Samurai Warriors 2
If there ever was a franchise that needed a blast from a defibrillator, it's Koei's Warriors series. With the exception of the Empires spin-offs, the Warriors games are becoming more and more known for their resistance to change then their actual gameplay. Samurai Warriors 2 as you might expect is pretty much the same game as its predecessor with some minor tweaks and an expanded roster.
Given the historic spin of both the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors games, it makes sense that the storyline between installments never changes. At the same time however, the fact that you're playing through the exact same plotline and more or less the same missions in every installment gets old really fast. 11 new characters expand the scope of the plot somewhat, but by and large you'll be focusing primarily on the same struggles you did in the original Samurai Warriors.
The core mechanics of battle haven't changed much between Samurai Warriors 1 and 2. Combat is still a simple button mashing affair, where you'll chain together normal and special attacks to lay into massive clumps of enemy soldiers. Striking enemies charges up a 'musou'? meter which allows you to unleash a powerful super attack against your foes. It works well enough, but the lack of variety in your attacks gets really stale after a couple thousand kills. Character development has been streamlined somewhat, and while you still gain levels from battle, the vast majority of your skill upgrades are purchased from a store in between missions. Another much appreciated change is the fact that you'll retain everything you gained in a mission even if it ends in defeat, which can take some of the frustration out of losing at the end of a lengthy battle. Xbox live play is featured but it's half hearted affair where you'll race to complete a level against an opponent on a completely different map.
Graphically the game looks a bit cleaner and a touch flashier then its predecessor but you're still slugging it out in some downright ugly and artificial looking environments. Major characters are colorful and animate impressively, but your normal enemies still look about as drab as the scenery. The soundtrack is pretty solid, featuring a lot of the frenetic rock typical of the series. It's unfortunate that the Japanese voices aren't available in this installment as the quality of the English voice work swings wildly between passable and atrocious.
Provided the series hasn't gotten stale for you yet, there is a lot of value here. With 26 characters and a 2 player co-op mode to play, you can sink quite a few hours into this game. If however, you've played any of the other games in the series and found them lacking, there isn't anything here that is going to change your mind.