15 Samurai (Merkur Gaming): Overview
The Gauselmann Group continues to squeeze as much value as possible from its ownership of Merkur and Reel Time Gaming. 15 Samurai is an older game that's been available in German 'Spielhalle' for some years and that has now been converted from its physical form to an online slot. The Asian slot category continues to expand, but there aren’t too many that are based around the Samurai, so will this make a welcome addition?
Samurais are infamous from Japanese history and were similar to the knights of medieval Europe. They formed the backbone of the warrior nobility able to command and lead forces into war. They were highly regarded at the time and remain a respected concept down to today. With all this emphasis on warfare, action, and adventure, it’s a surprise there aren’t even more Samurai themed slots around. There are a few floating around to try if this theme is to your taste. Novomatic has gotten in on the action with its Katana slot, which as probably inspired Samurai 15, as has IGT, and of course Microgaming.
Visually Samurai 15 is similar to the physical slot, but it has had a slight upgrade, giving the looks a subtle improvement. Blueprint has kept the nifty high pay symbol animations when they come into play such as the fluttering fan holding geishas. The setup remains the same with 5 reels, 3 rows and 25 paylines set against a purple lit mountain forest in the snow. To kick things off, players choose a bet from 25 p/c up to £/€125, and the game begins.
Paytable symbols start with plain looking 10 –A royals, followed by Japanese symbols such as sword racks, flowers, tea sets, and the geisha with a fan. She happens to be the most valuable of the base game symbols at 20 times the stake for five of a kind. Highly volatile, it's set to a 96.08% RTP which is quite good when you compare it to other slots in the genre, in particular those on offer from Novomatic. As with many of these Merkur physical retro slot crossovers, 15 Samurai is straight forward and quite well-paced, with simple gameplay that is light on the extra features.
15 Samurai (Merkur Gaming): Features
It wouldn’t be a Samurai themed slot without them making an appearance on the reels. We get one in the role of wild which can land anywhere on the grid. Not only does he substitute for any other symbol in the game except the scatter, but he is also the key to bigger wins – in two ways. The first is if 2, 3, 4, or 5 Samurais land on a payline they pay out 0.4x, 2x, 8x or 40x the stake.
The slot comes with a bonus game which can be launched by landing three gong scatter symbols on the reels. Do so, and players are awarded with 10 Free Spins which cannot be retriggered. The Samurai Wild comes into its own during the free spins. Whenever he lands he becomes sticky and remains locked in place for the remainder of the bonus round. The aim of the game is to max out the reels with 15 sticky Samurai symbols - hence the name. This is the way to achieve the most lucrative single spin payouts possible in 15 Samurai.
15 Samurai (Merkur Gaming): Verdict
15 Samurai is a game that won’t light the slot world on fire, but it offers certain levels of satisfaction. The theme of the Samurai and Japanese culture has been used quite well without being over the top. This is largely due to the symbol animations which inject some life into the game. Shame the top base game symbol isn’t worth any more than a paltry 20x the stake though. The wild values are better, but hardly an Emperor’s ransom. Having sticky wilds during the free spins is a cool feature, but it just isn’t worth that much. Max out the reels with all 15 Samurai and you are looking at just 1,000 times the stake.
In fact, the way the payouts are structured overall might require some strategic betting. Merkur have put a cap on winnings from a single game at 10,000 times the stake or £/€250,000 - whichever comes first. A respectable amount, but high rollers, or those looking to maximise their potential returns might want to tailor their approach with that cap in mind. Then again, if a player has the mind-set of maximising their wins they probably won’t be all that attracted to 15 Samurai in the first place. Better value can be found elsewhere.
So with okay graphics and not much potential why would someone consider playing 15 Samurai? One could be sentimental, perhaps. These Merkur/Reel Time Gaming machines have been popular in countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Eastern Europe, so it gives fans the chance to relive the glory days. The theme has been handled well, so there’s that. It just lacks a little depth. While the sticky wilds during free spins can be exciting when they rack up, that’s all there really is to it. Plus, being retriggerable would have helped, ten just doesn’t feel like enough. After landing the bonus game once or twice, interest quickly evaporates and it’s time to switch to the next slot.
Due to its stripped down appearance and rawness, 15 Samurai is a slot that will appeal more to hardcore gamers than recreational players. Those who enjoy the simple Novomatic/Merkur slots are likely to find this one entertaining as well. It makes it hard to rate, but with solid RTP, decent payouts, and well-balanced gameplay, it definitely gets the thumbs up.
Overall, 15 Samurai is a rather underwhelming re-release of an older land-based slot, but hardcore gamers will like it.