Part hack 'n' slash, part roguelike, all tedious.
In UFO Interactive’s Samurai Sword Destiny, you kill as many dudes as you can to gain money until you are inevitably killed, only to rise again for another attempt. Eventually, the gold you’ve farmed can be used to purchase upgrades to your move set, HP, or attack power, and then you make a little bit of progress in the game itself. But then you get stuck again, retrying an area countless times in an effort to save up the money necessary to buy your way to a better chance.
There’s an RPG subgenre with this core concept called the “roguelike.” I’ve reviewed a proper roguelike before, and while I found it infuriating, I appreciated the challenge. Here, though, the mechanic feels forced and unbalanced given the utter simplicity of the gameplay. If you want a game that will get you through a plane ride, this is a good one; but if you want a game you’ll actually enjoy, you may look elsewhere.
Samurai Sword Destiny consists of two gameplay types: killing dudes in side-scrolling brawler-like areas and dodging obstacles in forced-side-scrolling areas. The brawler areas require you to kill a predetermined number of enemies to move on or just battle a boss character. In these stages, you can dodge and slash, but you can’t jump or block, so the game quickly devolves into a mind-numbing sequence of “dodge out of the way, perform three-hit combo, rinse, and repeat.” You can also charge up your stats, but until you purchase the upgrades necessary to shorten the charge time, and allow uninterrupted charging, it’s kind of a lost cause. You’ll usually be gang-banged while charging up. The forced-scrolling segments are kind of fun but, again, insanely repetitious. Run left to right to avoid boulders, and tap the A or B buttons to knock back arrows and kill stationary dudes.
Things might be more tolerable if each upgrade didn’t cost as much as a car, but I had to earn an insane amount of money just to unlock the dodge move and get through the first stage. This is not good game design. If you get tired of being endlessly slain in the Story Mode, you can try earning money in the Survival and Challenge Modes, which ask you to survive for a certain amount of time or kill a set number of dudes, respectively. The trouble here is that if you die in these modes, you don’t keep your blood money.
It would also help if the game didn’t look as basic as it does. Backgrounds are stark black and white, and while your character animates nicely, none of the enemy characters really do. You fight palette-swapped versions of the same three enemies for almost the entire game. The main character’s sprite also looks absolutely nothing like her production art, either (the game’s menu icon gives her a samurai kabuto, for instance).
In the end, I wouldn’t call Samurai Sword Destiny a disaster or even unplayable—it’s just extremely repetitious in every aspect of its design and frustrating because of it. I certainly don’t like it, but if you want to see what a roguelike brawler looks like, this is a good entry point. All others would do well to avoid this deeply flawed game.