GAME NAME: Skulls Of The Shogun
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
RELEASE DATE(S): Out Now
VERSION PLAYED: 360
Skulls of The Shogun, a story about the crazy shenanigans that surround General Akamoto and his band of merry misfits that were quite literally, put together as he went along. Is his army worthy of the cherished afterlife or will he just end up as another unfortunate undead waiting forever?
The story follows the adventures and misadventures of general Akamoto, a fallen warrior who is transported to the underworld after being assassinated by a stab on the back by a mysterious samurai. The scene he finds there is not a good one; the underworld is full of other fallen warriors who are queued up to enter the glorious afterlife, which is fine and dandy, but there is one serious problem: waiting in line means standing there for years! The great general Akamoto will not have this, so he takes it upon himself to make the afterlife his.
After making his declaration of rebellion, other fallen warriors who cannot accept the injustice decide to follow his cause and fight for their own right for the afterlife, as they are faced with oppression from other undead enemies who have accepted the system. The story may sound grim, but it’s actually very comical and light-hearted, with many jokes thrown around and hilarious hijinks by Akamoto and his misfits against their oppressors happening at every turn. It is a treat and a breath of fresh air from all the late seriousness in the games industry.
Booting up the game is exceptionally fast. There are next to no load times so you can just get to the action straight away. All the menus respond immediately at the click of the mouse, so even if you lose a battle, getting back into the action by loading a previous save will not take you more than 8 seconds.
Everything in the game was carefully designed to fit in with the general light-hearted Japanese feel of the game. The graphics are made with nicely done stylized cartoon drawings, from the troops to the general environments and even the fonts are a Romanised stylization of Japanese writing, which looked quite nice.
In terms of sound, the music is good, but it’s pretty forgettable except for the menu theme, which is quite catchy. I found that most of the time, the music was “just there”, but it did however, enhance the general mood of the battles. Sound effects on the other hand, are really good. You really appreciate it every time you hear a satisfying slash, a sudden lightning strike, or the menacing steps of your own general. The voice work is also really funny, from ridiculous grunts to little mumbles of Japanese in a comical tone. It’s all there for the comedy.
Skulls of The Shogun is a tactics RPG with a twist: The chess-like grid system is gone. Instead of using a grid, direction and movement are determined by giving you a circular radius with a pre-determined distance from which your unit can move freely from, and attack any other unit, regardless of which way you are facing, as long as they are within your hit radius. The system works perfectly well, as you won’t find any silly complications like being unable to attack a unit because they are next to you diagonally instead of directly, which happens so often in typical tactics RPGs with square grids.
The game is exceptionally easy to get into, regardless of your previous experience with tactical RPG titles. Every feature is carefully explained through the hilarious ramblings of in-game characters that will at times, break the fourth wall to instruct you on how to play the game, and even sometimes providing you examples of how certain mechanics are executed. It’s especially hilarious when even the enemy is helping you play the game in one way or another.
Skulls of the Shogun’s battle layout is quite simple, You start with a certain pre-set number of different troop types that are already laid out on the field for you, against another pre-set number of opponents. Sometimes, depending on the battle, you might have to face more than just one army. As a battle rages on, you and your opponent may call on more troops by using rice, which is the in-game currency for casting certain spells by special troop types, or for summoning more units. Managing rice is essential to some missions in the game, as some battles may start with you having a distinct disadvantage in troop numbers, making you have to summon more soldiers as you battle on, and strategically having to obtain more rice to do so.
In general, depending on how you decide to play the game, it can be quite easy, or very challenging and frustrating. Skulls of The Shogun will be very easy if all you care about is completing the level comfortably at your own leisure, and even the AI troops will sometimes decide to do very silly moves, which will allow you to give them a swift death if you play your cards right, however, they can get very difficult if you decide that you want to complete the special challenges each level comes with, which can range from having a certain number of a certain unit, or not allowing a troop type to die. It’s all there just to spice up the game a little more, for those who like a good challenge, and it is not obligatory, so it’s no problem if all you want is to go through the game normally.
Skulls of The Shogun is a witty and comical game. It will entertain you even if you are not interested in tactical games just by its comedy alone. The gameplay is almost flawless, and the overall setting and theme are all polished and stylized to further complement the overall feel of the game. It is a treat and uplifting experience to play the game. A good distraction for anyone who wants a few laughs and light hearted fun after a stressful day.