Way of the Samurai
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|Way of the Samurai|
North American cover art
|Release date(s)||PlayStation 2
Set in 19th century Japan, the player takes on the role of a ronin who wanders into a remote village and becomes involved in a conflict between rival clans. A notable feature of the game is the branching storyline, which allows player decisions to radically alter the course of the story.
An updated version titled Samurai Kanzenban (侍〜完全版〜?, lit. "Samurai Complete Edition") was released in Japan in 2003. It features bug fixes and additional content. The game was followed by a number of sequels on the PS2. Way of the Samurai was also released on PlayStation Portable on September 18, 2008 in Japan; prior to the release of Way of the Samurai 3.
The story of Way of the Samurai takes place in 1878, after the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate and the start of the Meiji period, during the Satsuma Rebellion, a time when the samurai who were once at the top of Japanese society are all but outlawed. The game begins with the player, taking the role of a wandering ronin by the name of Kenji, arriving in a fictional outpost called Rokkotsu Pass.
Rokkotsu Pass is a sparsely populated village, whose main attractions include a railway crossing, a small restaurant, and an iron foundry. Three separate factions are competing for control of the Pass, each with their own agenda. The first is the new centralized government, whose army has been sweeping through the country securing power from the local warlords. The government army is well funded and equipped with modern weaponry, including firearms and cannons, making them formidable opponents for the former samurai lords.
The second faction is the Kurou family, who previously held sway in Rokkotsu Pass and continue to exert their influence on the people through extortion and intimidation. Led by Tesshin Kurou, the family is resisting the government's attempt to take control of the pass, however the samurai cannot compete with the modern army. In an attempt to secure funds, the Kurou intend to sell the iron foundry to the government.
This decision by the Kurou puts them in direct opposition to the Akadama clan, whose leader, Kitcho, is the illegitimate son of Tesshin Kurou. The Akadama wish to expel the government forces from the pass, and plan to sabotage the Kurou family's attempt to sell the foundry.
Caught in the middle of this power struggle are the village peasants, who are likely to be oppressed regardless of who is in control.
Although the story in Way of the Samurai follows the basic framework provided above, the actual events that the player participates in depend greatly on the decisions made while playing. Immediately upon entering Rokkotsu Pass, the player is confronted by a group of samurai attempting to kidnap a young girl. The player has the choice of helping the girl, joining the abductors, or ignoring the situation altogether. Each of these decisions will lead the player down a different path, resulting in a vastly different view of the main plot points.
The player's decisions will also have a direct result on Kenji's allegiance within the storyline. The player may choose to join either the Kurou family or the Akadama clan, to support and protect the innocent villagers, or to take no side and observe the events as an outsider with minimal direct involvement. The player may also choose to help one faction and then switch allegiance later in the game.
As a result of these branching storylines, Way of the Samurai has seven different endings; the particular ending obtained by the player is based on which faction, if any, Kenji has allied himself with and the actions taken during the course of the game.
- Kenji: Very little is known about the protagonist, aside from the fact that he is a samurai. Due to the nature of the game, Kenji's motivations are entirely decided by the individual player; he can be a selfless hero, shameless villain, or indifferent spectator. The player has the option of changing Kenji's name at the start of the game, as well as altering his appearance using various head and body models unlocked during repeated playing.
- Tesshin Kurou: The patriarch of the Kurou family, Tesshin comes from a long line of samurai and is one of the most formidable swordsmen in the game. He has a famous sword named Dai-Kuronama. He is also the father of Kitcho—Head of the Akadama Clan. Kurou laments the waning influence of the great samurai families, but can see little option but to provide for his family. He has been driving villagers out of the station for months so that he can sell Rokkotsu Pass and his failing iron foundry to the Meiji government.
- Kitcho: A charismatic revolutionary and head of the Akadama Clan—a group of samurai who have recently arrived in the pass with the intention of overthrowing the Meiji government and bringing the samurai class back into prominence. Kitcho is the son of Tesshin Kurou through a previous marriage, and at least equal to his father in terms of swordsmanship. Kitcho opposes Kurou's treatment of the villagers and his plan to sell Rokkotsu Pass to the government, seeing it as surrendering to their enemy.
- Madam Murasaki: The wife of Tesshin Kurou, Murasaki is widely respected in Rokkotsu Pass, and is the first to discover the truth behind the Meiji government's interest in purchasing the iron foundry. Although the family credits her with revitalizing the Kurou family's dwindling fortune, she silently opposes selling the iron foundry. She is having an affair with Inokashira the police officer.
- Chelsea: An Englishwoman, Chelsea is a prominent member of the Akadama clan and hinted to be Kitcho's lover. She is deeply devoted to Kitcho and his dreams, and makes an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Tesshin Kurou, thwarted by Tsubohachi.
- Karibe: Another primary member of the Akadama clan, Karibe feels that the clan should strike out against the Kurou family, which leads to tension between himself and Kitcho. He has great sword skill but is volatile and unstable.
