More often than not, our pal George will spend a lot of time just listing off the controls. Why? I don’t think anyone really knows, since the controls for any game are usually pretty easy to find. My guess is that maybe George forgot instruction books exist.

I think the worst review that George has ever done would have to be his review for Tomb Raider II. Now, George is an eccentric man, one who happens to not like Lara Croft’s appearance all that much. He finds her design a bit too “provocative” for his tastes. During the review, George decides to give his “suggestions” on how to improve said character. I won’t describe what he says, but I will link to the review below. Trust me, it’s something you need to see to fully see to believe.

The thing about Ol’ George-y Boy is that despite his reviews being absolute garbage, they are INSANELY entertaining to watch! It’s almost impossible to put into words the kind of reviews this man puts out. The thing is, George has built up quite a reputation for not only being a bad gamer, but a bad reviewer.

This level of infamy was not lost on NAVIGATR and George, as they would both often poke fun at his ineptitude when it came to gaming. Even though George can sometimes say some terrible and juvenile things, he still manages to entertain. That’s something I can’t say about certain game reviewers/Let’s Players, such as DarkSydePhil. George may be a weird, awkward, and strange old man, but he managed to put something together that managed to entertain two whole generations. That’s not something many reviewers can pull off, even the really good ones!