Without a doubt this is one of my favourite action games on the Wii as my Nintendo Life review should indicate. It’s just been released in North America and can be had at a discounted price in Europe so if you haven’t picked it up yet and you like the idea of a blend of beat-em-up and strategy with a strong historical setting, I definitely suggest you do so. Hopefully these tips will come in handy for newcomers.
Read the Manual Before Playing
If you’re a franchise veteran then you’ll likely find this similar to previous games in the series given the heavy emphasis on gamepad-based controls – specifically the Classic Controller Pro, which is my recommended interface. For newcomers however there’s a decent amount to get to grips with and even though you can review and tweak controls in-game you’ll still want to familiarise yourself before playing to get the most out of it.
Start Out with Oda Nobunaga
Now I happened to pick this character because during the timeframe covered by Samurai Warriors 3 (the events leading to the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the end of the Sengoku or Warring States period) he was the first figure to make serious progress towards unifying Japan. He also happens to be one of the more formidable characters in the game with some deadly, but easy to pull-off combo attacks. Of his four battles only one that I can recall has a fail condition linked to the defeat of an allied character; as a newcomer this means you can largely focus on completing objectives rather than running to the rescue.
Pay Attention to Your Objectives
You can happily skip through the intro to each battle and jump right into the action, but it’s the equivalent of going into actual combat unprepared and a sure path to failure and frustration. In the intro text you’re given the main objectives, but you’ll need to proactively view side objectives by choosing the appropriate option in the battle planning screen. Though some of these merely result in extra gems, armour or weapons, there are ones that can help salvage a bad situation and turn a game around by either restoring the health of critical allies, bringing in reinforcements or downgrading key enemy officers.
I always make it a practice to focus on one or two with game-changing consequences, pausing if necessary to remind myself of the payoff when I encounter a character with the “Tactical Bonus” sign over their heads.
Learn Equipment Bonuses and Outfit Yourself Wisely
As you progress through the Story Mode characters and their battles you’ll pick up various weapons specific to that character and armour, gauntlets and boots which are shared between all of them. Each of these pieces of equipment has its own set of bonuses in various combinations which have colourful names and three different levels of effectiveness.
This can have a serious impact on the game so it always pays to consider the type of battle, strengths and weaknesses of your character and what combination of bonuses will work best together, in addition to the weapon’s default damage to attack speed ratio. More bonuses does not make a piece of equipment inherently superior; it’s the effect of the combination that counts. Don’t pass over one piece of equipment because it only has two bonuses in favour of another with four automatically: consider the benefits and the battle at hand.
For example if you’re going to be facing lots of enemy officers you’ll likely want to have a weapon with the Intrepid Soul bonus, causing it to do more damage against enemy officers. A good defencive counterpart would be armour featuring Resolute Soul, which reduces damage suffered from enemy officer attacks.
Some characters like Hattori Hanzō have musō attacks that affect the surrounding area, but have limited range. Using a weapon with levelled-up Musō Force to boost the special attack range for those characters is probably something you’ll want to do often. There are other combinations of bonuses to watch out for which will boost normal, power and musō attack range and damage levels or add elemental damage to various attack types. There are also separate bonuses that apply when on horseback and once you start earning various steeds you’ll need to decide if it makes sense to start battles on horseback or not.
It’s this kind of strategic depth that makes Samurai Warriors 3 a great game.
Speed Run at Your Peril!
Many battles will only have two or three primary objectives; coupled with the fact that you’ll get in-game prompts to proceed to the next one, you might be tempted to get on your horse and just dash along madly to achieve them, ignoring hordes of enemy officers along the way. Unless you’re pursuing a time-limited objective, however, this decision will cost you dearly as many battles will have defeat conditions linked to the defeat of one or more allied officers and those enemy officers you leave untouched will often end up being encountered by your allies and potentially defeat them.
Though your allies are often quite capable on their own, enemy officers have a tendency to gang up on them and your allies won’t have the health bonus items that you start out with so a succession of enemy encounters will gradually wear them down. If you can take the time to eliminate most of the enemy officers you encounter (even non-objective-related ones) you’ll minimise the risk to your allies and reduce the number of enemy soldiers on the battlefield.
The same goes for taking out guard captains. These are tougher-than-normal soldiers who secure “strongholds” which produce more soldiers and are marked with a sign over their heads and a banner affixed to their backs. If you can take them out you’ll cause other enemy soldiers to flee the battlefield and reduce the number of enemy reinforcements spawned. As a side effect every stronghold you control means more footsoldiers for your side entering the fray.
