Rise of the Ronin - A Shōgun Gunshow
An excellently bonkers samurai adventure. Suited for cat AND dog lovers.
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Once upon a time in the Far East

The samurai fantasy is one of gaming’s most enduring, maybe just behind being a ninja. How ironic that Team Ninja, despite their name, has seemingly jumped ship. Nioh and now Rise of the Ronin each provide a very different take on a Japanese adventure, so what’s the angle with their new Playstation exclusive?

Set in Japan during the tempestuous period as they relaxed their isolationist policies, Ronin assigns players the role of a custom-made samurai duo. Following the extensive character creator, the opening level seems to promise a Souls-styled adventure – relatively linear encounters as you storm a foreign ship and then make a hasty retreat from your burning homestead. Following this, you’ll be thrust into an open-world Japan, opening up an adventure of epic proportions. Exploring this world on foot, horseback, an anachronistic paraglider and using a grapple hook 

This is katana

Most striking is the vast combat options available. With over eight weapon types available, each with multiple stances and unique martial attacks to unlock, choosing a preferred playstyle is incredibly difficult. Unarmed is a particular favourite, there’s little more satisfying than parrying an enemy swordsman with your bare hands and throwing him to the ground karate style. While there is a strong focus on parrying attacks, the timing for this can be incredibly precise and obscure. Thankfully, with so many options of approach, you can cheese battles in incredibly funny and satisfying ways. Why bang your head against a wall fighting a horde of bandits when you can find a nice vantage point to use your rifle to explode their heads? 

While initial comparisons to Sony’s other open-world samurai game Ghost of Tsushima seem obvious, the tonal differences are day and night. Where Tsushima took a reverential, somewhat po-faced approach to samurai history, Ronin delights in the absurd. While the game is deeply invested in the real-world history of the period, it never allows itself to be restrained by it. Robot arms, flying machines, collecting cats and sending dogs as envoys to other players, the lunacy never ends! With many comedic side-quests such as finding a mugged British coal-merchants clothes, Ronin has a wonderful streak of the Yakuza series.

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You’ll make a wide range of allies along the way who will assist you during certain missions, or you can find players online to join in too. These NPC allies have certain political allegiances in the story too, so you’ll have to pick sides during story beats. Upgrading your speechcraft will give you more conversational options, allowing certain brawls to be circumnavigated entirely. From reformed bandits to geisha madams, your allies are varied

Last (thoughts) of the samurai

With so much to see and do, Rise of the Ronin may be the biggest samurai epic since Kurosawa’s movies, albeit one remixed with the wackiness of a Takeshi Kitano joint. It may not be the prettiest PS5 title but it’s ludicrously packed with bizarre and fantastic details and sights to see. Forgive some rough edges and you’re in for a strange and wonderful trip. Despite being set almost two hundred years ago, this title makes it feel like the samurai are stronger than ever. 

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About The Author

Niall Glynn has been playing video games since he first realised that Mario could go INSIDE a pyramid on the N64. In-between his day job and sleeping you can find him watching poorly dubbed kung-fu movies and/or playing weird games on his Switch. Thinks Return of the Jedi is the best Star Wars and is colour-blind.

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