Koei Tecmo’s Warriors franchise and its plethora of licensed entries and spin-offs have delivered a range of Musou goodness throughout the years, and has proven to be quite the success story for the company. The latest entry, Touken Ranbu Warriors, is a new spin-off developed by Omega Force and Ruby Party that adapts the popular Touken Ranbu card-collecting game. While Touken Ranbu Warriors is more of what hardcore Musou fans enjoy, it doesn’t do much to break out of that mold.
New warriors on the block
In Touken Ranbu Warriors, we follow the story of fifteen Touken Danshi, a group of blades turned to warriors. These warriors find themselves going toe-to-toe with the History Retrograde Army, a sinister time-traveling group looking to change the course of history. The Touken Ranbu Warriors are then tasked by the Government of Time with going back into the past themselves to thwart the HRA’s plans.
The plot of Touken Ranbu Warriors is certainly bizarre, even by the Warriors franchise standards. Although it was silly enough to initially pique my interest, I found that interest waning quickly. The whole thing is just nonsensical. I appreciate the developers taking a swing here, but it just doesn’t land for me. That said, if you’re curious to see where this time-trotting story goes, Touken Ranbu Warriors offers an Easy mode that allows you to simply blast through every combat encounter so that you can progress through the narrative in a timely manner.
Just keep swinging
The gameplay in Touken Ranbu Warriors is the latest iteration of the tried and true Musou formula, with players taking on waves of enemies at a time, unleashing attacks that send them all flying. The game has several playable characters, each of which has their own unique weapons and fighting styles. While Tonbokiri can use his sharp lance to hit a wide radius of enemies, Ichigo’s sword allows for quicker and more precise attacks. Players can spend a lot of time learning to chain together combos with Ranbu Warriors’ roster of Touken Danshi.
While it can be satisfying to string together devastating attack combos, the fighting in Ranbu Warriors gets old incredibly quickly. The endless hacking and slashing becomes mindless at a point, and I found myself getting bored after playing for extended periods of time. While other Musou games are able to skirt around this issue by shaking things up or just giving battles a much more exciting flair, Touken Ranbu Warriors simply grows dull as the hours go on.
Beyond their weapons and fighting styles, characters also have different statistics such as HP, Attack, and Defense that influence how they perform in battle. As players earn EXP and level up, these stats will grow differently depending on the character. There are also items that players will acquire throughout the story that can be equipped to different characters to provide them with extra boosts.
While it did give me something extra to consider and pay attention to as I progressed through the game, it didn’t feel as vital of a component to success as it does in other RPGs. It was rare that I felt like stat distribution made the characters feel so unique from the others. Perhaps a more elaborate stat setup could have forced me to pay more attention in this department.
Where Ranbu Warriors worked for me was in its level structure. Levels are usually pretty linear, and don’t take too long to reach completion. This made Touken Ranbu Warriors a great pick-up and play game. Whenever I just wanted to slap some fools around, it was easy to grab my Switch, play a level or two, and then hop back out without getting caught up or investing too much time.
Building a dynasty
Touken Ranbu Warriors benefits greatly from the source material it's pulling from, with the card game’s stylishly unique characters translating quite well to this 3D action game. Each character looks like they could be the sole protagonist and I found myself genuinely curious to learn more about each of them. It was also enough to keep things grounded in a story that feels like anything but at times.
Visually, Touken Ranbu Warriors isn’t some sort of graphical powerhouse, but it looks decent enough on the Switch. In fact, I was actually impressed with the game’s performance on the aging hardware. I went in expecting a decent amount of performance hurdles, especially in the really busy moments, but don’t recall any massive framerate drops from my time with the game.
In the same way that Musou games can be visually chaotic, the same applies for the audio. Between the intense score, the battle cries of my character, and the sound of dozens of enemies crying out or roaring in unison, battles typically felt quite lively.
Gone in a flash
It’s hard to imagine Touken Ranbu Warriors having strong appeal to anyone that’s not a die-hard Musou fan itching for a new Warriors-like. Those that played the original Touken Ranbu will surely get a kick out of seeing those characters come to life in a new way, but there isn’t much to write home about beyond that novelty. Touken Ranbu Warriors feels like just enough to maybe hold you over until the next mainline Dynasty Warriorsentry comes around.
This review is based on a digital download code provided by the publisher. Touken Ranbu Warriors is available now for the Nintendo Switch
Touken Ranbu Warriors
- Interesting characters
- Solid performance on the Switch
- Touken Ranbu come to life
- Stale gameplay
- Nonsensical story
- Lack of appeal if you aren't a die-hard fan
- Stats and RPG elements are shallow
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Touken Ranbu Warriors review: Hack and slash until you can't anymore