Way of the Samurai 3 is a surprisingly big game, with a ton of options to build your Samurai’s personality among the in-game AI.
Way of the Samurai 3 is the third part to a four part series of which, the adventure began back in 2002 when Acquire developed the first game, titled, “Way of the Samuari” and was set in Japan in the 19th Century. The second game came out in 2004, followed by Way of the Samurai 3 in 2009. Those dates are all PS2 dates, except Way of The Samurai 3 which was on PS3. Thanks to Ghostlight, the game has been brought back in 2016 for PC.
We are found to be at a non-fictional moment in Japanese history when the Sengoku Period was taking place, however the games story is fictional and takes place in the land of, Amana. Fujimori Shuzen has overthrown the previous ruler, Lord Sakurai, and the new Fujimori clan has many enemies due to the takeover, so they try to strengthen their impact on the land by forcing workers to work far more with higher taxes. Basically, it’s not a very nice place to be if you’re not part of the Fujimori clan.
There are two other clans within the game, there used to be the Sakurai clan, but since being overthrown, that dissolved into nothing. Now, we’re left with the Ouka clan, who are essentially ex-Sakurai warriors, or vassals, who wish to overthrow Fujimori and get back the land. the other clan is the peaceful Takatane villagers who don’t care about the land, they just want peace.
You star as a nameless rōnin, a Samurai with no master. You’re not nameless for long though because you can name yourself in the New Game menu. I’ll call myself, “Benja”, Sounds fitting.
The menus allow you to do as you’d expect. change the game settings, customise your Samurai’s hairdo, kit him out with fancy swords, however there are a bunch of question marks littered all over the place. These are clearly indicators that you’ve got some fun or interesting features to unlock as you progress throughout the game, maybe that’s from finishing the whole game, or maybe there’s specific mini games throughout? Guess you’ll have to play the game and earn those Samurai points to find out!
The story opens up – after a rather muffled voice over reading on screen text – with your character, stumbling, holding his abdomens in agony as he walks in the pouring rain between the deceased bodies of other fallen Samurais. Right away there’s no indication as to what you are meant to be doing, and with no tutorial it’s up to you to head over and check the key inputs.
I started playing this with the mouse and keyboard, and it felt rather confusing, the keys haven’t been mapped to usual assignments that most PC games use. For example, what’s the point of putting some of the useful keys over on the side of “I, J, K, L” when “W, A, S, D,” is the side where most of the action needs to be happening and your other hand is controlling the mouse? It just didn’t feel right. No worries though, I remapped some of the keys and it felt a tiny bit easier to use.
That was until it got to combat. everything suddenly felt too close together, keyboard buttons for attacks felt too clumsy due to hitting both in a frenzy of trying to manoeuvre whilst attacking. It was at this point I decided to try the Xbox controller support.
Behold! A true Samurai warrior! Everything was mapped nicely and the game felt playable.
“…during any cutscene you can choose whether or not to yank out your weapon and attack whoever is in the scene. It doesn’t even matter if they’re key characters, you can just go crazy.”
The combat works really well, mixing blocking and attacking blends fluidly and the dodge system is a life saver. The only way this could have been bettered was by implementing a dynamic targeting system. I seemed to be fighting whomever my character felt like facing, where there were moments that I could have done with targeting another person and dropping their HP too. With over 100 weapons though, the fights will always have something new to add to the experience.
Feel like not killing everyone in sight? You can flip your blade to the blunt side, a unique option I haven’t seen in a game before. This will ensure that you don’t kill your target, but instead knock them out. Keep on fighting as much as you can though, the more you use your weapon the more it’ll level up, but keep an eye on it’s durability
Interestingly there doesn’t seem to be a huge update on graphics, and considering that Way of the Samurai 3 was released on the PS3, the graphics still look dated back to the PS2 period, although the shading and lighting does look really nice, and the character animations are very nicely done, facial expressions show a great amount of details, but to be honest, I care more about the gameplay than the graphical quality of a game. It’s always worth mentioning though.
Way of the Samurai 3 is loaded to the brim with in-game life. Even though games like Assassins Creed may feature streets packed with civilians going about their daily life to put forth the feeling of a busy world, it still feels rather organised. In this, there may not be that many people littering the streets, but every character has their own personality, they can be communicated with, and you can choose various dialogue options that can affect their views on you. You can even run into a dog a few times and it’ll start chasing you and biting you. Don’t think that’s harsh though, because, in my defence, I found the button to bow before people, and I bowed before the dog and it urinated on me. So yeah, mutt had it coming.
Oh wait, my sources are saying that’s not bowing before someone, it’s actually begging for mercy. That dog is nasty!
You can get yourself a partner, which is a pretty cool option. Not only can you take them on missions to help you out, but you can also have them live with you at your home. – Yep, you even get a home! – They will love living with you! You’re a Samurai for gods sake! That is until you bring home another partner, or you don’t return for quite a while…they can get…let’s go with angry and not mention they may break your weapons. *coughs*
You can do side missions and mini-games for any side you choose, and during these moments you can help them and boost your reputation, or you could, you know, do the other thing. The evil thing. Kill people, invoke terror, and make an entire clan hate you. That works too.
It’s really a fun game, take this for example, during any cutscene you can choose whether or not to yank out your weapon and attack whoever is in the scene. It doesn’t even matter if they’re key characters, you can just go crazy. Although if you’re going to do it just for a bit of fun and know you’ll regret it, make sure to go visit the men with what appears to be a lute. They’ll save the game for you.
Your actions however do affect the end game and they even affect the way the stories caters to you. An example, the game begins, kill the civillians you meet at the start, and come across the castle of the Ouka clan, or let your character faint, they’ll take you to the Takatane villiagers. You have a couple of different endings that are available…actually that’s a lie. I’m downplaying that amount. There are 22 different endings to the game. That’s an incredible amount, each ending depends on your choices and Samurai points gathered throughout playing it.
“Even though games like Assassins Creed may feature streets packed with civilians going about their daily life to put forth the feeling of a busy world, it still feels rather organised. In this, there may not be that many people littering the streets, but every character has their own personality, they can be communicated with.”
It’s a game I really enjoy playing, I haven’t enjoyed a game with such personality since…possibly Fable. You really feel like you’re making a difference to the towns people, you can actually feel the clans falling apart or believing in you more because of your actions. You cannot get access to some areas though unless you do complete the missions, so don’t go expecting to kill everyone and get into everywhere, believe me, I’ve tried.
If you’re looking for a fantastic Japanese game about Samurai’s then this is certainly it. It’s got the perfect level of humour and seriousness. It’s a game I certainly recommend.