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Way of the Samurai 3 (Xbox 360) artwork

Way of the Samurai 3 (Xbox 360) review

"I've dumped 60+ hours into this game and have come to the sobering conclusion that it is indeed under developed crap. It took 60+ hours of shitty gameplay to undo all the goodwill and anticipation I had from playing the original title. "

I've dumped 60+ hours into this game and have come to the sobering conclusion that it is indeed under developed crap. It took 60+ hours of shitty gameplay to undo all the goodwill and anticipation I had from playing the original title.

This is what Way of the Samurai was like: You're a ronin, walking around freely in a tiny village under contention between two warring factions of samurai. This usually amounted to walking in on other people's arguments, and settling them with a combination of branching dialogue and sword-fighting. You'd walk to different places at different times, pick different sides and kill different people, one or two hours later, you've made it to the bloody climax wrought by your decisions. This CYOA system ended up being an extremely simple and gratifying approach to videogame story-telling, and Aquire accounted for a surprising number of contingencies in player choice. Finding a deeply obscured knot of plot and dialogue by simply trying something new was always refreshing (and would sometimes occur even after 50-odd playthroughs.) There's definitely some childish glee in wondering what will happen if you do this instead of that, almost wondering if the game will break, and finding to your delight, that the story reacts and continues.

The key to doing this well was consistancy. After about ten times through, you already knew what was going to happen where. The game's story only spans three days. You knew the restaurant shakedown happens in the morning of day one, that the head samurai's wife meets with her secret lover on the evening of day two, or that the emperor's ninja will rendezvous with his contact in the afternoon of days two and three at the Buddha shrine. You'd gamble your skill against the relative danger of these encounters (some of which are fairly harrowing) in an attempt to resolve them differently, and see the story unfold in new ways. It was addictive because once you knew the overview of events, you'd have no trouble repeating them as needed on different playthroughs.

How can you experiment without repeatability? Way of the Samurai 3 answers with a resounding "lol wat"

Way of the Samurai 3 discards a proven method of game progression and instead chooses the bold, "Sometimes Something Happens" system: It's indicated whether something is going on somewhere via a map-screen. In the beginning, there's some five events to trigger. You do one or all of these initial things then... nothing for several in-game days, then... "oh hey something is finally happening again", then nothing, then one more event, and an ending that sucks. You have no idea why anything happened the way it did. Your progress through the story is governed by hidden variables... or some other bullshit. It just sucks, okay? You'll often find yourself getting sucked down the same story path over and over because you can't figure out how to trigger a different sequence of events. An FAQ is pretty much a prerequisite.

WotS had a nice tight context in which you're caught in the middle of a series of increasingly foreboding events that occur within the span of three days. WotS3 has a context in which you live in a village for maybe a week, wondering what to do while sometimes carrying out ridiculously frustrating and unsamurai-like side missions. Side missions where you spend a half hour looking for someone and never find them. Side missions where you have to beat up a thief, but because he's not hostile you can't lock on to him, so you slash at the air while he runs away and you have to start all over again. It doesn't help that the actual story content -- once you finally get to it -- is stretched ridiculously thin and the characters all have the personality of an empty cardboard box. The 22 endings the game boasts are basically all told with scrolling text over a static image.

Thankfully, it perks up a bit when it's time to spill blood. WotS3 features the same combo-heavy sword fighting it always did, but you can now dispatch weaker enemies like a pimp with the Ren-Satsu system where you kill instantly by doing a QTE thing. There's also a bunch of new sword styles (and a barehanded style!), and you can make your own custom sword, but the best sword-parts are generally ugly and hard to find.

Way of the Samurai 3 is a pretty crappy game by all accounts, with its shitty story, graphics, translation, and atrocious game flow -- but it didn't have to be offensively "awful!" The awfulness comes from replacing WotS's low-budget charm with an utterly noxious, narcissistically self-conscious "quirky Japaneseness." Yeah, you could choose a robot character or a cowboy outfit in WotS, maybe after you'd beaten the game over a dozen times. In WotS3, you have at least two cyborg costumes foisted on you nearly from the beginning (in addition to tuxedos, afros, leather pants, tiaras, cat ears, demon/angel wings.) I don't understand why you would just take a dump on your own premise like this. Maybe if I played Way of the Samurai 2 I'd know better where Aquire went astray, but from where I stand, Wots3's design decisions seem completely soulless and without care or foresight.


maru's avatar
Community review by maru (April 04, 2010)

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zippdementia posted April 06, 2010:

Hey, kick-ass review. Anyone who has read my Way of the Samurai review should know that I pretty much hated the game, but that I did really enjoy the CYOA branching plots, which is actually done better in that game than any other I've seen before or since (including the one you all know I'm thinking about).

You do an incredible job of making that system sound as cool as it really was. Then you do something I love in a review. Call me a martyr, but when the rug is pulled out from me and all my hopes are taken away... I love that.

Yeah, you make WOTS3 sound pretty shitty. Good voice here, too. I could've stood to hear a little bit more about combat, because that was a pretty contentious point with me on WOTS1, but it wasn't necessary to the review. After all, you'd already convinced me the game had no soul. Who cares about combat after that realization?

Watch out for little errors: "An FAQ is a prequisite," for instance.
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aschultz posted April 07, 2010:

It's cool to read a bunch of reviews in a series of games, especially when they're well done.

However, "An FAQ" is technically correct. Some people pronounce the letters out. I think there was a minor holy-war on GameFAQs over "faks" versus "eff-ay-queue" after a poll-of-the-day. I actually think the eff-ay-queue people won.

The poor brainwashed masses. (/joke)
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zippdementia posted April 07, 2010:

Oh interesting! I never pronounced it as the letters! For me, for that to be grammatically correct, it would have to be F.A.Q. but that's just the way I read.
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maru posted April 07, 2010:

thanks for the praise. it means a lot.
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maru posted April 07, 2010:

"I think there was a minor holy-war on GameFAQs over "faks" versus "eff-ay-queue" after a poll-of-the-day. I actually think the eff-ay-queue people won."

The irony here is that I actually say GameFACKs, but when it's just FAQ by itself I say the letters.
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randxian posted April 11, 2010:

I agree with zipp concerning the intro and build up. I was really fascinated until about paragraph five, when things started to fall apart. I had to read that paragraph a few times before I really understood what was going on.

Also as zipp noted, there are a few technical issues.

This has potential to be a really great review, but it could use some work both in terms of clarity (at times) and some sprucing up technical issues.

Why the hell did this post twice? Guess I'll just delete one.

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