…We knew this was coming: A game dedicated exclusively to the Sanada Clan. For the first time in franchise history, Masayuki Sanada is a playable character. It gets alot of things right but by the end of the game I was sorely disappointed with how two of the other 3 new characters–Sasuke and Chacha–ended up being used. More on that in a minute. The fourth new playable character in the series is Katsuyori Takeda, son of Shingen Takeda.
Spirit of Sanada chronicles the Warring States Era vets of the series know but mainly from the Sanada Clan’s perpsective. Specifically Masayuki and his second son Yukimora. There are secondary battles that take place that are optional but playable during the main story.
Simply having Masayuki as a playable character corrects long-maintained historical inaccuracies in the series about the rise and fall of the Takeda Clan, which the Sanada were aligned with until Katsuyori’s death. Spirit of Sanada correctly notes Yukimora and Nobuyuki never fought for Shingen Takeda because they were not yet of age. The game also correctly notes Masayuki becomes head of the clan when both of his older brothers are killed in battle.
Getting back to Chacha and Sasuke. Now, Chacha really did exist and she was the oldest daughter of Nagamasa Azai and Oichi (Nobunaga’s younger sister). While it’s likely she lived during the time, the problem is we know Hideyori Toyotomi was the undispiuted de-facto leader of the Toyotomi after Hideyoshi passed away. For this story to be believable, you would have to protend Hideyori doesn’t exist.
The obvious problem: Hideyori is at least mentioned by name in every. Previous. Samaurai Warriors. Game. Sasuke felt like a waste of a character slot as he doesn’t have much growth at all. Having him get killed off toward the end left me scratching my head a bit there like the implied death of Chacha. It also felt like a missed opportunity they purposely did not pursue pairing Chacha and Yukimora as more than Lady and Retainer despite how I felt it was being set up for that.
…Speaking of, they DID get Yukimora’s death right this time: According to the historical record, Yukimora came “within striking range” of Ieyasu Tokugawa before being forced back. Seriously wounded but still able to fight, he famously said “I will allow you to take my head” as Tokugawa’s foot soldiers converged on his position. Even though he fell in the final battle, Yukimora is still considered the greatest Warrior in Japan that ever lived.
As good a story as Yukimora and Nobuyuki clashing in Samurai Warriors 4 was, we know that from a historical standpoint Nobuyuki himself was actually in Edo at the time. When Japan split after Hideyoshi’s died, Nobuyuki sided with Ieyasu while Masayuki and Yukimora decided to side with the Toyotomi Clan. This decision split the Sanada Clan and ultimately ensured it survived through Nobuyuki, who would assume leadership of the clan after his father and brother died.
Although the game closely follows the Sanada clan, you can unlock everyone else as playable characters for use in Free Play. This includes both playable variations of Masayuki, Ieyasu and Nobuyki (Young and Old) and all 3 of Yukimora (Child, Youth and Adult). The (mostly optional and for Free Play) playable cast is everyone from Samurai Warriors 4 and Samurai Warriors 4-II + Sasuke, Chacha, Masayuki and Katsuyori. The method of unlocking them all is fairly easy and you can get started on that about halfway through the game. You simply have to run through exploration areas and collect items as well as take out baddies.
In closing, I’ll give the game an 8/10. I would say Spirit of Sanada is a good intro to the Samurai Warriors series, more so given Yukimora has not only been in every single Samurai Warriors game but the spinoff Warriors Orochi games. Comes with being the face of the franchise! I will say if it’s your first, then you should definitely play Samurai Warriors 4, Samurai Warriors 4-II and Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 as well. If you want a bit more strategy, you can’t go wrong with Samurai Wariors 4 Empires!