Overview – developed and published by Wako Factory, in collaboration with Hound Picked Games, Samurai Riot Definitive Edition is a 2D action brawler set in a war torn fictionalized Japan. As Sukane and/or Tsurumaru, fight your way through wave after wave of soldiers and make choices that will alter the course of events. This title is available on the Nintendo Switch and PC platforms, with links to each version of the game available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Samurai Riot Definitive Edition that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping the Story segment but I will be giving some basic details about the setting, characters and the way that the game works in the other segments. I will be referring to this title as simply Samurai Riot during the review to save time.
Gameplay – Samurai Riot is a 2D local co-op, side scrolling brawler set in a fictionalized Japan, where a war has been waging for many years. The two loyal soldiers of the Great Master, Sukane and Tsurumaru have been tasked with bringing down the rebellion that threatens his position, fighting soldiers and Yokai to achieve their goal. The core objective is to move through each area, battling the foes that appear and fighting bosses. However, what makes this title different is the branching path system that can lead to 1 of 8 possible endings.
The combat system for Samurai Riot is fairly unique, with the two characters having their own fighting style and special moves. There is also a system called “schools” which give the characters different stats, alongside skills like poison or double jumping. Here are the basic abilities of the two warriors for this title;
- Sukane – a Kunoichi that uses close quarters combat to attack her foes. Accompanied by her faithful companion Azu, a Kitsune fox that can transform and be used in combat as a capture chain, shuriken and bomb but if Azu is hit then he will be unable to assist for a short time. Sukane is unable to block attacks, but she does have a dodge roll and can use Azu to bring enemies close.
- Tsurumaru – a samurai warrior that cuts down those in his way with his Katana. While he lacks a companion like Sukane, Tsurumaru has access to grenades that can be thrown at enemies, but these are limited and must be replenished before using them again. He is able to block attacks with his sword and grab enemies up close.
The basic flow of combat with both characters is smooth and consistent, with both light and heavy attacks that can be mixed together for combos. There are also charge specials that deal extra damage depending on charge length, aerial attacks that can be used to get within striking distance of foes and powerful dash attacks. The overall combat experience is fairly consistent and can be easy to pick up, allowing players to get right into the game.
The only complaint with the battle system is the lack of a tutorial when first playing the game, explaining how the mechanics for battle work. For example, there is no explanation of how Azu works when using him to grapple enemies, or how to gain additional grenades when playing as Tsurumaru. There is a command list that is available in the pause menu, showing the moves for both characters, however there is still a lot of trial and error present during battle.
Both characters have access to a fury meter that allows use of 2 ultimate attacks, a close range super combo that uses one charge and a powerful explosive attack that uses two charges. The fury meter has a total of 3 charges, with the bar being filled by collecting items and dealing damage to enemies. These attacks can turn the tide of battle and are most effective against bosses, but they are not the only special attacks that players can use.
As a co-op brawler, this title has a special meter that is only accessible when playing the game in 2 players. By working together, both players will build up the special co-op attack meter that is in the middle of the screen, allowing for a special team attack to be unleashed. This special attack allows both players to deal heavy damage to the bosses and tougher enemies in the game, making team work an important element of the game.
Over the course of the game, players will gain medal rewards based on performance for each battle sequence that they go through, with 4 possible rankings that can be earned. The medals are wood, bronze, silver and gold, with each subsequent rank increasing the gold earned for that battle. The rankings will increase for successful hits on enemies, but will decrease if the player sustains too much damage in battle.
There is also an overall ranking that the player can earn for each stage, with the time taken as well as other factors during play influencing the final result. When a stage is cleared, additional bonuses will be given to the player, adding to the total funds earned for that play through. All funds earned will be added to the total either through a completed run of the game, or if there has been a game over and the player doesn’t continue.
There are also bonus items that can be given to the player, which consist of extra lives and fury filling items. But these aren’t the only items that can be obtained during play, by destroying environmental objects like rocks and signs, additional items will be dropped. Alongside the extra life and fury pick-ups, the player can collect money in three different amounts and health items that heal damage. Items are picked up by walking over them so be careful in co-op if one player is wounded.
At key parts of the game, there will be decisions that the player has to make, with each choice changing the way that the story plays out. These choices will have drastic effects on the plot, altering the sequence of stages that are played through and the bosses faced. When playing in co-op, both players must decide on which route to take. However, if the players are unable to decide, a PVP duel will take place with the winner deciding where to go next.