Pay Attention to Battle Reports
In the midst of battle you can be bombarded with messages and the corresponding corner map icons flashing to show you information regarding your current primary objective, nearby tactical objectives and allies in trouble. The latter can be especially critical if the allies in question have a defeat condition attached to them. New objectives also tend to pop-up during battles which may require prompt action. If you’re feeling overwhelmed you can always pause to review the map and the current objectives. Stopping to take your bearings will also allow you to confirm whether that new objective has a defeat condition attached or if you can ignore it in favour of what you’re currently focused on doing.
Learn Your Cartography
Though Samurai Warriors 3 has a 3rd-person perspective and a user-controlled camera, the levels are quite large and various areas often get closed and opened during the course of a battle. As a consequence activating the on-screen map is a must. Some battles take place in dark forests or over multiple elevations like multi-floored castles or ships and it can be easy to get lost. Luckily with a press of a button you can superimpose a blown-up translucent version of the map to help guide you on your way. Constantly reorienting yourself by checking the corner map as you’re moving through various sections of the battlefield is a skill you’ll pick up in time, but don’t forget to pause and check the big map if you need help finding a narrow passage or ninja trail.
Don’t Forget Those Items!
Before starting a battle you get a choice of three sets of items with temporary game effects and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Some of them have powerful effects like being able to execute continuous musō attacks or boosting nearby ally attack strength, but by far the biggest saver of bottoms has to be the health boosts.
Unless you’re at death’s door it’s better not to waste these on yourself (you can find bonus health items in rice bales and other destructible items scattered over the battlefield), but save them for use on allied officers – especially if there’s a defeat condition attached to them. Health items in your inventory apply to yourself and your nearby allies, so if you have an ally in trouble the first thing you should do when you arrive to give assistance is get close and trigger a health boost to avoid a random attack taking them out right after you show up. I cannot tell you how many times this has saved me from defeat because a critical ally was near death.
Learn Those Combos
Some reviewers have written this game off as a button-masher, but that’s really unfair and suggests only a cursory experience of the combat system. Yes there’s only two primary attack buttons and many of the combos are triggered by repeat button presses, but the range of power attacks that can be executed using these buttons is pretty diverse with an increasing number of combos added as your characters level up.
You’ll find the game a bit of a slog if you merely rely upon pressing the standard attack button over and over again and when enemy officers block your attacks the only way to break through is with a power attack or a spirit charge. Familiarising yourself with power attack combos is the only sure way to defeat the hordes of enemy soldiers and officers you’ll be facing.
If the regular and power attacks weren’t enough, there’s skill-based attacks, the spirit charge, jumping attacks and normal and ultimate musō attacks. Becoming familiar with musō attacks is key to defeating “boss” opponents so be sure you can reliably set them up properly. This is especially true of the ultimate musō attack, with the penalty being a wasted attack that leaves you exposed to a counterattack. Most importantly remember to hold that musō button down when carrying out your attack!
Taken as a whole, each character has a pretty wide arsenal of attacks; it pays to learn them so you know what to do when you’re surrounded or facing a tough enemy officer.
My Little Pony
When you start out you might think the horse just gets in the way: after all you tend to do less damage with attacks from horseback and you cannot pull off all those special combat moves. Nevertheless there are times when mounted travel is valuable. For one thing you can move a lot faster; in some of the larger battlefields like Odawara Castle you’ll find serious baddies like Fumō Kotarō turning up to ruin your day – often on the other side of the map. Running on foot can simply take too long – not to mention the fact that you’ll probably end up getting slowed down by battles with foot soldiers on the way.
You can deliver a bit of pain by remembering to trigger mounted jump attacks into groups of soldiers on the way or just plow through them. Of course you can get knocked off your ride by a volly of arrows, so equipping armour which actively counteracts this is advised if you want to play horsey a lot. Once you start earning special horses you can start out the battle with one. This isn’t always advised – especially for ship-based battles or ones set in castle towns, but it’s a great option to have for the more wide open battlefields and not to be ignored.
Remember the Network
Samurai Warriors 3 is one of the only Wii games with an online environment similar to that which you’d find on a PC or networked game on another console. You’re able to connect to the network outwith playing a mutiplayer game, with an icon letting you know when you’re contactable. It’s a great feature and means you won’t be dependent upon setting up a “play date” for online gaming. You do need to remember to connect before you start a single player game and you’ll also need to register some friends, but once you do you’ll be able to see when friends are playing and invite them to play some Murasame Castle and vice-versa. If only other online Nintendo Wii games did that…