Samurai Riot is a new 2D side-scrolling beat’em up arcade game developed by Wako Factory. With an emphasis on arcade style combat and local co-op with a branching story arch, does Samurai Riot achieve all that it set out to do? In this review I take a look at the game and help you decide whether or not it is worth your time.
Let’s start with the story…
In Samurai Riot you play as either Tsurumaru, a highly skilled Samurai loyal to serving The Great Master or Sukane, a young Ninja accompanied by her Fox. Both have been tasked with bringing an end to a civil war that is ravaging the lands. However, things are not as straight forwards as they seem and this story has you making moral choices that will alter the direction of the story bringing you to one of the games 8 endings. Each decision has a real consequence and will affect your story as you progress. When playing in co-op both players have to pick a path and if you disagree with each other you are forced to fight each other in order to come to a decision.
I did get the feeling that the choices still had similar outcomes though as you progressed through. For example, early on in the game you have to chose between siding with the The Great Master or siding with the rebels. Siding with either one still had a similar outcome, albeit by a different cause and just seen from a different perspective. One of the choices just meant you bypassed a stage and got to that outcome quicker. Do not expect much voice acting to be included in this game. Instead you will be reading text in bubbles above the characters heads. This is not a bad thing though, Wako Factory have got the balance spot on as there is not a lot of text so it never feels taxing to read. Overall Samurai Riot has a good story and the multiple endings make for a decent amount of replay value.
On To The Gameplay
Samurai Riot can be played either Solo or in Local Co-op. It’s worth taking into mind that Wako Factory designed this game to played in Co-op. You especially need to keep this in mind when starting a new game. You only get one save file, this is overwritten whenever you start a new game. Unfortunately this is not a Drop-In-Drop-Out game and if you decide you want to play co-op with a friend you will have to start all the way from the beginning. I originally started playing in Solo mode but when I died and had to start again (yep that’s right, perma-death) I decided to try out co-op instead. I have to say that the game plays far better and is much more fun to play in co-op.
In co-op the game monitors how well you perform together so communication is key. Are you helping each other out by attacking the same target? Are you fighting in sync with each other? Finally are you managing to stop enemies from getting between you both? All of this combined gives you points which fill up your cooperation gauge. Once filled and if timed correctly this will allow you to unleash a powerful cooperative attack to devastate you enemies. I found this quite fun to do and quite rewarding when you manage to pull it off and is especially useful when you are swarmed by a large group.
Perma-death is still in play during co-op although it is slightly more forgiving. When one of the players loses all of their lives they will be out of the game until the other player completes the stage. They then rejoin you for the next stage. If however, the remaining player loses all of their lives it is game over. Perma-death isn’t an entirely bad thing though. Did you regret a decision you made or the school you picked? Or do you just want to try the game a different way, then now is your opportunity to do so.
Combat, one of the best aspects of this game…
As Samurai Riot is a beat’em up the main feature and focus of the game is it’s combat. Wako Factory have tried to make Samurai Riot feel like an old arcade game and I think they have done a pretty good job at doing so. The combat is challenging while at the same time it’s fun and engaging. Once you get the hang of the fighting styles and moves, some of them can feel pretty rewarding to pull off. You have your health bar and lives displayed at the top of the screen along with a Fury bar that fills up twice, each time allowing you to use your Fury abilities. These are 2 abilities that when activated allow you to do a huge amount of damage on enemies, useful for large groups or defeating bosses that appear at the end of each stage. Timing these right and making sure their hits land feels quite satisfying.
When you come across enemies you cannot progress further through the stage until you have defeated all of the enemies that flood in from both sides of the screen. This happens frequently enough that you don’t get bored but also doesn’t happen too much so you won’t get fed up of running into enemies. Even if you did get fed up, it’s a beat’em up so expect to be flooded with enemies. My only issue with this is that when there are a lot of enemies on the screen it is sometimes easy to lose track of where your character is. It’s also sometimes hard to land hits if you are not directly in line with enemies but this is just a case of getting used to the game.
There are different types of skills that are called Fight Schools. When you are starting you pick a school and your stats are altered accordingly. For example, the school of the Dragonfly grants you a health boost, Phoenix grants you an extra starting life and Frog allows you to double jump. You cannot change this until you start a new game so choose wisely. There are eleven schools in total and only the first four are unlocked to begin with. The rest can be unlocked by progressing through the game earning points during combat or by smashing objects.
The controls are basic and work well although I did sometimes find myself accidentally activating my Fury ability when trying to jump and attack at the same time. This is slightly frustrating as there is no way to stop this once triggered. Samurai Riot is designed to be played best with a Gamepad or an Arcade Stick. You can also play this game with your keyboard but you will not get the best experience out of the game, especially when playing in co-op. I strongly advise you to dig out your gamepad for this one.
How does it look and sound?
The 2D graphical style of Samurai Riot, although familiar is actually very unique. This is due to the graphics actually being hand painted. It has a nice look and feel to it and definitely makes this a nice looking game. As this is a 2D game, do not expect any graphics options other than resolution settings as no other settings are needed. All of the cut-scenes are 2D animations that work well. The soundtrack is unique to this game and is a great soundtrack. It fits in well with the game and helps create a great atmosphere.
The user interface and menus are my least favourite thing about the game. When browsing through the menus, going back to the previous menu does not remove the menu you were just on. To start out with I didn’t realise it had actually gone back to the previous menu that had been pushed off to the side. If you use mouse and keyboard instead of a game pad there is no mouse cursor so you have to use the keyboard to navigate the menus. All that I would want changing in this aspect is that the current menu disappears when going back to the previous menu. This would make it less confusing and also make it look a bit more clean.
Does it achieve what it set out to do?
Samurai Riot is fun and engaging. The best 2 aspects are what make it fun to play and that is the co-op mode and the combat. There is a unique graphical style that resembles an old arcade game while still looking fresh and modern. The artist that has hand painted the textures for this game has done a really good job and the soundtrack really helps to set the atmosphere. The story is good and the multiple endings mean that there is a high replay value. You’re not just going to play through the story once and then be done with it.
My issues with here seem to be only because I’m expecting to see features that are in most modern games but missing from this one. This is due to how the developers want the game to resemble old arcade games. I would welcome Drop-In-Drop-Out co-op just so you don’t have to start again if you have no one to play with at the time. A tidier menu interface alongside a mouse cursor for keyboard players would be welcomed as well. But I do get why this isn’t there. After all it is designed to be played with a gamepad. Overall it is a good game and Wako Factory have achieved what they set out to do. That is to produce a classic arcade game with combat, Local Co-operation and story as it’s core features. It is great to see a developer that is dedicated to producing games aimed at local co-op.
Samurai Riot is available from today on steam and is currently at a very reasonable price so if you are are interested in this game give it a try as you don’t have much to lose.