I love the Warriors series. After the recent Hyrule Warriors and Warriors Orochi 3 — both of which were spectacular — I was left with hope that Tecmo Koei and Omega Force would start putting more emphasis on the handheld versions of their series. Ordinarily, these entries tend to be limited in scope (as is the case with most of the Warriors games on PSP) or introduce some new gameplay gimmick that never works out. In Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3’s case, it ultimately feels like a dumbed-down Samurai Warriors 4.
Chronicles 3 does somewhat new things with its story (did anybody care about the story in Warriors games? I know I didn’t). Instead of picking a character and entering a battle, you’re forced to create a new character. While limited in options (like which weapon type you want to use — males are given longswords and females dual swords, though you can unlock new weapon types later) you have enough cosmetic accessories that creating a giant-headed glasses-wearing weirdo is fun enough. Instead of telling a grandiose tale of entire kingdoms, Chronicles 3 decides to relay a more personal story, which makes sense given that you have agency to create whatever kind of warrior you want.
I absolutely just wish Tecmo Koei would understand why the Warriors games are so beloved by the few folks who still enjoy them. While mechanically very similar to other Warriors titles — you’re still hacking, slashing, and unleashing ridiculous Musou attacks — the mission design is so distracting that it completely breaks any sense of accomplishment that comes from racking up huge kill counters. Enemy officers only really appear when you’re explicitly that they are now a target, and you’re never given enough time to actually accrue three-thousand-plus kills, unless you’re okay with gaining massively decreased experience and gold.
While taking liberties with the mission structure, Chronicles 3 gleans the character switching from its console counterpart while failing to understand what makes that system so interesting. Instead of feeling liberating and fresh — like having the ability to switch to a character on the other side of the map to complete and objective — it’s almost never useful. Switching between characters is almost never strategically advantageous, because the first time you enter a stage, you’re given your main character and several other characters with which you’re forced to play the stage. It’s frustrating, because the officers you’re given are almost always under-leveled. It’s almost better to just do everything on your main character.
Outside of the story mode, there’s a challenge mode, in which you gain points by completing mission objectives. You can trade in these points for some of the rarest weapons in the game, and this is where the crux of Chronicles 3 comes into focus: grinding the same few levels over and over on your main character for points, experience, and loot. It’s not unlike a dungeon crawler, but it’s limited in that respect by the fact that it’s a Warriors game.
Chronicles 3 is also a technical mess. Its visuals are muddy, it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on in crowded fights, and like most Warriors games when being played split-screen, enemy soldiers pop up seemingly out of nowhere. The framerate never climbs higher than 25, and turning on the 3D causes it to dip even further, in some cases into the single digits. It’s understandable that the framerate isn’t great — a ton of stuff is being rendered at once — but the random enemy rendering is a huge problem, since you can’t actually hit anything that you can’t see on screen. You’d think this would have been fixed after Hyrule Warriors had this problem in multiplayer, but it’s likely just due to the 3DS hardware not being up to the task. I imagine the Vita version is better in that department, though I haven’t actually played it.
Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 could have been an incredible entry into the series. By all rights, it should have been (Warriors Orochi 3 on Playstation Portable retained all the modes and features of the console versions) but some misguided mission structure, technical hiccups, and a penchant for displaying completely impertinent information constantly hold this release back. Maybe we’ll get a proper Warriors game on handhelds eventually — hopefully Hyrule Warriors Legends delivers on this, since the console game is so stellar and it’s apparently a straight port — but I sorta doubt it.
Final Verdict: 2.5 / 5
Available on: Nintendo 3DS (reviewed), Playstation Vita; Publisher: Tecmo Koei; Developer: Omega Force; Players: 1; Released: June 30, 2015 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $29.99