These branching paths and different endings add to the replay value of this release, but they aren’t the only thing that gives players a reason to return to the game. As mentioned above, there is a system for character stats called “schools” which alters the abilities of both characters. Both characters have a total of 12 different fighting styles with 5 unlocked at the start, with the other 7 needing to be unlocked. To unlock the different fighting styles coins must be used that are earned in game.
There is a caveat to the unlock system in this title. When a fighting style is unlocked it is tied to that character, meaning that the remaining locked styles must be unlocked for both characters. There is also escalating costs for purchasing the fighting styles, starting at 2000 coins and going up from there. These prices are tied to each character, meaning that several runs of the game will be required to unlock them all, grinding coins to unlock more styles.
The overall flow of combat has the potential to change depending on the school chosen, giving flexibility for players to mix up their gameplay style. The combat in general is fairly stable and works well, with solid combos and action during the battles. There is a smooth flow with both characters having their own unique styles, keeping the gameplay fresh through multiple playthroughs. However, there are some flaws to the experience.
The biggest issue that occurs is the game entering a soft locked state, where the game is unable to continue. This can occur when the companion fox Azu will get caught on scenery, an enemy gets stuck off screen or a scripted event doesn’t activate. This unfortunately forces the game to be quit or closed entirely and rebooted, causing a significant loss of time and progress. Another issue is that hit detection can be a little off, causing attacks to miss enemies but they will hit the player.
The last issue to discuss is that the player can be easily overwhelmed by enemy forces, with foes dealing massive damage to the player very quickly. This is due to the presence of hit stun, where the player is unable to react to the attacks until they are knocked down or killed. It is also possible to get stuck in a corner, being trapped in an inescapable pattern where enemies will repeat strong attacks, knocking the player down over and over until death.
These issues can be frustrating and disrupt the flow of the game, which can sadly ruin a speedrun or a playthrough in general. It is possible for these issues to be patched in an update, but at the moment they are a stumbling block that otherwise tarnishes a fairly solid experience.
Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to discuss the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.
Controls – the control method for this release is basic and well planned out, with all of the buttons having a function on the controller. The attacks are mapped to the face, movement is handled by the left thumbstick/d-pad and the block/grab is covered with the shoulder buttons. There doesn’t feel like there are any issues with input lag, with a range of control types supported through the ability to remap inputs for different controllers.
Difficulty – this title has four different difficulty settings that are selected when starting a new game. They are Easy, Normal, Hard and Expert, with each one affecting the damage that enemies deal, the number of enemies present and the amount of continues the player can use. All four options have a fair balance to them, with the difficulty increasing over time, making for a challenging experience that players of all skill levels can enjoy.
Presentation – the visuals for this title have a distinct stylized look to them, with detailed backgrounds, fluid character animations and detailed sprite work. There are cinematic cut scenes that play out at the beginning of the game, along with special ending scenes that appear depending on the choices made. The sound design fits the theme of the game well, with Japanese styled musical compositions that feature traditional instruments for the soundtrack. There is also a limited amount of voice acting in this release, with voiced dialogue for the cut scenes at the start of the game.
Final Thoughts – I have some mixed feelings about Samurai Riot. The core of the gameplay is solid, with some fun action, creative combo potential and very fun co-op action. However, the fun that is had with the game can be tarnished by the flaws that are present in the game, especially with the soft lock issue. Having the game lock up and being forced to reset is a real pain, with the time lost feeling like a waste and being frustrating.
I do hope that the game can be patched, because the overall experience can be fun and it is very engaging even with the rough edges. The gameplay loop and replay value is there, it has a lot of content to unlock, with the different endings, routes and stage variety to explore. I can recommend this to people who are looking for a fun single/co-op brawler, as the game is enjoyable at a very good price point. However, be aware that there are some flaws.
In the end, I give Samurai Riot Definitive Edition a final score of 3.5/5. This is a fairly solid side-scrolling brawler, with fun arcade style combat and frantic co-op action, all set in a stylized fictionalized Japan. However, the experience is a little frustrating and brought down by some of its flaws. If you want to check this game out for yourself, links to the game will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to Steam version (HERE)
Link to Epic version (HERE)