Samurai Maiden Review – Review
A fun, light-hearted hack ‘n’ slasher with pretty girls and an atrocious framerate.
Going with the review FAQ format for this one, folks. I’ve done it for other waifu games and I think it works pretty well. Here are some past examples to get you acclimated to the format. This one is pretty funny, but also pretty gross.
Hey Zach, a little bird told me you’re playing a new waifu game.
Oh hello, disembodied voice! I’m playing a hack ‘n’ slash game called Samurai Maiden, where 21st century high school student Tsumugi Tamaori is transported back to the Sengoku period, where she finds out she’s the Princess of Harmony and starts working for Nobunaga Oda and his three multi-dimensional lovers to stop the Demon Lord from taking over the multiverse.
It sure sounds like a video game you want.
It certainly does, and I certainly do, despite technical issues. This is a stage-based hack ‘n’ slash at its core, but I feel like we need to come up with a unique sub-genre for games like this.
Play as what?
You know, games where you’re an attractive anime girl who teams up with other cute anime girls, leaning heavily into anime tropes, in a hack ‘n’ slash format with some light RPG elements and heavy character dialogue . Other examples include Senran Kagura, Onechanbara, Neptuniaand Azure Lane (although the latter hardly has any “game” segments).
What about Waifu Slasher?
It sounds like a horror movie, but you get the idea; we will repair it. These are all variations on a theme. IN Samurai Maiden, you control Tamaori as she kills herself –
KILL GIRL, KILL!
…slaying her way through undead hordes that offer very little resistance as she moves through an incredibly simple, purely decorative environment before encountering much larger mini-boss enemies. As the game progresses, more of these mini-bosses will be present in a given stage. With just a few stages, you’ll be fighting a true boss character solo – that is, without an undead entourage.
What about Nobunaga’s girlfriends?
To be fair, they don’t appear to be his actual girlfriends. They are other maidens from other dimensions who join your cause to destroy the Demon Lord, although one of them (Iyo) knows Nobunaga personally. One of the three always shadows you, but you can (usually) switch them out at any time. They provide attack support and have some largely redundant environmental actions. All three conform to deeply ingrained anime stereotypes and are simultaneously charming and exhausting.
Can you describe them?
Secure. Iyo is the spunky, enthusiastic shinobi who never questions her devotion to Nobunaga. Her normal attack involves throwing fireworks at enemies, but she can also carry explosives and healing items onto the battlefield, though this is rarely useful. In terms of personality, she resembles Asuka from Senran Kagura.
Why is she rarely useful?
You have to tell her where to place the bombs, which takes time. A bomb doesn’t just appear out of thin air, she literally has to carry it over to where you want it placed. Unfortunately, by the time she gets there, the enemy has probably moved elsewhere. Her healing pot is better, but you have to break your focus on not getting killed to run over and take advantage of it before it wears off. Her one really useful item is the decoy, which attracts attention so you can concentrate on the Big Bad.
Ok, so Iyo is not good.
Then you have Hagane, the older, “mature” girl with a voluptuous figure who doesn’t mind drawing attention to it. She has a mechanical arm and supposedly other mechanical parts, but those are her breasts totally real in case Tamaori was wondering. She can pull enemies towards Tamaori and also electrify her extendable arm to deal damage in a straight line in front of her. In the environment, she can use her arm as a grapple and swing Tamaori over gaps. She is better in a fight than Iyo, but her attacks have very limited range. Her personality is similar to Haruka or Shiki i Senran.
But she has big tits?
She does, and it’s especially evident with the swimsuit DLC, where her boobs kind of poke out of the sides of the suit, which I’ve never seen before with character models.
Never change, Zach.
And then you have Komimi, a young “tough girl” who is a kitsune character and hates having her ears or tail touched, but secretly loves it. She is all business, but is the most useful character in battles, because she has a large hammer and can throw explosives on the field, which includes bombs dropped by Iyo. Her Senran counterpart is probably Ikaruga or perhaps Imu.
So you trust Komimi a lot?
Yes, and that can be a problem. One of the core concepts of Samurai Maiden is developing a strong bond with all three of your companions.
Oh…how do you do that?
In theory, it’s quite simple. The more you spend time with them in battles, and the more you get them to help during battles (you control when they attack), the more your bond increases, as shown by a heart leveling system. Remember the binding system i Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed?
That’s the way it is.
You can replay missions as much as you want to try to bond with all three girls. I tried to keep it pretty even – no game favorites here, although that’s obviously going to change with the swimsuit DLC (which is already out). For every ten levels of connection, you get a new ability or bonus step for each girl. The downside here is that Tamori’s new abilities are standard hack and slash maneuvers like a quick recovery, ground slam, rising slash attack, three punch combo and parry. And there’s no indication of what you’ll receive at each bond level, so you can’t really plan ahead. Therefore, I would recommend playing about levels and keeping all three girls within a level of two of each other.