- Soichiro Shiretoko: A Kurou family's adviser who is trusted by Tesshin to do important tasks. Although he seems to prefer delegating tasks to lower level members of the Kurou, he is a formidable opponent when forced to draw his sword.
- Hachiro Tsubohachi: A Kurou family enforcer, he is one of the first people Kenji encounters when arriving to the pass. He is easily distinguished by the tattoos on his upper body (which appear similar to those used by the Yakuza). No matter Kenji's allegiance, Tsubohachi sees Kenji as a rival.
- Hyuga: Prominent member of the Akadama clan. Hyuga is actually a government ninja sent to manipulate Kitcho, persuading him to take control of the Rokkotsu Pass quickly, so when the Akadama Clan and Kurou Family clash, both forces will be weakened, and then the Meiji forces can take over without having to deal with much resistance. He is responsible for the animosity between the Kurou and Akadama Clans, making it easier for the Meiji Government to dominate the events in the pass.
- Kintaro Kurou: The infant son of Tesshin Kurou and Madame Murasaki and half-brother of Kitcho. Although too young to have any significant purpose, he is also sought by Kitcho as he sees him as a future threat.
- Josui Tamagawa: Commander of the Meiji Government army with a strong disliking to samurai. Tamagawa manipulates the various characters in an attempt to secure control of Rokkotsu Pass, as well as putting an end to the reign of the samurai era.
- Inokashira Mokichi: A police officer in Rokkotsu Pass, he is both arrogant and corrupt, using gun as his weapon of choice and accepting bribes at every turn. He is discovered to be in a secret relationship with Madam Murasaki.
- Jose: A giant lackey employed by Inokashira, whose preferred weapon is a large bludgeon. Probably the physically strongest character in the Pass, but also the least intelligent.
- Gunji Dojima: The town swordsmith, the player may enlist his services to enhance the attributes of any of the swords collected during the events of the game. Dojima also participates in several of the plotlines, as he feels that the weak and poor are victimized by those around them and chooses to defend the villagers in the Pass.
- Suzu: One of the first people encountered by Kenji, Suzu is a waitress who runs Amaguri, a restaurant in the station. She lost her parents during the war, and was saved and raised by Kurikichi. She is frequently harassed by Tsubohachi who has a crush on her, she on the other hand is not interested.
- Kurikichi: Owner of the small restaurant named Amaguri in the Rokkotsu Pass station. Kurikichi saved Suzu when she was a child and raises her as his own daughter. Though he is hunched and sometimes can barely walk, he is resilient and refuses to be pushed around by the opposing factions.
- Don Donatelouse (Dona Dona): A foreigner who wishes to be a samurai. Notable for his large afro, he is often referred to by the villagers as "Dona Dona" and has taken the role of protector for Suzu and Kurikichi. He is in love with Suzu, but cannot find the right way to express it. Though canonically he is a poor fighter, in actual gameplay he can be quite a formidable opponent.
- Enzan Toyoko: Another ronin wandering around Rokkotsu Pass, Toyoko will sometimes provide Kenji, and the player, with useful information.
Aside from the player's direct involvement in choosing the plot, gameplay in Way of the Samurai focuses heavily on combat. Fighting is done almost entirely with various samurai swords available in the game. Way of the Samurai features over 40 different types of swords, however the player begins with access to only one. By defeating enemies, the player can then take the fallen character's sword to add to his or her own inventory. The player may only carry a maximum of three swords at a time. Once per game, the player may leave one additional sword with the swordsmith, Dojima, and have it delivered to his or her sword collection.
The player will often have the choice of whether or not to engage in combat with a specific NPC, however once combat is engaged the player is likely to be forced into fighting several opponents at once.
Kenji has a basic set of moves that are available with all weapons, consisting of a regular attack, a strong attack, a block, and a kick. There are numerous variations and combinations of the basic moves available depending on the particular sword equipped at the time. By defeating opponents or collecting special items Kenji can also unlock special attacks and combinations specific to each weapon. There are also several different fighting stances, depending on the particular sword equipped, each of which comes with its own fighting style.
This is the only installment in the series so far that offers a versus mode for 2 players.
Each of the swords available in the game has several attributes which influence its effectiveness in battle. These attributes can be enhanced using special items found in the game, or by visiting the in game swordsmith.
- Sharpness: Attack strength, increases/decreases the amount of damage caused when an opponent is struck with the sword
- Flexibility: Defensive strength, increases/decreases the amount of damage suffered when the player is struck by an opponent
- Durability: Sword strength, increases the amount of heat the sword can generate before breaking (heat is generated by striking or blocking, and displayed using an on-screen meter)
- Life: Increases/decreases the total number of the players hit points.
- プレイステーション2 - 侍~SAMURAI~. Weekly Famitsu. No.915 Pt.2. Pg.90. 30 June 2006.