You fight of waves of attackers, warp somewhere to fight some more, then back again where of course you find yet more people trying to end your existence. Along with the nifty ability to switch between characters during play, Sengoku 2 offers similar gameplay to the first title, but some tweaks have been made to offer a more enjoyable experience.
Initially, however, the game seems a little more limited. Whereas before your primary character would throw punches and kicks and gain weapons from orbs, here he permanently carries a blade (although there are now two attack buttons for high and low strikes). This gives some different looking options when attacking, but doesn’t make much of a difference to the game. Sometimes an attack may be blocked if you pick the wrong strike, but it’s a matter of timing rather than aim and you can simply attack again.
Variety in attacks is instead provided by switching to a different character and this time around all four are available from the beginning. You get a minute of time with them before automatically reverting to the blade-slashing hero, but this is typically adequate for the task at hand. The abilities vary, with the staff-wielding fighter often being a good pick. The fighting dog looks good but is unsuitable for most situations and the ninja (with the typical ninja name of Mike Walsh) is fairly average but a good choice if you’ve collected an orb.
Orbs provide our heroes more powerful and energy attacks which can allow you to keep your distance, as do the (always available) charged attacks. Charged attacks require you to hold down both attack buttons and the jump one while another combination is used to block. As awkward as this could be, HAMSTER has taken the sensible step of mapping these combinations to Switch’s Z buttons.
Combat in the game is still fairly simple (there are no combos and a lot of one-hit enemies), but it is fast-paced and slicker than the first game - and it’s satisfying to quickly turn left and right taking out foes from each side. A good feature is the way weapons can lock together and you then look to get in a strike when they come apart again. Blocking moves can also be a good way to get a counter hit in, but as this won’t always work (and can be tricky to judge) it’s often simpler to just back away.
Aside from walking left-to-right and fighting, the game also throws in a few sections on horseback. These are simple but enjoyable with your two attack buttons used (one for forward, one for backwards attacks) as you aim to decapitate the riders alongside you. In a good visual touch, one of these sections towards the end of the game shows in the background shots of a man hitting a taiko drum along to the music.
There’s a good range of locations in the game with a few different time periods visited. Villages, desert areas, burning warzones and a fight atop an plane. There’s a good amount of detail in the surroundings, but there are some duff moments (static water) that lessens the impact. Various sound effects enhance the experience such as various swipes, clanging metal, yells and groans. There’s also a good scream from fleeing crowds when angry samurai warriors arrive in the relatively modern 199x setting. Music is also decent with a range of mysterious, intense and adventurous tracks throughout.
As the game progresses, tougher enemies increase in their number and it can be a challenge to take out the forces in front of you without getting hit from behind. Of course, as an ACA Neo Geo release, unlimited continues mean clearing the game will not be difficult and should you not want to push that continue button quite so often you can increase your stock of lives to 99 in the options menu. If you would like a challenge the usual one-credit Hi-score mode is available which as always also gives you an online leaderboard to try and improve your placement on.
Two-player mode is available should you like to save the day with the help of a friend and the Caravan mode offers a different way to play as you try to score as highly as possible within the five minute time limit. Sure, you’re still slashing away at the same enemy forces but here a blocked attack has a greater impact due to the extra time taken delaying you moving onto the next set of attackers and more potential points.
Sengoku 2 is quite similar to the first game in the series, but by upping the pace of combat it makes things a lot more enjoyable and making all characters available from the start gives you various options to consider from the get go. The move to two attacks buttons doesn't have much impact, but the simple horseback sections work surprisingly well. Like many of its ilk, the repetitive nature of the game will eventually lessen the desire to replay it, but the eShop is not short on retro offerings. Return to it after a while away (alone or with a friend) and Sengoku 2 will provide some decent sidescrolling slashing action.