The Sengoku period has been covered extensively in gaming with franchises such as Samurai Warriors, Sengoku Basara, and Ryu Ga Gotoku to name a few. Japanese developers continue to create new adventures blending fantasy and reality, and Samurai Maiden is new action game that approaches the Sengoku period in a unique way. Samurai Maiden takes players deep into the underworld beneath the infamous Honno-ji Temple, the cite where Nobunaga Oda meet his ultimate fate. Traversing the underworld will not be easy, but a group of determined young women light the way toward correcting history’s intended course.
The Priestess of Harmony
Samurai Maiden begins with Tsumugi Tamaori, a young Japanese woman in high school, studying for her finals. A sudden, ominous voice calls to Tsumugi, beckoning her to a different time in history. Before she knows it, she’s stuck in a burning temple with nowhere to run and left bewildered. She’s ultimately brought back to her senses by Nobunaga Oda, the renowned and feared daimyo of Japan. Tsumugi realizes that she’s been sent back in time to the Honno-ji Incident of 1582, which was orchestrated by general Mitsuhide Akechi. Oda has been betrayed, but he quickly devises a plan to ensure his own survival. At the same time, Oda gives Tsumugi a fighting chance.
Oda’s sworn ninja, Iyo, appears with two new companions she found along the way to Honno-ji Temple: Hagane and Komimi. The group determines that Tsumugi must be the Priestess of Harmony, a prophesized young woman from the future that will save the world by defeating the legendary Demon Lord. Oda bestows his Samonji to Tsumugi and tells her that they will meet again in the underworld. Tsumugi and her new shinobi friends decide to chase after Oda, stop Akechi’s plan, and learn the truth of the underworld.
A Samurai Maiden’s Arsenal
Fans of traditional, combo-driven action games will feel right at home in Samurai Maiden. Tsumugi starts with very limited mobility and combos, but more abilities may be unlocked throughout the game. Additionally, Tsumugi depends on teamwork from her shinobi companions to defeat powerful demons. The player may use Iyo, Hagane, and Komimi as assists during combat, and each supporting character has their own unique ability. Iyo may use ninja tools, Hagane may use her mechanical arm as a grappling hook, and Komimi may throw bombs. Unlike Tsumugi, these characters are not directly playable.
At the start of Samurai Maiden, Tsumugi is equipped with the Samonji katana, but new weapons may be obtained for all four characters. These new weapons may be enhanced and upgraded with Inga, energy obtained by defeating demons. Each weapon has unique, unlockable skills that amplify attacks in combat. Upgrading Tsumugi and the party’s arsenal is key toward earning higher ranks in the game’s missions. These upgrades flesh out the game’s combat system, but the character mobility is still lacking. The game’s lock-on input is not great either and really only works well when focusing on a boss.
Samurai Maiden’s story strengthens the relationships between Tsumugi and her party, but players are rewarded even further by building affection between them. Each character’s affection level grows with enemy defeats and assist usage, allowing Tsumugi’s party to grow stronger and unlock new abilities. Players may unlock abilities in the Tsumugi’s Album, which acts as the game’s support conversation mode.
Tsumugi’s affection for her companions makes her stronger, and Samurai Maiden highlights this character growth through the story and Album events. Certain Album events unlock Bubble Pockets, which are additional missions with a greater focus on platforming and support character abilities. Although the story is rather straightforward, the Album provides a ton of interesting dialogue to further develop character relationships. Moreover, Samurai Maiden’s dialogue is fully voice acted in Japanese, so it was a really enjoyable experience.
Nintendo Switch Performance
Samurai Maiden is not an exceptional outlier in performance on the Nintendo Switch, but the visuals still hold up well compared to the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC versions. Most notably, the character models look nearly identical with few exceptions such as the textures on Nobunaga Oda’s coat. Samurai Maiden’s Photo Mode does a great job at highlight the game’s art style and visuals.
The game runs at 30 frames-per-second on Switch, but players can expect serious frame dips in dense crowds of enemies. The unfortunate frame rate dips are shared between both docked mode and handheld. D3 Publisher ensures a day one patch will remedy some bugs found in Samurai Maiden. In fact, the Switch version received an update early into the review process. Samurai Maiden is a really fun action game when it’s running properly, and the Switch version needs those important optimizations.
At Journey’s End
After conquering Samurai Maiden’s final battle on Normal difficulty, Tsumugi’s adventure in the Sengoku period comes to an end. A full playthrough on Normal, including all Album events, is roughly 30 to 35 hours worth of content. Players may retread old ground on Hard difficulty for a second playthrough, however. Hard difficulty is selectable from the very first mission and onward as the player progresses.
The game’s most difficult challenge, Demonic difficulty, awaits if the player dares to finish a second playthrough. Additional treasure chests are available to open in Hard and Demonic difficulties, so players may earn more ninja tool upgrades and illustrations, if desired. Playing through the game once more is a good opportunity to earn Inga for upgrading weapons and purchasing attire for Tsumugi’s group.
A Maiden Voyage
Samurai Maiden is a really fun action game, but it could be even better with further optimizations on Switch and adjustments to character mobility. Fortunately, the performance issues are limited to the Switch in this case. Tsumugi and the rest of the crew make for an interesting cast of characters, and the Album events shine as some of the game’s best content since the main story is lacking at times. The game’s combat system leaves a lot to be desired, but the large quantity of unlockable upgrades makes up some ground for these flaws through normal progression. At the very least, fans of Koei Tecmo’s Musou genre, Senran Kagura, and Oneechanbara should have a good time with Samurai Maiden.
Samurai Maiden is available now for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC via Steam.
DISCLAIMER: D3 Publisher provided Final Weapon with a review copy of Samurai Maiden for Nintendo Switch.