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. 

Read more: Yakuza 0 review

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.

Phil leads PC Gamer's UK team. He was previously the editor of the magazine, and thinks you should definitely subscribe to it. He enjoys RPGs and immersive sims, and can often be found reviewing Hitman games. He's largely responsible for the Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.