From Wako Factory, Samurai Riot offers a moralistic modern twist to the classic arcade style, side-scrolling beat ’em up.
I don’t consider myself much of a gamer these days. My last serious investment in any game was Halo on the original X-Box, and that was purely a social thing with mates. A pizza, a beer and multiplayer sessions until the early hours. I was, of course, single in those days. Lately, with the exception of a few hours here and there on Rocket League, I find the kids get more screen time than I do, and that’s mostly playing Minecraft.
But video games were a big part of my life in the eighties and nineties. Looking back it seems bizarre, but we had three arcade machines in my secondary school*. Robocop, Breakout and Shinobi. It was the latter that ate most of my lunch money.
*This is the same school that was plastered with ‘Do me a favour, plug me into a SEGA‘ posters for the best part of a year. How times change.
So when developers Wako Factory sent over a review code for Samurai Riot I regressed back to my early teens, wore my tie with the thin end showing, hated my parents and set to work on this old-school side scroller.
As the title suggests the game is a Samurai based beat ’em up. It was really designed to be played by two coperatively. Game designer, Kevin Buchet explains:
“The main inspiration in the creation of Samurai Riot is really simple – we always loved to play cooperative games, especially arcade style – with each other. We felt that there are not enough local cooperative games to play, so we decided to develop our own Beat’em Up, that focuses on the co-op experience.”
Since my wife isn’t likely to jump on-board to kick-ass any time soon I had to go solo.
There’s a fairly long-winded intro. Skip this and you have a choice of character – Tsurumaru or Sukane. The former is slower but hardy, the latter is nimble but more vulnerable. Sukane does come with a companion kitsune (fox) called Azu which is super cute and has special moves.
Based on Japanese mythology and tradition, a narrative runs through the game based around a bitter civil war. There’s a little more substance over a classic genre game thanks to a series of moralistic tests. Periodically throughout your progression you are presented with a number of binary choices that affect your journey. Fight the noble cause or not.
In co-op mode you are rewarded for working together, but choose a different path to your partner when the time comes and you must fight each other for the final say on which path to take.
A lot of attention has been paid to making Samurai Riot look beautiful. Clean and clear visuals are reminiscent of old arcade beat ’em ups with pleasing panoramic backdrops. The characters move well in combat and movements are responsive as long as you’re playing with a controller. Irritatingly the biggest aesthetic let down is how the characters move between fights. They tend to shuffle sideways rather than walking.
Despite the clever moralistic elements found in Samurai Riot, much of the game is based upon repetitive play. The baddies come thick and fast resulting in quite frantic passages of play (the game is harder in single player mode), but once you’ve learned their attack patterns they’re easily beaten. And in fact, it’s not too hard to herd the swathes of attackers into a group and take out several at a time. Naturally there are end of level bosses.
Samurai Riot certainly took me back to the golden age of gaming. Its enjoyable and worthy of multiple plays, mainly thanks to eight possible endings dependent upon your choices through the game. But ultimately there’s not enough in the gameplay itself to make it terribly addictive.
Worth mentioning, the soundtrack is pretty dope with a hip-hop feel to it.
Samurai Riot is available now via Steam for £10.99 ($14.99).