Way of the Samurai has been a beloved PS2 franchise that hasn’t seen a lot of love in the last two console generations. However, Acquire and Spike have come together to bring fans a little taste of that world again in Katana Kami: A Way Of The Samurai Story. Does it have what it takes to revitalize the franchise? Let’s find out.
Katana Kami: A Way Of The Samurai Story PS4 Review
A Compelling Premise
Set in the Meiji Restoration period like the other Way of The Samurai titles, you are a samurai at a cultural junction point when the way of the samurai is no longer the way of the world. As you wander, you come across a swordsmith who also feels the change in times, as his sales venture is in a deep recession. At the same point you stumble across him, you find the swordsmith in a confrontation with a debtor who takes his daughter away until his debts are paid. In light of this, you offer your services to the swordsmith, promising an income of funds to pay off his debt in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
The narrative offers very little substance, but it sets up a very simplistic formula for Katana Kami: go in search of money and pay off debts. You do this in a couple of different ways. The first is manipulating the war between three feuding factions, instigating confrontations between them and then funding both sides with armaments. The other is the main course of Katana Kami: dungeon crawling.
The other way of obtaining funds occurs when everyone has gone to sleep. At night, you gain access to a portal to the Jikai, which is a kind of demonic realm, that sees you move from floor to floor, defeating enemies until you find and defeat the boss. Here, you navigate the dungeon, obtaining weapons for customers orders as well as finding extra funds for the swordsmith. In mastering these two zones, you can help get the swordsmith out of debt.
Same, Same, Same
The repetition of combat is evident from the early going, offering very limited combos for each of the select few weapons you find in the game. “Combos” is a word I use very liberally here. Even though you can string very long combos together, the two or three repeated attacks that you use to do so are all you have. Combine that with the pauses between being able to do these short strings of attacks, and you have a combat system that feels quite empty.
Your samurai also has a tendency to slide around after your input stops. This would have added some challenge in a more intimate combat scheme, but this is a top-down dungeon crawler with very little variety or complexity. This causes many of your attacks to completely miss enemies; and it also sees you bumping into passersby during the daytime, pissing them off. The only comparison I can think of that appropriately depicts a lackluster change in franchise is Silent Hill: Book of Memories, but that game still felt like a decent dungeon crawler on its own.
The environment itself also shows its true colors quite soon after loading up the game. Only a handful of floors have different layouts from each other, but many of them look so similar that they all begin to look the same no matter their little differences. Enemy types follow this same pattern, with skeletons, snakes, and wolves all having the same appearance of their counterparts with their names being their only differences. The art style is vivid and enjoyable, but the repetition tarnishes that style quickly.
The last issue I want to point out is the menu itself. On all fronts, doing what you want to do takes far too many clicks. For instance, applying weapons to customer orders takes four button presses. That’s not including selecting the weapons for the customer, since there’s an automatic button for that. Many aspects of the game’s menus follow this pattern, which makes for a clunky experience all around.
Good ideas, Bad execution
All in all, Katana Kami: A Way of The Samurai Story has a very appealing premise to it. The idea of manipulating wartime with crooked tactics is something not seen in much media. However, the lackadaisical execution of combat and exploration as well as the overly complicated menu systems make this a very challenging game to recommend. Fans may find some merit to Katana Kami, but its flaws hardly render it as a game meant for general consumption.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.
Katana Kami: A Way Of The Samurai Story is out now on PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC.