SNK may have dedicated a large portion of their efforts to the one-on-one fighting genre, but occasionally they would branch out into other game types, sometimes with rather successful results. The original Sengoku was praised for its unique use of character transformations, but the play controls weren't always the most responsive. Enter Sengoku 2, a sequel that basically takes everything good about the original and fixes a few flaws along the way. While there are still fans of the first release that will always claim it to be the best, it's difficult to deny the more fluid gameplay and improved visual presentation that this unique sequel offers up.
The gameplay in Sengoiku 2 is somewhat similar to that of Golden Axe in its basic sense. You'll spend the majority of your time hacking and slashing with your sword as you defeat a set number of enemies in each section before being motioned on to the next part. But there are a lot of fun twists to the gameplay in the game that at least give it a nice way to stand out from the crowd.
Your basic abilities obviously revolve around your slash attacks. And while these are very effective if used correctly, you'll find that you'll need to make careful use of your dodge ability to tackle some of the game's stronger and more fierce enemies. Positioning is also an important part of manoeuvring through the various sections of the game, especially during boss fights.
Transformations are probably what most Sengoku fans remember the most about the game. The ability to switch into various characters - each with their own unit attacks and moves - does give the game a nice change of pace and also proves to be a very strategic part of the title's gameplay. Things might start out fairly easy, but you'll soon be facing a barrage of enemies and bosses that will test your basic character's limitations and it's at this point that you'll find these transformations handy. Even so, you do have to keep in mind that you do have a time limit on using them - yet another layer of strategy that must be factored into your plan.
Since the controls in Sengoku 2 were tightened up after the first release, the experience this time around is far more responsive and fluid. You'll still need some fast reflexes and a careful blend of strategy to make your way through the game, but at least this title gives you the proper controls with which to do it.
You won't find many Neo Geo titles as visually varied as that of Sengoku 2. The time travelling mechanic makes for some insane variations in locale and the developers put together some really striking and vibrant visuals to represent them. The characters, enemies, and bosses also show a huge amount of creativity not only in design, but also in their range of animation. While maybe not quite as detailed as some later Neo titles, it's still one of the best graphical presentations you'll find on the system.
Since the visuals got such a nice upgrade, it's only fitting that the musical score and audio got a kick up the behind as well. Not only will you find a great range of music from the various time periods the game features, but you'll also discover that these tracks are quite catchy and well composed, much more so that those found in the first release. The sound effects are also really well done and manage to sound great while still blending into the background and not interfering with the musical tracks themselves.
The game's biggest failing is something which impacts almost every example of the scrolling fighter genre: repetition. Although Sengoku 2 arguably offers more variety than most titles of this kind, the process of beating up an endless selection of foes eventually becomes slightly samey. The two-player mode manages to stave off boredom for a while, but you'll become disillusioned eventually. Like so many scrolling brawlers, this is best sampled in short bursts, like when you've got retro-loving friends round and you fancy some old-school scrapping.
Hack and slash fans should find a lot to like about Sengoku 2 and it's unique and intense gameplay system. The mammoth variety of backdrops do a nice job of giving the game a broad feel, but like any other beat em' up, repetitiveness is still the biggest drawback of the experience. There's still plenty of fun to be had and if you know what you're getting into, then you certainly should at least find enough meat on the bone to keep you slashing through to the end. It's not the most diverse game, but it is rather high in variety, especially for a hack and slash release from the early '90s.