There are six warriors available from the start, with 10 more that can be unlocked. But while they do employ different techniques to dish out punishment to their enemies, this doesn't translate into tons of variety and replay value. Regardless of whether you punch, crush, shoot, or slice the brain-dead enemies who swarm around you, eagerly awaiting their deaths, the same approach works. And defeating hundreds of soldiers by swinging a ball around on a chain is no more rewarding than defeating them with a sword when they both amount to just tapping a button hundreds of times with no skill or strategy needed whatsoever.
You do have a few more tricks up your sleeve beyond your standard attacks. As you dish out and absorb punishment and conquer enemy camps by defeating the zombielike commanders stationed at each one, you fill up two meters. One allows you to briefly enter a slow-motion mode called hero time, and the other lets you perform your character's Basara art, a devastating technique that unleashes a flurry of hundreds of attacks on nearby enemies. These techniques are particularly useful against some of the many generals and other named enemies you encounter, who can be challenging. That is because, unlike the soldiers who serve them, they make an actual focused effort to defeat you and can absorb a lot of damage before they fall. This challenge isn't nearly enough to make these fights interesting; on the contrary, these prolonged and simple battles only call attention to the shallowness of the combat. Anything that brings them to a close more quickly is welcome, especially because there are no checkpoints within levels. This makes death a potentially infuriating setback, particularly when it comes at the end of 45 minutes or so of tedious combat, which you're then faced with the prospect of having to repeat.
Samurai Heroes tosses an impressive number of characters on the screen, but aside from your striking hero at the center of the action, many of them look exactly alike and none of them have much detail. Your attacks look cool and flashy, with huge, colorful slash lines enhancing the incredible sense of power behind them, but the way groups of enemies respond in the exact same way to those attacks often looks absurd. For instance, Mitsunari's sword attacks often send groups of enemies rolling across the ground in unison, like they're performing some sort of avant-garde dance routine. The sounds of battle have an exaggerated, B-movie silliness to them, and the voice acting is exaggerated to match. The goofy exclamations lend a tongue-in-cheek humor to the game's heightened drama. It's hard to take the action seriously when Ieyasu passionately proclaims, "May the sun rise in the east with a smile!"
Your attacks look stylish and powerful, but aren't any fun to pull off.
Both the Wii version and the PlayStation 3 version support offline, split-screen two-player cooperative play. In this mode, you can revive your companion if he or she falls in battle, which makes getting past some of the tougher bosses easier, but it doesn't actually make the shallow action any better. There's also a quick battle option that lets you take any unlocked character into any battle scenario you've reached in the story mode, but these battles aren't even fun the first time you play them. Samurai Heroes has an enjoyably anachronistic take on the Sengoku era of Japanese history, but there's nothing enjoyable about trudging through its battlefields and laying waste to hordes of mindless enemies. This is one trip back in time that's best left untaken.