I’ve always found it interesting how periods of Japanese history and certain figures develop such rabid fanbases overseas and abroad. I imagine it would be like finding out the teenage girls of the United States suddenly had developed an Abraham Lincoln fixation, reading books based on his life and going through visual novels depicting his rise to power. It’s why Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is so fascinating to me. This isn’t just a game for people who adore the Sengoku period of Japanese history, but who also happen to be big fans of the Sanada clan.
It helps that Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is a pretty good Samurai Warriors game.
What do you know about the Sanada family? Given there are about 60 characters, give or take, in the Samurai Warriors line, it might not be very much. You probably know Yukimura Sanada, as he’s one of the most famous Musou heroes and historical figures, but that could be it. By the end of Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, you will have a general idea of some of the most important moments in some members of the Sanada clan’s lives. They won’t be 100% historically accurate, of course. But you will spend about 50 years seeing what Masayuki, Nobuyuki, and Yukimura Sanada have done.
Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is the video game equivalent of those Ken Follett or Philippa Gregory novels; it is historical fiction that makes otherwise tedious and date-heavy events more engaging.
I think that’s what makes this game so interesting. Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is the video game equivalent of those Ken Follett or Philippa Gregory novels; it is historical fiction that makes otherwise tedious and date-heavy events more engaging. Seeing Yukimura and Masayuki as such personable characters who are getting along with their friends, verbally and literally sparring with enemies and living their daily lives is far more interesting than you’d expect it to be.
The balance helps quite a bit too. In Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, you aren’t going from one thrilling battle to another. As I mentioned earlier, this is so intensely focused on the Sanadas’ lives that it means we get caught up in the minutiae too. That might sound like a bad thing, but it is a good thing! Really! It means you are encouraged to speak with people around your base, participate in fishing and garden-tending minigames, exploring some surrounding areas and completing side-quests. It helps you see them when they are both ordinary and extraordinary.
This can lead to some minor annoyances. When handling a more general quest, which may involve escorting people or supplies, you are placed in a multi-segment map. This means you run a few feet in-game, perhaps fighting a handful of enemies or collecting some glimmering materials, then go into another area. Completing a quest can involve traversing through five to seven of these areas, sometimes even backtracking to get something done. Considering the size of normal Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada maps, it can make things feel quite disjointed.
Conversely, breaking up major battles into multi-stage battles makes much more sense. It would be improbable for a member of the Sanada family to be absolutely everywhere at once, even if historically they did manage to complete multiple astonishing feats at once. This feels like it gives these major battles and characters their due. Combine this with various Feats you can accomplish during the battle, which have you racing across the battle field to meet certain objectives in exchange for Six Coins of the Sanada, and Stratagems, which allow you to immediately trigger some sort of game-changing boon on the battlefield in exchange for Six Coins, and your warriors feel even more important and powerful.
Well, for people who have had enough of the Sanadas, there are all of the other Sengoku warriors you have come to expect from from an entry in the Samurai Warriors series.
Remember how I mentioned the balance Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada offers? Well, for people who have had enough of the Sanadas, there are all of the other Sengoku warriors you have come to expect from from an entry in the Samurai Warriors series. They are here and playable in side-battles that focus on their own struggles. Their adventures are not as fleshed out as the main clan, but their presence is encouraging and adds further variety to an already well-rounded game.
Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada is a more than satisfactory spinoff of a strong series. By zeroing in on a specific clan, we are able to better appreciate the heroics of a handful of characters. Yet, the game still offers all of the people we expect to see in such an installment, giving us an opportunity to enjoy playing as other people too. Battles are broken up and filled with various strategies and tasks that both keep us busy and make us feel important. We even get to see how downtime influences major events, with the Six Coins of the Sanada we earn unlocking Stratagems. By the time you are done with their story, you may find yourself a Yukimura fan.