What do you think about first when the Musou series comes to mind? The battle system is always at the forefront for me. I think about the dozens of playable characters that I’ll send hacking and slashing across massive battlefields. Even though I enjoy any and every opportunity to see characters interact with each other in social situations, the fights always feel as though they are at the forefront. Yet, when it comes to my first four hours with Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, the personal touch feels like the most notable part of this project.
Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is a more focused Musou game. While every Samurai Warriors 4 character is here, meaning over 60 characters are present, it is the Sanada family that is most important. It focuses on their most famous warriors, their lands, the lords they are serving and the family’s upward climb.
Masayuki Sanada is our first hero. Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada begins with him proving himself to his lord, Shingen Takeda, in his first major battles. This is when Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada begins setting itself apart. Here, Masayuki is a young soldier; he’s far from the man we think of as one of the Twenty Four Generals. His first objective isn’t to lead the charge in some mighty battle; he is working alongside Naiki Takanashi to deliver supplies ahead of the Battle of Kawanakajima. When he does head to the battlefield, he’s part of a small mobile unit. He isn’t leading major forces.
Masayuki’s supply delivery task is one of many quests that is far removed from the grand Musou battles we’ve come to expect. Masayuki is working alone, traveling through small segments of a map and attempting to protect cargo that Naiki is pulling from small clusters of enemies. While running this errand, he’s even able to chart the location’s areas, collect materials and find multiple solutions to problems.
When faced with a group of opponents in this first task, Masayuki can take a brief detour to another part of the map. He can save a villager from ninjas in this obscured area. This rescued civilian will then provide the enemies with a false information, which allows Masayuki to take advantage of their disarray. He can then easily wipe them out and complete his errand.
Before and after missions such as these, the members of the Sanada family will seek solace in the Sanada main castle. This is a growing hub that eventually offers more people to talk to, shops to visit and activities to experience. It seems like a thing that could be very easily missed and avoided between tasks, but Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada offers players interaction incentives. Visiting and playing along may award the Six Coins of the Sanada, which offer Stratagems you can use in battle.
If you have enough Six Coins to unlock one of these Stratagems, then you can make something good happen during a multi-stage battle. These are Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada’s more typical Musou fights. I’ll use the first Battle of Kawanakajima battle, Escape at Mt. Saijo, as an example. The two Stratagems available are “Secure nighttime visibility for the entire army” and “Use Yukitaka Sanada to protect Shingen Takeda.” Both of these can be triggered during the mission, with the latter giving Masayuki more time to travel across the battlefield and save his lord.
These multi-stage battles and Stratagems help make the members of the Sanada family feel more influential. The multi-stage battles allow Sanadas to be more involved. It lets them do more in every fight and keeps them at the forefront. With the Stratagems, we better understand the influence, intelligence and range of the family. Because they did their research, made connections in the hub and properly prepared, they get to have more strategies that turn the tides of battle.
The first few hours of Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada shows the care this installment takes with the Sanada’s story. The focus on a single family’s history makes specific characters feel more important. It also means we get to see minor and major missions in their lives, as we watch these warriors when they were both youthful ingénues and hardened veterans. The icons can feel more approachable.