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Way of the Samurai 4 Review

Way of the Samurai 4 Review

For those who aren't familiar with the Way of the Samurai series, it's extremely well-known for being the poster child of weird and quirky Japanese games with its unique style and insane level of character customization. But because of that choice, series' developer Acquire has relegated itself to performing incremental updates to the formula instead of fixing the major flaws that are present in each release. Way of the Samurai 4 carries on this tradition along with some new ideas, but is it all just compounding the issues that were already there to begin with?

For those who haven't played any of the previous titles in the series, Way of the Samurai is best described by taking the open-world genre highlighted by the Grand Theft Auto series and mixing it with an old-school samurai theme. The fourth entry in the series has players play as a nameless wandering samurai who ends up in a town called Amihama, the center of factional upheaval as foreign powers have arrived and have begun to crack the 300-year isolation of the area. Some factions want to utilize the trade and chaos for their own benefits while the more xenophobic factions want to drive the foreigners out of town.

The player's role in all of this is to roam around freely in the area for the next five days. Some players might want to align themselves with a specific faction, but others could be content doing odd jobs around the town, sleeping the entire time or even leaving the town minutes into the introduction. The player has unlimited freedom in this respect, but it does come at a cost. Unlike the previous entries in the series, Way of the Samurai 4 does less to develop and focus on the various characters and thus makes it hard to get drawn to either faction in particular. There's a few characters who are endearing, but for the most part many of the characters are entirely forgettable.

Going back to the open world system, Way of the Samurai 4 does make the player feel like they are part of the world instead of just being a spectator. It feels smaller than other open world titles, but Amihama feels like a place where the player can make a mark on the town if they so choose. This is done by coming across various events scattered throughout the city that range from short cutscenes to full-on missions. They usually involve making at least one decision, which all together culminates in one of ten distinct endings. The game doesn't outright specify what direction the player's decisions take them in, but there is a handy flowchart via the in-game journal which makes it easier to discern what choices to avoid when hunting for an alternate ending.

As each "proper" ending usually takes about 3-5 hours to achieve, unless the player purposefully goes for one of the joke endings, Way of the Samurai 4 is meant to be played multiple times over. In a unique twist, the game keeps track of your choices through each game and carries over some of the plot events from play-through to play-through. One prime example of this involves the ability to open a foreign language school. During the subsequent play-through, the NPCs will start to speak English instead of Japanese.

All of the player's decisions upon the end of a play-through culminate in a Samurai Rating which awards points based on their decisions. These points can be used to obtain new outfits and accessories as well as the ability to change gender, although the game still has NPCs address you as a male character. The variety of outfits is simply staggering, as the player could choose to walk around solely in a tutu if they so chose to do.

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