Also On: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Koei Tecmo
How good is Samurai Warriors: Chronicles 3? So good that it makes me wish I could retroactively knock down the B+ I gave to Samurai Warriors 4 back in the fall. Because even if I said at the time that the game showed how well the musou formula could work on the Vita, Samurai Warriors: Chronicles 3 shows how wrong I was.
This is the game that shows how well it can work on the Vita (and presumably the 3DS, too). Environments that simply show up, with no worries about draw distances. Lots and lots of enemies that can all fit on the screen at once. Touchscreen controls that make sense, and don't require you to suddenly juggle your Vita around. It's as if Koei Tecmo decided to revisit Dynasty Warriors Next and fix everything that was annoying about it, rather than trying to cram a larger-sized game into a smaller box.
I don't want to oversell it, of course. We are just talking about a musou game, which means that if you've ever played one before, you'll mostly know what to expect here. You're hacking and slashing your way through endless waves of enemies, occasionally pausing to stop and have a slightly longer hack and slash battle with an area boss. There are nods to Japanese history in the interest of giving it some kind of story, but mostly you'll just be running around areas, mashing the square and triangle buttons as much as you can.
That said, there are a few improvements to the formula here that help the game stand out. For example, the way the game uses the Vita's touchscreen; whereas Dynasty Warriors Next required you to change positions abruptly when you wanted to take on multiple enemies at once, here all the inputs are at the edges of the screen. Just as importantly, you can still kill hundreds and hundreds of enemies without having to take your hands off the buttons if you so choose.
Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 also gives at least nods towards player choice and a broader Samurai Warriors universe. For one thing, you guide your created character through dialogues, and you build relationships with your fellow warriors depending on how you react to what they say. I don't know that it changes things all that much, but it at least does a good job of making you feel like you're an active part of the story, rather than just passively scrolling through the dialogues until it's time to go fight again. Similarly, the game does a good job of making you feel part of a broader team of warriors; you're allowed to switch from one samurai to another during battles, which means that if you get tired of fighting in one area you're able to quickly switch over to another. And, on a related note, it was neat every time I switched bodies and discovered that the other fighters were invariably already engaged in battle with dozens of enemies, with no prodding or direction from me.
Does that mean you should give Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 a chance if you've previously written off musou games? Probably not; it's different, but it's not that different. It's also, however, a very, very good musou game that was clearly made to be played on the Vita, which means that if you tried one of the previous handheld entries and weren't impressed, that's not a reason to write this one off, too.