GAME REVIEW: Samurai Riot [PC- Steam]

Like a samurai with a broken sword, I am frustrated. This should have been a simple review: A modern side-scrolling beat-em-up should be a slam dunk. All that has to be done is balance the attractions of classic games with the trappings of today’s games. To my dismay, Samurai Riot does not advance the classic side scrolling brawler in a satisfying way.

Samurai Riot is based on the classic arcade brawlers of the 80s. Like those games, it can be played alone, or with a partner in the same room.  In August, I posted info about the game’s upcoming release. Well, it’s here! Samurai Riot came out in September, and I had an interest in seeing if the features promised by Wako Factory would be present in the game, and if those features actually make the game interesting. As I started my first playthough, I learned first about the schools of Samurai Riot. Just as you select your character, and select your difficulty, you select your school, which is depicted in-game by the color of your character’s clothing.

I initially thought that your character in Samurai Riot would level up, as if there was a skill tree you added points to. I was mistaken, because you can only play as one style of character at a time. You purchase a “school” which gives you certain benefits. Maybe there are more health points in one school, or more agility in another school, or more fury (special ability) points. There are additional benefits to  some of these schools. Once you earn enough for a new school and unlock it, the school is available to you permanently. Whether you play as Sukane, the kunoichi, or Tsurumaru, the samurai, the schools you unlock are available to both, so there are no worries if you want to start the game over. So this is one feature I am less excited for than I expected to be.

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The money you make in a game is based partly on your skill. Once you clear each screen of enemies, you are given a score, indicated in the upper left corner of the screen. You can either get gold, silver, or bronze, and a corresponding amount of money is rewarded to you. Money is only used for these fighting schools, and nothing else. It would have been nice to spend the money on any in-game items, since you cannot switch schools once you begin playing. Sukane and Tsurumaru have certain tools and abilities at their disposal.

Both characters have special attacks which use bombs or kunai (knives). Tsurumaru’s primary weapon is a sword, which gives him a longer reach than his female ninja companion. I have played as both characters, and I find Sukane to be the more challenging player to use, because of her close range fighting. To make up for her lack of range in fighting, Sukane has a fox companion, a fox that also seems to have some magical talent. This fox allows the player to gain an advantage when the number of enemies gets overwhelming. The fury attack, your special abilities you gain by filling up a gauge, are your best attacks. One of these attacks clears a screen, and another allows your character to unleash a flurry of attacks.

Even with all you can do, I found Samurai Riot to be somewhat difficult for me, especially when playing as Sukane. It was even worse to learn that you are only allowed one save, and that save is gone once you’ve died. There is also no save state, so you will start your saved game at the beginning of the highest level you’ve beaten. Learning that, I switched to easy difficulty, so I could learn how to fight and use my abilities better. If there was some kind of tutorial After getting another game over, I switched back to normal difficulty and tried again. I would’ve liked a tutorial as I went along, but no such luck.

While I’m talking of disappointment, I think that Wako Factory still have corrections to make with their game. When I first played the game, the story is subtitles, but the subtitles appeared on screen later than the audio. Then there is the text. I have found no grammatical errors in the text seen in the game, the dialogue boxes you see from time to time. In the school screen, I noticed that some of the writing should have been checked for errors. This is a French developer, after all, and there is only one person in this small studio overseeing the translation, so mistakes are bound to happen. The game has been updated since I first played, but I haven’t checked out the changes.

I do have praise for the music, the small amount that there is. One song you will hear for a while is a Japanese instrumental with hip-hop sensibilities. I also love the animation of the characters, the powers, and their designs. The story is alright. It’s a basic story of war in the time of samurai, but with supernatural elements. Again, there isn’t enough explanation made when I expect it. I have made it through 3 levels, and I suddenly encountered giant kappa creatures. I know that in later levels you will encounter all types of monsters. Is it matter-of-fact that these creatures exist?

Samurai Riot learned a lot of great lessons from classic beat-em-ups, but it’s kept too much of the old ideas. I want to play a fun brawler, of course, but not based on the limitations of old video game technology. Samurai Riot was more frustrating to play than I expected it to be, and that’s unfortunate. I hope Wako Factory are learning from this, and they gain enough audience to create better titles.

 

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewer: Vichus Smith

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