Fire Emblem fanatic that I am, I'm highly anticipating the release of Fire Emblem Warriors this fall. I'd really enjoyed Hyrule Warriors when I'd played it a year and a half ago (not to mention gotten completely obsessed with the Adventure Mode), and to help tide me over until the release of Fire Emblem Warriors I thought I'd spend some time checking out other entries in the Dynasty Warriors series.

I usually like to play series in order, but after trying and failing to get into Dynasty Warriors 2, the first main Dynasty Warriors game, I had gone ahead and played Hyrule Warriors. I had a couple of other games in the series lying around, including one on PS3 and one on 3DS, but I ended up settling down with Samurai Warriors 3 for Wii. The game is from a spin-off series that basically seems the same as the Dynasty Warriors games except instead of recounting historic Chinese events the series focuses on Japanese history.

The game has a large cast of characters, and I randomly picked Yukimura Sanada as the character to focus on first. I didn't realize it at the time, but he's actually on the cover and is apparently the "poster boy" for the spin-off series. Although I'd spent a ton of time with Hyrule Warriors, this game took a little adjusting to. For one thing, using the Wii remote and nunchuk setup felt a bit awkward, so I ended up using the Classic controller (although the Classic controller pro would have been even better). Secondly, the button layout was different than the Zelda-style controls of HW, but the main thing I missed was the lack of Z-targeting. This makes blocking enemy attacks more difficult since you have to make sure you're lined up with them before blocking, although I suppose you could assume it's a design decision to give players more of a challenge.

The pace of the battles is very simlar to HW as you're given tasks within the larger mission (e.g. "defeat 3 enemy commanders"), although here you're also given optional tasks that will give you rewards, such as gems (used for upgrading equipment), or bonuses that will help you in the mission. One of the bigger differences to HW is that instead of three different types of "spirit attacks" (i.e. a type of special move), there's only one. This makes the combat feel less varied than in HW, but I suppose the much larger cast of characters makes up for that. The graphics aren't that great but average for Wii, but the characters feel pretty unique (at least the ones that I tried out). Moves are pleasingly flashy, and everything runs pretty smoothly, although the voice acting does feel a bit stiff.

One of the things I really liked about the game is the main story mode, where you follow a character though a 5-stage story arc and increasingly tougher stages. Sanada's last stage in particular sticks out and really captures the game's general feel of being one person fighting against an entire army. I like how the game tells the story from different angles based on which character you're using, and even on the normal difficulty that I was playing at it's clear that you can't just mash buttons and expect to easily win.

As with Hyrule Warriors the game has a Free Mode where you can play any unlocked story mode stage with any character, although this seems pretty pointless other than for grinding and casual local co-op play. There's also a mode where you can customize your own hero, but this seems basically the same as the other modes except you play the stages in chronological order rather than by an individual character's story arc (this mode had online co-op play, but the Wii's Wi-Fi features have been shut off for a while now). Rounding out the list is the Murasame Castle Mode, based on the Famicom game of the same title. I dipped into this a bit as well, although the gameplay was basically the same as the other modes, although with more supernatural elements. I'm sure people who have played the original Famicom game would appreciate all the references, so this is a mode I may have to come back to after I've played that game.

I enjoyed my time with Samurai Warriors 3, and although I didn't already have a deep connection with the characters like with the Zelda characters in Hyrule Warriors before I played it, I liked getting to know them and am looking forward to playing more of the other characters. The historic setting is less appealing than the fantasy setting of HW, but the gameplay is basically the same and still a lot of fun. I could easily have played this game more, but I don't want to burn out on playing Warriors games, before FE Warriors comes out, so I'm going to set this aside for now. Hyrule Warriors really opened me up to the Warriors series, and I'm glad I have more insight into the games in the series before playing FE Warriors. I'll definitely be continuing to check out more games in the series, so don't be surprised if you see more posts about Warriors games before too long.

Check out the Japanese Warriors in these Samurai Warriors 3 links:
- Entry at koei.wikia.com
- Entry at samurai-warriors.wikia.com
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Positive review at NintendoLife, although the game didn't get great reviews in general