What are the bonus stages?
These are stages where you can only take that friend with you, and they’re usually pretty nightmarish platforming challenges with light puzzle solving. Remember how frustrating “Retro Stages” was inside Super Mario Sunshine?
Have recently suffered through them on Super Mario 3D All-Stars Collection, yes. Terribly.
Well, imagine platforming challenges in a game NOT built for platforming! Tamaori’s double jump is imprecise, so landing on smaller platforms – especially narrow ones – is a problem! You also have to handle the camera in these areas, which in some cases means changing your view while jumping off rapidly rotating platforms. However, the tasks are generally quite simple: have Komimi throw bombs at targets, or stand on a switch before asking Iyo to stand on another switch. Most of Hagane’s bonus areas involve her grappling arm. The prizes for these bonus stages usually involve new abilities or weapons.
Oh, can you equip different weapons?
Yes, and you can improve existing weapons!
Actual! As you slay monsters, you’ll earn purple orbs, which you’ll pour to improve Tamaori’s weapons and those of her friends. Her own weapons upgrade pretty cheaply, and I think they only go up to level 20. However, the trio’s weapons cost a lot more to upgrade, so I found myself farming orbs in early missions to afford their enhancements.
Do the improvements help?
Kinda? It was hard to tell during actual gameplay. I rarely traded away from their standard cases because those were the weapons I upgraded; each weapon must be raised by itself. Each weapon has abilities that are unlocked as you upgrade them, but again, it’s not obvious what changes during combat.
Hmmm. How IS the fight?
When you unlock multiple attack slots for each girl (they all have cooldowns) and unlock a handful of Tamaoris’ standard attacks, the fight is pretty fun…but mindless. Regular undead enemies rarely fight—their attack patterns can be identified by their color—but the mini-bosses put up a bigger fight. Auto-targeting is important, but you need to be pretty close to the enemies for your buddies’ attacks to be useful. Minibosses also have a nasty habit of breaking away from your auto-target, and YOU have to break away from it to take advantage of Iyo’s healing pots. However, there is something very satisfying about locking these mini-bosses into a stun cycle as you spam assist attacks while ripping them to shreds with Tamaori.
What about regular bosses?
Regular boss fights require a lot more diligence, but luckily they lack lackeys. They hit much harder and you have to pay attention to their wind-up. Once you figure out their patterns, just keep the pressure on.
It all sounds good, honestly. What is the downside?
Oh, that’s a downside.
This is where we talk about the game’s technical performance. While I have to commend the character models (and hair effects) of Samurai MaidenI’ve seen Waifu Slashers perform much better on other systems, including the PlayStation Vita.
Hi, I remember the Vita.
Right? I turned it on last night just to play a little Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien! Man, what a great game. Shame about Running 3.
So what’s the deal with Samurai Maiden?
For a game with bare bones environments, water textures that are literally just a flat texture without any movement or opacity, backgrounds that are functionally empty, and level topography that makes Pokemon Legends: Arceus looks like an Xbox Series X game, Samurai Maiden is extremely affected. The frame rate slows down as Tamaori just runs through the stage. More drops when enemies appear, even more when she starts attacking those enemies, and it turns into a slideshow as she and her friends destroy the entire group of enemies.
And some battlefields have a lot going on – in addition to more enemies than probably need to exist, you sometimes have environmental obstacles, explosions, shocking effects, someone swinging a giant ice hammer, and Tamaori doing the kind of swordplay acrobatics that would make average Senran girl stand up and take notes. And of course her sword has particle effects too. It’s way too much for the Switch to handle, so while I usually came out the other side of each match without too much trouble, the actual battle process was almost comical in its brokenness.
To be fair, this has always been a problem on the Switch.
Sure, but it’s still annoying.
Something else? Aren’t there any controversies about the game?
Oh, you mean the smooching?
So when you connect enough with each girl, Tamaori (who is apparently polyamorous) will be able to activate something called “Devotion Heart” during battle, which briefly increases certain stats depending on which of her friends is on the track with her. This activation is preceded by a short cutscene where she…KISSES the girl (whoa whoa).
Oh my stars and garters!
Right? I think it’s probably meant to be titillating, but here in North America at least same-sex tuxedos are pretty blasé. Now, if Tamaori buried her face in Hagane’s gorge or something…
Stop imagining it. STOP IT.
So with all that in mind, would you recommend Samurai Maiden?
I’d actually recommend it if you’re a fan of Waifu Hack ‘n’ Slashers, but the Switch’s framerate issues prevent me from giving a full-throated recommendation. If you have access to other modern consoles, you might want to check out some gameplay videos. If it’s much smoother during combat situations, maybe go for that version. I enjoy the game on Switch, and will buy some of the DLC, but it suffers a lot on the performance side. That and the terrible platforming segments which are thankfully quite rare.
Cool cool cool. Thanks, I’ll check out some videos.
Maybe someone will make a Hagane figure.