Samurai Maiden Review – A feudal flop
Samurai Maiden is the latest visual novel Hack and Slash JRPG from D3 publisher. It has several elements to satisfy any Japanophile and tough. While some of these elements are fun and engaging, several others unfortunately hold the game back significantly.
Samurai Maiden implements a strange but not so unique story that follows our heroine Tsumugi Tamaori, a high school girl who is one day encouraged to the Sengoku period. She meets Oda Nobunaga, his ninja host Iyo, along with other visitors from parallel worlds, Hagane and Komimi. She is then informed that she is there because of her family origins, and that she is the “Priestess of Harmony”. Her quest is to take down the demon lord and bring peace to Japan’s Sengoku era. After contemplation and much persuasion, Tsumugi reluctantly decides to accept her duty to return home with the help of Iyo, Hagane, and Komimi, who have their own reasons for taking down the demon lord.
Those well versed in anime and JRPGs know that Samurai Maiden’s premise is incredibly derivative, and after playing through the entire game, I have to say that it’s also frankly flawed. There isn’t much else to the story, as what you see is what you get from start to finish, with very little nuance and multiple plot points on display. Fortunately, the characters do the heavy lifting for the narrative, as each girl has an interesting personality and endearing qualities that make playing through the story worthwhile. Although it’s worth noting that all the characters also fit into a specific tropical archetype, like the little tsundere, the older sister, the hyper girl, and the friendly but simple heroine. But the dialogue between them is always entertaining, especially when they discuss Japanese history and several fables. Each is excellently voiced, thanks to the superb Japanese voice cast.
Although I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the odd translation in some of these conversations, like how the game translates the very specific word “JK” or “JoshiKousei,” which basically means a “highschool girl,” into the generalized one. the term “Gen Z” throughout. This was very jarring to watch as it is obvious that many of the conversations were significantly altered to make the translation make sense.
Outside of the story, players will play multiple missions via linear chapters that start with short visual novel dialogue and end with a stage to clear that has a boss to defeat. Unfortunately, the match was not as smooth or fast-paced as I expected. Attacks are too weighty and slow, especially when trying to chain combos. Dodges feel quite slow, especially against fast attacks mainly used by bosses. What makes this even worse is that the game has a massive and jarring difficulty halfway through the story that makes it ridiculously hard. Enemies become faster, stronger and more thoughtful, making the experience twice as frustrating and half as fun.
However, players will also receive help from the other girls in battle by pressing their respective dedicated buttons when their bars are filled with battles via one-time item attacks. Iyo is filled with fire, Hagane with electricity and Komimi with ice. While these attacks are undoubtedly useful against mobs and bosses, it’s a shame we’re not allowed to control each character individually, or even use multiple skills, as that would have helped flesh out the simplistic combat. It also doesn’t help that these attacks can be easily interrupted when you’re swamped by enemies, making them harder to use, especially later in the game. Fortunately, players will unlock a new powerful move for Tsumugi that allows her to share the abilities of the three girls, dealing devastating damage to the opponent. It’s just a shame it isn’t introduced until very near the end of the game.
Each character’s weapon can be leveled up with enough of the game’s currency, which is acquired in battle, and doing so also levels up the character’s health along with its attack power. Tsumugi’s skills, on the other hand, can be expanded by spending time with the party members via short visual novel sections that simulate training sessions. Then there are the “Bubble Pocket” missions, which are also unlocked in the same way. These missions succeed in adding a bit more variety to the gameplay by implementing simple but engaging puzzle and platforming sections into your regular combat missions. When not battling hordes of enemies, players can treasure hunt for collectibles called Memory Fragments, which unlock extra goodies like illustrations and concept designs.
When it comes to visuals, Samurai Maiden is unfortunately a mixed bag. While the game has visually appealing, well-designed models, fantastic character designs, impeccable background illustrations, and an overall great aesthetic, the levels are unfortunately repetitive and fruitless. The game reuses several assets throughout, including enemies, bosses, animations, backgrounds, and most levels. While I understand this is most likely a result of a limited budget, it’s worth noting anyway, as it’s very noticeable. Performance-wise, the game runs smoothly on PS4, except when many enemies are on screen at once. If so, the frame rate will drop to what feels like 2 FPS until you somehow defeat them all.
Overall, while Samurai Maiden is a very fun game at its core, it is riddled with several issues. As a result, I would not recommend buying the game at the current price of $60. However, if you’re a big japonohile and anime lover, you’ll find some enjoyment in Samurai Maiden if you can look past the bugs and wait for some critical balance updates. Maybe a sale too.
Samurai Maiden would be a fun and satisfying RPG if there weren’t several serious issues that hampered the experience so much.
Abdul Saad is an avid gamer and computer geek. He has been writing for four years about news, reviews, previews and more on several gaming sites. When he’s not writing or playing the latest JRPG, he can be found coding his own games or tinkering with anything electrical.
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