Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada Review (PS4)

Koei Tecmo refine the Musou formula with each installment, and this is clear in Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada which comes with new gameplay mechanics as well as a high level of polish. The Sengoku period is explored through the eyes of the Sanada clan, taking you on a romanticised historical journey among Omega Force’s best. 


Masayuki Sanada, a retainer to the Takeda clan, makes his debut on the battlefield against the Uesugi clan where he quickly makes a name for himself. Not too long after this he has two sons, Yukimura and Nobuyuki, and remains part of the Takeda clan which the fearsome Nobunaga Oda is waging war against. With many casualties being sustained leading to the breaking down of the Takeda clan, and with the Sanada family gaining renown, the Sanada clan is born with the two siblings fighting alongside their father.


I’ve always enjoyed the stories of the Samurai Warriors games over its parent Dynasty Warriors series, and Spirit of Sanada is no different. Spirit of Sanada tells a more personal story which is a great new twist, and it takes you through the lives of the main Sanada family members.


spirit of sanada review

Spirit of Sanada tells a more personal story.

Spirit of Sanada stays true to the spirit (heh) of Musou games with an emphasis on hack and slash, with hundreds of enemies being blown away each stage. Unique to Spirit of Sanada is the “Sanada Six Coins” system, where you can collect up to six coins by talking with the townspeople and completing specific goals in a stage. You can then use a coin to activate a Stratagem to change the flow of battle, such as having an enemy officer intercepted.


It’s a new feature that encourages you to focus on things outside of simply defeating your opponents and while you could get along by ignoring them completely, it’s best to save up those coins as they really are useful.


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The town is given flavour via mini-games such as fishing. You initially start in a small town where your efforts really have an impact on the townspeople’s lives. I love social interaction in games, and I’m impressed by how Omega Force tackles towns and their inhabitants in Spirit of Sanada — it’s a big step up from the likes of the bases in Warriors Orochi 3!


Otherwise, the combat is as you’d expect from a Samurai Warriors title with little change, but it’s still engaging and one of the more polished Musou titles. Gear up, grab your favourite horse and charge head-first into endless waves of enemies, slashing them down with a mix of light and strong attacks until you’ve fulfilled your goals whether it be by defeating a specific officer or reaching a certain point of the map.


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Koei Tecmo games have always had amazing character models and Spirit of Sanada is no exception.

Koei Tecmo games have always had amazing character models and Spirit of Sanada is no exception. They don’t look particularly realistic but they have an almost 3D anime feel to them, and they work well with the series’ outlandish battles — they may be loosely based on real events, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t go down with one person, or a small group of people, crushing thousands of people with ease.


The historically inspired stages are split into several sections, but the clear directions means you won’t be aimlessly wandering around, and the vast amount of characters to play is astounding, even if many do feel rather similar to one another — with some fantastic outfits, too.


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The voice-acting is in Japanese and solid, lending emotive performances to the more personal story and it avoids being dry — Musou games know how to have fun with themselves, and it really comes through in Sanada. The music does a good job in blending in with the games’ period of time with orchestral scores and wood instruments, rather than electronic instruments.


spirit of sanada review

Button-mashing is rarely this fun.

With the formula well and truly tried and tested, it doesn’t sound like much when I say that Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is one of the best Musou games today, but it is. If you’re looking for a Musou game that’s a little bit different, while still feeling familiar to fans of the genre and series, then Spirit of Sanada will likely impress you.


Seeing how Omega Force will proceed from here should be interesting. Dynasty Warriors is going open-world, so maybe we’ll see Samurai Warriors attempt the same too? Spirit of Sanada might play it too safe to be one of the most memorable games of the year, but it’s a brilliant Musou title that gives you plenty to do. Button mashing is rarely this fun.

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