Sengoku Otome certainly isn’t a new series, and it’s actually been around in one form or another for a fair while – the anime having released back in 2011, and a set of a half dozen or more pachinko (Japanese slot machine) games coming before that. It’s a series that’s set in the Sengoku era of the Japanese culture, but with the twist that everyone human is female; even the greatest warlords.
While this beat ’em up action game and the anime that came before it seem to share a lot of similarities, the game is either alternate universe or some sort of “return” as the anime’s protagonist and a few other key characters seem different in some very key ways. Ignoring the artistic liberties, changes, or omissions, what you have here is a game about trying to save the little people from a big evil, and fighting other warlords along the way. Let’s go through it the best we can.
First up is the story, and while it doesn’t come through perfectly due to the language barrier, the body language and anime scenes paint a pretty good picture of the basics. Without ruining it for you, there are four concurrent adventure-style storylines that interweave and reveal the background for a final conclusion. Along the way you’ll play through action sequences as all the characters in the game, and hear a ton of dialogue you won’t be able to understand without a firm knowledge of the Japanese language… but that’s just the story mode.
There’s also arcade mode, which is a quickly completed mode with the game’s largest range of difficulty. Unlike story mode which runs a singular difficulty level, arcade mode allows you to pick from easy, medium, and hard type difficulty levels – the hard level much more difficult than the story bits, and the easy level at least moderately easier. You’ll choose a character and take them through a half dozen levels of no-dialogue action, able to continue if you lose in a very arcade-like fashion. This mode can be completed in around twenty minutes if you don’t die, and it’s the easiest mode to jump in to for a little action, but if you want the full roster of character choices you’ll need to complete the entirety of story mode first.
Additionally, there’s versus; a mode where you can play ad-hoc, picking the players and connecting to another player for a duel. The added bit of fun here is that you can also use the versus mode solo, simply using it to set up your ideal battle conditions and then going in against the computer. Options, options, options!
If you’re unfamiliar with the game (or are looking to learn the basics without a story or goals in your way), there’s also a training mode. Here, you’re able to set up the conditions however you like – using the mode like a sparring ring, or simply trying to execute moves on a motionless being. The options for scenarios and conditions are quite varied when training, but you’ll need some serious trial and error and/or a guide to set it up as there are a lot of Japanese characters in your way.
Thankfully, gameplay in general isn’t so complicated, though it will require some thinking and planning instead of just button mashing. Just like most beat ’em ups these days, circle is a (short) dash move, square is your standard attack, and triangle is your distance attack (which is also able to be charged). The right trigger can be combined with square to grab your enemy at extreme close range, tossing them across the map; using the right trigger and triangle however will launch your enemy into the air, enabling you to dash to them no matter the distance for a solid attack rally. Lastly, the left trigger is block – unless it’s combined with the right analog for dodging, or the right trigger to initiate your “super mode.”
Super mode (as I’ve taken to calling it since I can’t read the proper name) enhances your attack strength for a short time and allows you to unleash a single super-powered attack move. Unleashing this flashy attack move (via the two triggers and “X”) will nullify super mode whether your attack connects with your opponent or not, so make sure to have them incapacitated or catch them off guard if you don’t want to waste it!
Speaking of catching you off guard, the next topic we need to cover is the gallery – but don’t let the name fool you, as this gallery doubles as the game’s storefront. Using the points rewarded for completing missions you’ll be able to purchase illustrations, movies, sound, and game content; the “gallery” name making more sense when you realize that it’s also how you view what you’ve bought.
Being that there’s no dressing room or upgrade system in place, your options for purchases in the gallery are obviously very limited. That said, the illustrations (at least) seemed worth a buy – and I’d recommend you start there. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what the game content did (or added) however, so unless you want to add “mystery” to the genre you might want to save that bit ’til last.
Looking to the presentation of it all, Sengoku Otome: Legend Battle is a pretty good looking game for the most part, but it does suffer from the dreaded jagged edges problem – especially regarding the character models. Aside from these apparent low resolution asset issues however, the game runs like a champ; not once did it feel like it was dropping frames or slowing down during the action. While high quality graphics are nice, smoothness of play is the bit that really matters in these kinds of games, and Sengoku Otome: Legend Battle holds up quite nicely in that regard.
As for the anime cutscenes included, they’re clearly very high quality – and actually look better than most cutscenes I’ve seen on the system. At first glance I didn’t notice any obvious colour banding, compression artifacts, or pixelation in the animation… and the art looks fantastic. I was actually very surprised at how high quality it was, and even in comparison to the 2011 anime it looks like a big step up. You’ve simply got to love the above-and-beyond attention to detail in that regard, as it reinforces the fact that the game isn’t just a cash-in on the series’ name.
The sound in the game is very fitting, if not completely accurate to the anime. I’m not sure who the voice actors are for either, but they don’t seem to be the same on any of the stand out characters – though that didn’t ruin my enjoyment. The substitutes weren’t bad at all, and I only ever really noticed the difference in passing (or when Nobunaga speaks, as she’s very distinctive in the anime). Sound wise I was happy; but it wasn’t perfect, or exactly what I expected.
The game however, was pretty much exactly what I expected aside from the tweaks in gameplay style. The tweaks aren’t a bad thing though, as I don’t want clones of games I like, I want things that stand out in good ways. Senran Kagura has its characters and thorough back-story, Valkyrie Drive has its over-the top lewdness and its fast-paced gameplay, and Sengoku Otome: Legend Battle has its slower pace and more methodical gameplay style. They’re all faces of the same die (so to speak), but they offer you a different focus alongside that beat ’em up core; and Sengoku Otome: Legend Battle seems like it fits on the mantle just as much as any of the others.
Should you buy it? If you enjoy beat ’em ups for the gameplay, then yes you should. You might not understand the story, but you’ll certainly be able to enjoy the action, and you’ll definitely be able to lose yourself in the sheer options of it all. This game not only hooks you with its gameplay, but it gives you the options to keep coming back to something “new” – a quality that other games in the genre often forget to plan for, but this one services quite nicely.
Now we just need an online multiplayer patch (and a just-as-unlikely localization) and we’re golden, right?
Pfft, who am I kidding; import, import, import!
This review was sponsored by Play-Asia, who kindly provided the import copy for us to review. If you like the look of Sengoku Otome: Legend Battle we suggest you give them a visit via our affiliate link – both because they’re a quality import dealer, as well as because they’ve been kind enough to help us out!