Robbing Geisha in the entertainingly rubbish Way of the Samurai 4

NOW PLAYING

In Now Playing articles PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today Phil causes a ruckus in WotS4.

My name’s Phil, and I have a confession: I love janky games. It’s why I’ve spent days in the buggy sandboxes of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series. It’s why I once spent an afternoon hunting flying jaguars in an unpatched version of Boiling Point. It’s why I’ll always have a fondness for a particular type of Japanese game that combines quirky writing and a heap of systemic jank to create something entertaining. 

The best of these is Sega’s excellent Yakuza series, but they’re not on PC, so I’m playing Way of the Samurai 4 instead. I’m not expecting it to be good—Andy’s review of the PC port, released in 2015, warns that it’s “fundamentally a bit rubbish”. But as long as it’s entertainingly rubbish, I’ll consider my evening a success. 

Set in 19th century Japan, the story opens with an attempted trade deal between the British and the port town of Amihama. A faction of traditionalists arrives to oppose the foreigners and fighting breaks out on the streets. My nameless samurai, a new arrival in Amihama, is dragged into the conflict. For a second I worry that Way of the Samurai 4 might be playing things straight.

And then I’m introduced to the commander of the British forces. She’s a competent warrior, undermined only by the fact that her name is Melinda Megamelons. Ian Fleming would be proud. 

Eventually I’m let loose on the town. I find a thief casing a nearby house, and he offers me a job stealing from a geisha by bumping into her when she’s not looking. This is the sort of bullshit minigame that I was hoping for, and I eagerly accept. I find the geisha, and wonder how the game will telegraph the moment to steal her stash. It answers with some pop-up text, reading, “Hint: Now.” 

I abscond with the treasure and return to the thief. He sets me a more difficult task: stealing from sumo wrestlers. I arrive at the location late at night. The wrestlers are nowhere to be seen. Finding a bed roll nearby, I sleep until the next day.

When I wake up, I’m surrounded by angry men in cloth nappies. Bingo. I grab their stash and run, but they give chase—preventing me from leaving the area. I turn to face them. It’s a difficult fight. I have few restorative items, and no spare weapons. My blade breaks. I slash at a couple of guys with the hilt of my sword, but they beat me to death. 

I reload and explore the town instead. I buy some noodles, and am delighted by the option to refuse payment. I do, just to see what will happen. Predictably, I’m attacked. I’m more confident in a one-on-one fight, but the security guy is the toughest opponent I’ve yet faced. He connects with a massive combo of attacks that wipes out my health bar. I die, again. A ratings screen declares me ‘Good For Nothing’. I can’t help but agree. 

Despite my failures, I’m happy. WOTS 4 is just as bizarre, shoddy and surprising as I’d hoped. It may not be good, but it is good for something.