I still remember the thrills when I first heard that Touken Ranbu is turning into a Warriors game. Though my experience with the genre isn’t that vast, having only played games such as Persona 5 Strikers and Hyrule Warriors, the idea of mixing this iconic josei-muke series with hack-and-slash action gameplay really turned my head.
Koei Tecmo and Omega Force have done a marvelous job in rebuilding the gorgeous Touken Ranbu worldview in vivid 3D graphics, something that female players won’t be able to experience in the original PC/ mobile game. It’s just a pleasure to the eyes when you can actually witness your favorite Touken Danshi move in action, and more importantly, control them to slash enemies in fast and speedy battles.
Similar to the original Touken Ranbu game, the story of Touken Ranbu Warriors begins at a certain Honmaru with 15 swords, all of which were related to important figures in the Sengoku Period. One day, their Saniwa suddenly disappears, and since then, they’ve been eagerly waiting for the return of their master, until one day, the History Retrograde Army suddenly attacks the Honmaru.
▍A Sengoku Period Anomaly
Shortly after the assault at the Honmaru, Konnosuke, the assistant kitsune that serves the Government of Time, gives the Touken Danshi a task: To stop the huge anomaly that is affecting multiple nodes of the Sengoku Period, from Date Masamune suddenly has a thirst for conquest, to battles and conflicts that should never have happened.
Konnosuke divides each of the swords into Teams of one to five and sends them out on the Sortie. On this screencap below, you’ll be given two timelines, with blue text indicating how history should’ve flowed, and red text indicating an anomaly caused by the History Retrograde Army. These timelines allow you to follow exactly what’s going on in the world of Touken Ranbu Warriors and what you should be doing to fix all the abnormalities. I don’t know about you, but it would be a great help to get hold of Japanese history.
▍Thinking Outside the Box is Key
In each mission, you often have to think of something other than defeating enemies blindly. For instance, at a certain quest, the horde of captains is infinite until you find a certain path that leads you to the anomaly that is causing them to spawn.
If you cannot figure that out within the time limit, or end up defeating certain historical figures, you’ll end up failing, as your excessive stay or the defeat of said figure will cause ramifications in the history down the line.
Personally, I really enjoyed these approaches in Touken Ranbu Warriors. My favorite one so far was where you had to defeat HRA units while at the same time, not being seen by one of Date Masamune’s captains. These different missions not only extend the possibility of a simple hack-and-slash Musou game but also embody the worldview of Touken Ranbu impeccably, as fans of the series will know how important it is for the Touken Danshi to execute their missions in secrecy.
▍Souto Hissatsu is Beautiful, But Hard To Trigger
In Touken Ranbu Warriors, Touken Danshi can be accompanied by a partner sword, who can fight alongside them. As you defeat enemies, you can occasionally deal a concentrated amount of damage with the help of your partner.
Filling the Souto Mode link gauge will allow your swords to enter the Souto Mode, as they become invincible and have different actions. There’s also a dual-blade link gauge that triggers a super beautiful animation of the two selected Touken Danshi attacking the enemies with powerful skill.
Though, as beautiful as it may be…it’s also very hard to trigger. In my 10 hours of gameplay, with almost four whole story chapters, I only managed to trigger Sou Hissatsu a total of 6 times, because by the time the gauge was about to empty itself, I had either already completed the mission, or the captain was already defeated. Pairing the 15 swords in different combinations is undoubtedly a catch in Touken Ranbu Warriors considering that the animation coming with it is totally different. But when triggering Sou Hissatsu is such a fuss, you will need to spend loads of time to get a complete set of Souto Hissatsu animation.
▍Omokage Brings a Fresh Take on the Story
In Touken Ranbu Warriors, an original character, Omokage is also introduced. At first, he is just a lone wolf who was dispatched by the Government of Time, but the Touken Danshi soon realizes that he is capable of mimicking the faces of everyone.
The addition of Omokage brings a very nice uniqueness and depth to the story of Touken Ranbu Warriors, which is really interesting, especially when you learn about his backstory on how he was forged and how he stumbled upon the Teams. And he’s also really easy to use in combat, with his combos allowing for some pretty great crowd control.
▍Honmaru, Sweet Honmaru
After the hectic combat of the Sorties, you’re sent to your Honmaru. This will serve as your main UI hub, where you can upgrade your Touken Danshi and assign them to the five different rooms. It is recommended you never leave those rooms empty, because any Touken Danshi there will accumulate Honmaru, Bond, and even EXP that can level them up.
You can also use the Koban at the in-game shop to purchase a selection of assistance items, which increase in variety depending on your Honmaru level. If I were to make a guide on what item is the best, well…my Honmaru is currently at LV 7, and the best item so far is the Medicine Charm, which heals a tiny bit of HP of my Touken Danshi per enemy defeated. I also recommend the Konnosuke charm, as it will increase the materials obtained during the Sorties.
In Honmaru, you will also use those materials to unlock different skills and upgrade your Touken Danshi stats. One PRG element in Touken Ranbu Warriors is that you can select multiple skills and then equip them to make your Touken Danshi stronger.
My recommendation is to keep it balanced, because as you progress through the story, you’ll be required to use certain Touken Danshi from a given team, and that cannot be changed. So if you end up neglecting a certain Touken Danshi, you might have to grind a bit. Not a big deal, since previous battles can be replayed through the Replay menu.
▍Interact with your Touken Danshi in Quirky Ways!
After each battle, there’s a chance that you’ll unlock a random minigame to play with the Touken Danshi in that room, represented by a dice icon. Depending on your performance on said minigames, you can obtain materials, Honmaru EXP, and many other rewards.
All of the minigames are fun, but my favorite is the Crop Harvesting one and the Karuta one. In the former, you must grab as many shiny spots with the A Button to obtain materials. In the latter, a button command will appear at a certain time, and you must press that button as fast as possible to ensure Konnosuke doesn’t nab the card before you do.
Furthermore, you can also press in on the left and right sticks to either “poke” your Touken Danshi, or to make a gust of wind blow through the air. I especially enjoy how you can tease them by poking. Their interactions aren’t subbed, but seeing Tonbokiri saying “I felt something, an enemy!?” when I poked him did make me laugh.
▍Complete Special Missions for a Special Illustration!
As you play through Touken Ranbu Warriors and its various modes, you’ll sometimes complete various special missions which you can view at the Honmaru. These will unlock voice lines and give you rewards, but will also unlock one of the 48 tiles that form a special illustration.
Since the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have a trophy system, this is a good tallying method if you’re going for a 100% run. Unlocking tiles will also give you reward voice-overs, which you can listen to later from the Memoir menu.
▍Is Touken Ranbu Warriors Worth Your Time?
I really enjoyed my time with Touken Ranbu Warriors. The game balances the combat and the quirky interactions with the Touken Danshi really well, though if I had just pointed out one thing that could’ve been better: I sort of wished for more. In a sense that I would’ve loved to see more than just the 15 available blades, as well as the story branching into more eras than just the Sengoku Period.
Comparing it to my previous experiences in the genre, there are some compromises. But the features that the developers have implemented in Touken Ranbu Warriors allow even those who aren’t familiar with the musou genre to try, thanks to the addition of a simplifier for the controls. It is also highly appreciated that it encourages players to think outside the box instead of slashing through enemies at random.