LifeisXbox’s Samurai Bringer review | From the mid 15th to early 17th century an island nation is beset by turmoil as its various influential families are embroiled in one bloody conflict after another. During this time, conflict both within and on distant shores take a heavy toll on the population, and a bad time was generally had all throughout. What country am I talking about? No, not England, don’t be silly. Japan of course! Land of the rising sun. This time of turmoil is known as the Sengoku period, a time when the local lords started fighting uncontrollably amongst one another for territory and power. Pair that with regions wanting more local governance, the rise of currency to trade instead of goods and armed uprisings following tough times caused by natural disasters and you have the perfect cake mix to live in interesting times. Interesting enough that lots of samurai rose to fame and gave developers ALPHAWING Inc. and publishers PLAYISM enough material to work with in making Samurai Bringer.
ℹ️ Reviewed on PC | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer.
What we Liked!
- Premise | In Samurai Bringer, you play as the younger brother of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, Susanoo. While Susanoo is the kami (that means god) of storms and the sea, he comes down from the heavens often enough to mingle with the mortals, and even fall in love. During that time he met a woman named Kushinada who was soon to be offered to the 8 headed serpent Yamata-no-Orochi. And that’s where Samurai Bringer begins. You start by facing Yamata-no-Orochi in a battle you are meant to lose, as this final boss wipes the floor with you, taking your maganata, source of your godly power, from you. After your defeat, however, your older sister Amaterasu comes down to scold you for your recklessness but says she’ll help you get it all back. She summons legendary warriors from all across Japan’s history for you to learn warfare from, and power up to take on Yamata-no-Orochi and his generals once more.
- Graphics | We’ve got an interesting visual style on our hands with Samurai Bringer. The game itself looks like it’s all pixel art, but I would be really surprised if that were the case. Instead, it looks like actual 3D models for everything are overlaid with a filter that makes it all look rather pixelated. I personally find the style charming enough but would love to see an option to toggle that style later down the line. If only to see Amaterasu’s radiant smile that much better. Furthermore, we’ve got some limited menus which are in a style quite reminiscent of those from the late last century.
- Move creator | The feature which sets Samurai Bringer apart from other roguelites the most. It boasts a very deep system allowing us to craft individual attacks from a variety of attack inputs, modifiers, elements and effects. A slash up and a slash down does exactly that. But add 1 lightning, 4 power and a couple samidare, and all of the sudden your attack becomes a staggered heavy-hitting version of the attack that hits with multiple afterimages and added lightning damage. Now, these attacks can have drastically different outcomes depending on how much of any technique you stack. For example, more than 8 “covering fire” will turn arrows into cannonballs, and even more, will let you call down a meteor from the very heavens. Or if you combine 4 step or jump with 4 power you will teleport a short respective distance, increasing based on how much you increase these values. Now, you’ll notice that these techniques each have values. That is because they cost the cumulative amount of stamina to use. This starts off quite limited at the start, but before long you gain enough increases in stamina and increases in point maximums for moves to bust out some awe-inspiring combos. The system is extremely versatile, and even with more than 12 hours of gameplay, I feel it still holds secrets for me.
- Brave Generals | By the grace of Amaterasu, Susanoo will meet more than a hundred famous samurai from throughout Japan’s history. And while you don’t meet any of them as friends they will eventually help you out on your quest against Yamata-no-Orochi. These samurai will, once defeated, drop a piece of their armour for Susanoo to wear while traversing the various battlefields. Depending on how much time has passed, these pieces may even come upgraded or with passive effects applied to them. But that isn’t all. Because when you go back to your hub after defeating a brave general their entire set will be on display for you to wear, complete with their move set for you to adopt. Meaning that on most runs you’ll face at least one new brave general, add a new set to your collection, and thus makes some progress. Aside from this, I also have to stress the amount of variety there is between all of them. Even between those that look visually similar, some can just come out of left field and end your run before you can fully take in what’s going on. And personally, I love that!
- Bosses | Now make no mistake, the brave generals aren’t the only bosses you’ll face. They’re merely the appetiser for Yamata-no-Orochi and the other legendary beings of Japanese folklore. To get to these bosses you kill the lantern yokai that guard the boss portal. Once you advance that way, you end up in a boss arena where you’ll face one of Yamata-No-Orochi’s evil generals before a bigger baddy makes their grand entrance. What will you be fighting? What about a giant centipede that will split in half when you destroy one of its links. The thunder and lightning gods Fujin and Raijin. The ever cold Yuki-Onna, which translates to snow woman. A skeleton, an Oni, a Dodomeki (I’ll leave this one as a surprise) and more. There are eight in total, and you must deal with all of them before you get to beat up the eight-headed terror that is Yamata-no-Orochi. But fret not, it does get easier with every try, as the first time you beat a specific boss, they drop one of your maganata, permanently increasing your health points by 100 each.
- Replayability | Roguelike and roguelites nowadays go hand in hand with procedural generation to varying degrees to make them more replayable, and Samurai Bringer is no different. In Samurai bringer, the topography of the levels draw from a number of templates, and then randomly fills them with some of the many brave generals, chests, Jizo statues that allow you to redeem the rewards of challenges, a variety of helpful buildings and Shinto gates. These buildings range from inns that let you rest up and regain health, shops where you can purchase armour for your current run, blacksmiths that can upgrade weaponry and dojo’s where you can purchase and edit secret technique scrolls. The Shinto gates are also more than meets the eye, as every gate has a self-contained puzzle room behind it.
- Audio | I hope you like chiptune and 16-bit music because you’ll find a lot of it in Samurai Bringer. There are several tracks that play between various different levels and layouts. From what I can gather the bosses also have their own theme. In terms of sound effects, everything sounds like you would expect from a game that is trying to mimic a decade or two ago. There are also a number of interactions where you’ll hear some actual instruments, like how a horn gets blown every time you progress to another zone. And while I can comfortably say I liked all the above, I sadly did grow tired of it all rather quickly. Since, while there is some variety, it’s not really enough to keep things fresh during longer sessions.
What we Disliked
- No training room | For as great a game as Samurai Bringer is, I feel like its deep combat system would benefit greatly from a training room that lets you explore the move creation aspect freely. There are many weapons that behave very differently when given the exact same move input. And while you can, after a bit of farming, test stuff out with the armours and technique scrolls you gathered, this is still testing them in live combat. Where swapping to a different weapon requires you to find it in the first place.
- Tutorials | The second thing I find sorely lacking in what is otherwise an amazing game is a way to redo the tutorials and get the basics explained again. A lot of depth hides in the many systems Samurai Bringer has, but you only really get told once. This means that if you run past some of them, you’ll either have to look for them via out-of-game guides or start a new save file and play until you get that tutorial again. I still ended up finding out most of the things I accidentally rushed past via developer posts on Steam, but this should hardly be the intended experience. It feels like a bit of an oversight, but not one that has to stay this way forever.
How long to beat the story | 30 minutes if your run goes perfect
How long to unlock all achievements | 30 hours
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Hey there. Thomas is the name, Sci-fi, action and (J)RPG’s are the game. I strongly prefer co-op over PVP games. Whenever possible, you may find me run wild at a convention in western Europe. Certified anime enjoyer.