KATANA KAMI: A Way of the Samurai Switch Review – Become a God of the Sword

The long wait for a sequel to Way of Samurai is finally over, sort of. Enter KATANA KAMI: A Way of the Samurai Story; an isometric dungeon crawling, hack ‘n’ slash, rouge like, RPG spin off complete with everything we all love about the quirky samurai series. KATANA KAMI (sword God in English) is set during the original Way of the Samurai game but you really don’t miss out on anything if you’ve never played it. During the Meiji period of Japan, carrying a sword was outlawed and the way of the samurai ended, this has caused swordsmith Dojima to fall into huge debt. The debt collector comes just as you walk into the village and takes Dojima’s daughter (Nanami) as collateral. As Nanami is quite cute you offer to help pay off the 100,000 coin debt in order to marry his daughter, sounds like a good deal to me. 

The gameplay can get pretty frantic.

So how do you help a failing swordsmith pay off a debt? Obviously you dive into the Jikai (the land of the dead) to steal swords from the dead and demons then sell them to 3 factions in order to gently encourage them to wage war on each other and thus buy more swords. 

The Jikai is a series of massive procedurally generated dungeons, at first you only have a 20 floor dungeon and it took me 22 hours to unlock the 30 floor second dungeon, completing the first about 10 times in the process. Okay that sound boring doesn’t it? To keep you hooked and oh boy was I ever, KATANA KAMI has 132 swords with 9 different styles, each having a perk such as increased critical hit rate and even within the styles swords learn different moves. Once you’ve ventured through to the end of a dungeon once, portals can appear, either taking you to a random place or giving you a series of extra hard floors with penalties such as not being able to use items or ultra fast enemies (sometimes with this one your best option is to then for your life). Also you’ll come across cursed areas from time to time that may have a powerful boss or a swarm.of enemies you have to kill before you can escape. 

The swords level up individually to learn new moves.

Because it’s dangerous to go alone, you can take one of a few different CPU buddies along for the ride with them retaining their level. Or head in the Jikai playing online where you may stumble across someone else on a floor then you can choose whether to work together or fight to the death so you can steal their sword. If real life multiplayer isn’t your thing there’s an option to occasionally encounter bots of players too. Playing any type of multiplayer makes the enemies of the dungeon stronger, plus the added difficulty of not pausing the game when you access the menu. The enemies remain interesting throughout as their design and attacks are varied. All of this meant I stayed addicted as I played through the first dungeon 10 times. 

The CPU buddies can be very entertaining.

The dungeons aren’t short either, the first took me between 50mins and 1hr 40mins and the first time I went through the second (having to go through all of the first dungeon to unlock to second) it took me 4hrs30mins. Luckily you can save midway through (not that the game tells you) by selecting “Return to Title” from the menu. In order to keep the difficulty up each time you jump back into Jikai you start from level 1 every time but your swords keep their level (they learn moves from leveling up and can have their attack power and durability upgraded as well as learn titles to give various perks).

That’s rather a large amount of blood spewing out.

The gameplay itself is astoundingly fun. You slash through floors of skeletons, giant Oni, spirits and those who have died in the town above (these ones can be particularly tricky). You have a light and medium attack buttons with a few combo paths and moves for holding a direction with your attack too, it’s simple but effective and encourages you to try different swords as your sword will slowly break and needs to be sharpened by sacrificing other swords before it does. It might not sound like much is going on but you’d be wrong, you have to watch your vitality (like stamina, if it drops to zero the death God will come and probably kill you), you accumulate orbs to use a special super powered katana time where your sword grows, your reactions go crazy fast and you destroy all in your path. You can risk it for the biscuit by keeping your sword sheathed as then you use vitality to recover health and can unleash a deadly wide attack once you’ve waited long enough. You can kick and throw enemies to break their guard or block just before an attack to activate “Kiwami” a powerful counter slash. You can shout at enemies to attempt to shock them or prostrate yourself to beg forgiveness. All this keep you on your toes and the fighting fresh.

KIWAMI!

The gushes of blood that spurt out of your downed foes add massively to the immersion and helps you really feel like a badass samurai. However other than the copious amount of blood there’s nothing special about the graphics. The designs of the characters and the equippable items on the other hand are fantastic, my favourite being a giant kabuki cat. The quirky charm of the Way of the Samurai series shines most when you equip items, I spend most of my time with an upside down basket covering my head so I can steal more swords and a small cute squirrel like creature atop that but also have a swans neck and head I can attach to my nether regions complete with swinging motion and a lute I can wear cat-bread style. 

What beauty!

The soundtrack is suitably Japanese sounding and perfectly adds tension when enemies are nearby before allowing you to chill out once you’ve violently massacred them all. 

Occasionally the camera angle can be annoying but usually when it is you get red and blue silhouttes.

KATANA KAMI is not a sequel to Way of the Samurai but it is an incredibly addictive and fun game that’ll keep you hooked beyond its money’s worth even if I did just turn the game off when I jumped into the same dungeon in Jikai for the 4th time in a row (don’t do this it counts as a death, then you have to fight a strong enemy to get your items and swords back). After that when the factions started fighting, I was experimenting with weapons, the 136 quests started to unlock and loads more started, I was completely hooked and now over 30hours in, still going strong.

A good ole fashioned village bloodbath.

A huge thank you to Spike Chunsoft for providing the review code. KATANA KAMI: A Way of the Samurai is available now for £26.99/€29.99/$29.99.

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