Spike has been producing a little-known series entitled Way of the Samurai in Japan and, luckily, these under-the-radar console gems have all been able to land on our shores thanks to a handful of different publishers. Bam Interactive pitched U.S. gamers the original Playstation 2 title back in 2002 and just two years later, Capcom of America brought us the franchise’s sequel in a limited quantity that keeps the game’s value relatively steady. The series is fairly successful in Japan, with both initial installments of the game receiving best hit releases, with the original title receiving a second best hit printing in 2005. In my experiences, however, most players have never given the series a chance and to even find a player who has even heard of the title is quite an adventure in my neck of the woods.
The simplest way I can describe Way of the Samurai is it is closest you’ll get to playing Fable on the Playstation 2 (in a feudal samurai era, of course): It isn’t the longest game players will play, but it is massively replayable with the player’s choices reflecting the outcome of the game. With a score of different endings, collectable weapon sets, a free fighting mode with unlockable characters and more, players could not only potentially have a different experience with each playthrough, but they were given more to work with the more they played the game. Everything played out uniquely with an honor system that dictated what people thought of you and a combat system that allowed players to learn new techniques with different weapons and focused on momentum to allow players to parry or deflect attacks. The second installment took player decisions even further with more choices and endings while introducing more character groups, weapons, secrets and unlockables.
After five years of silence, though, Way of the Samurai is looking to come back in a big way through the power of this generation’s consoles. The Xbox 360 version will brought to the United States courtesy of UFO Interactive and Chong Ahn of UFO was kind enough to take some time and share some of the features that will make Way of the Samurai 3 a unique experience:
DHGF: First of all, can you introduce yourself to our readers and explain how you are involved with the U.S. production of Way of the Samurai 3?
Chong Ahn: My name is Chong Ahn, Senior Product Manager and Producer at UFO Interactive Games. I was involved in the partnership with Agetec, acquisition of Way of the Samurai 3 from our Japanese counterparts, and handling the business, marketing and production aspects of the title.
DHGF: Way of the Samurai is an incredibly niche title with undeniable cult status. Seeing as both WotS and WotS2 came to the U.S. under completely different developers, what was the motivation in picking up on the third installment when the two previous publishers were not able to bring us the title?
Chong Ahn: After the release of Way of the Samurai 2, the series dropped off the radar in North America for a few years. However, when news that the innovative title was getting a release in Japan on next-gen consoles and the opportunity presented itself, we were right there to put in the work.
DHGF: For players that are not familiar with the series can you explain the premise behind Way of the Samurai 3 and how the title is distinguished from other sword combat titles?
Chong Ahn: Since its initial release in 2002 for the PS2 console, the Way of the Samurai Series paved the way for Action Adventure, RPG titles by blending multiple game mechanics such as numerous fighting styles, combo systems, weapon creation and customization with an innovative choose-your-own-adventure style of game play. This element allows players to determine their own fate with the choices they make during the game, which can lead one down numerous paths and uncover multiple endings that other sword combat titles don’t offer.
DHGF: The series’ newest mechanic found in WotS3 seems to be in the ability to have a companion. Can you expand on this feature with details? What kind of companions are available and how exactly will they be integrated in the gameplay? Will these companions determine the player’s ending as well?
Chong Ahn: Players have the option of “wooing”Â one or multiple companion(s) throughout the game. Users are not limited to a specific partner type and can choose from a number of different females, males, and even a cat girl companion by carrying out specific deeds for them, saving them from distress, etc.
Every action has a consequence and the decision to obtain a partner (and any other decisions for that matter) impacts the life of your character in the game.
DHGF: It seems like WotS3 is trying to meet a happy medium with mechanics introduced in the first two titles. Is this balancing based on player feedback from what they did or did not like in the original titles? Being the third game in the series, how hard is it for the team to develop the game to move forward with revised and fresh ideas while maintaining everything that players enjoyed in the first two?
Chong Ahn: Yes, the players’ comments and users’ feedback had a big part in the development process of Way of the Samurai 3. Much time and effort was put into developing the title, and with a talented and creative staff at Spike, we were able to create a game that took all the best elements from the first two installments of the series combined with new and innovative features that would cater to and please all fans and new players of the series.
DHGF: WotS always involved deep sword gameplay. What new techniques can players expect to see in their protagonist’s arsenal this time around? The series has also always been known for its rich amount of unlockables and weapon customization and it appears from the Japanese version that players can now even fight unarmed, with spears and custom weapons. What weapon types and blacksmith options do players have at their disposal in WotS3?
Chong Ahn: Besides the combination attacks that you will be able to deal (as in most titles), this version has several systems in play that will offer new levels of “Ëœcombat’ that can alter the outcome of the title. Some of these include the “Unsheathing”Â and “Dogeza/Apologize System”Â. The former is just as it sounds, with the player being able to unsheathe their weapon, showing intent to fight. This can also be used during Free and Event cutscenes, adding a new level of drama to the title. The latter is a respect/mercy type system, where one can, for example, beg for one’s life, if you are about to be killed (or vice versa). These variations will create unique scenarios, decisions, etc for the player to make, creating a varied experience for all users. Another new feature is the blunt attack, which can change the outcome of certain encounters. Instead of killing an opponent, NPC, etc. (a killed opponent will not be able to return), you can use the blunt attack to temporarily disable and “Ëœknock out’ your opponent without delivering the killing blow.
Players will also be able to create their own personal unique weapons from over 200 different parts and materials, while also discovering new abilities and skills with increased use with a specific weapon.
DHGF: The major gameplay mechanic in Way of the Samurai is easily in the player having the freedom to act how they wish and affect the world around them by their choices. How does this play out in Way of the Samurai 3? Does it still remain mostly on conversational choices or will there be more to this mechanic in WotS3?
Chong Ahn: The original feature of conversational choices and branching storylines will remain intact in this title, but with the addition of the “Unsheathing”Â and “Apologizing”Â systems previously mentioned, Way of the Samurai 3 will give players much more control and freedom this time around.
DHGF: Another change for the series seems to be there is now no limit to the number of days the player can live out a single storyline. Does this mean a player could potentially never reach an ending if they choose? Is there any motivation for the player to finish the game quicker or play it out as long as they can?
Chong Ahn: With Way of the Samurai 3’s unique game play features and freedom that it gives to its players, the possibilities are endless.
Also, with over 20+ different endings, both a quick play through and long sitting can lead to different choices, new paths, and ultimately a new outcome.
DHGF: Of course, with the jump to the Xbox 360, downloadable content has the ability to come into play. Does the company have plans to release DLC for the title such as customization options, more gameplay scenarios or extra modes? Will the title utilize the Xbox LIVE service in any other way?
Chong Ahn: Yes, there will be DLC available for Way of the Samurai 3. Players will be able to choose from and download multiple character avatars, weapons, backgrounds of each clan, and much more.
DHGF: We really appreciate your time. Is there anything you would like to say to the longtime fans of the Way of the Samurai series as well to those who are still unfamiliar with the series?
Chong Ahn: The consequences of your actions will determine your fate. Your choices define you.
UFO Interactive will be releasing Way of the Samurai 3 for the Xbox 360 on Oct. 13. The title will be releasing on the Playstation 3 on the same date and will be published by Agetec Inc.