Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper
Platform: Wii U
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Over a decade ago I first got the opportunity to play Dynasty Warriors 2 for the PS2 at my cousinís house. It was fun but it had some flaws, some of which were noticed and patched one time or another in the seven billion iterations of the Warriors series. I stuck close to the franchise until I played an entry on the PSP that was so bad it made me lose interest in the series. A few years later, I get this game to review, and while the the K.O count is still in the thousands, and there's a really sizeable cast of unique characters, itís the same damn game I played in the first place. Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper is the same as 2011ís Warriors Orochi 3, with the main difference being a new Duel mode, four additional characters, and more hyper.
In Orochi 3 the Chinese cast of Dynasty Warriors combatants cooperate with the Japanese characters from the Samurai Warriors series to face demonic foes and a giant, eight headed beast known as the Hydra. The human Resistance Army has just been defeated by the Hydra, but a visit from a time traveller allows the army to go back in time and change the results of the many battles leading up to that point, in the hopes of building up an army that can stop the demon forces from taking the land. The time travel aspect provides an interesting twist on the battlegrounds; upon earning victory in a stage, it may be revealed that a key character may not have fallen if you had a catapult to break some doors down and save him, meaning you have to travel further back to a battle with catapults, seize them, return to the battle with the key character with the catapults and save their life. Itís interesting to see how the missions slightly change after time travel, and while there usually isnít anything drastically different, it makes the chore of having to beat a stage for the second time a little easier to swallow.
The story unfolds not only in chunks of text told by character cut outs before each battle, but by interactions between battlers during the fights and in the hub world. The hub is a camp where you can purchase weaponry, increase the strength of characters relationships, speak with fellow officers to unlock new stages, and also jump online. This where most of the Ďtacticalí in the gameís Ďtactical actioní genre is played out. Ensuring your selected team has the best possible weaponry, having your teamís relationships work to their advantage, which items should be equipped and which of the recommended characters to use is time consuming yet satisfying. It just sucks that upon a game over, you return to the main menu and have to go through it all again. In-game the tactics usually range from ĎGo here and protect this guy!í to ĎGo there and kill that guy!í Due to the gameís audio being Japanese, you might miss the subtitles and not know what youíre supposed to be doing, which has resulted in a few defeats.
Along with Story, the Duel and Musou modes are what make up Orochi 3ís foundation. In Duel mode youíll find a terrible one on one fighting game, in which you can activate cards youíve collected in the campaign as special attacks during your bout. It can be played online, but in the times I tried to host or join something, nothing was available, probably due to a lack of players. Itís the only competitive mode in the game, but when playing with others, itís more fun to cooperate in the Story than deal with a fighter that feels off kilter. In Musou mode you can edit pre-existing stages with your own selection of characters, dialogue, and objectives. This is where the games more fun online experience is found, as you can also share your creations with others. After the quick download of someone elseís take on a stage, you can play it, leave a sterile comment from a list of sterile comments, and then rate it out of three stars. The review system needs work to let the cream rise to the top, but the potential is there to create and distribute nightmarishly difficult map, or something we in the industry refer to as cray cray. The ability to change each officer's line in the missions story, and having one of your officers portrayed by a dog are funny things indeed. Itís also nice that all upgrades earned for characters across the board apply in each mode, meaning if you somehow enjoyed Duel mode you can spend your time in there increasing the levels of your favourite characters instead of having actual fun out on the virtual battlefield.
One thing about the Warriors games that drives me up the wall is the awful pop-in and draw distance. You can only see enemies a couple of metres in front of you, and you canít see equipment such as catapults until youíre having sex with it. Whatís worse is that you usually canít attack what you canít see, and thereís a few sections where you man catapults or the like and you have the opportunity to take down large mobs at a time, except you literally cannot see anything but a blank field. The pathetic pop-in is a tremendous flaw that I cannot believe is still present after so many iterations, spin-offs and technical advancements in the 12 years since Dynasty Warriors 2 released. Itís difficult to comprehend how they havenít fixed the draw distance since a PS2 launch title. Heavenly Sword came out about five years ago and that did massive crowds really well, and considering the Warriors games are Tecmo Koeiís biggest sellers, Iím dumbfounded, befuddled and splergakafuzzled. Itís almost game breaking, and you rely on luck when trying to build up a tasty combo to fill your triple team attack bar. When you get that bar full, your team of three fighters who you can swap between on the fly, releases a devastating attack that makes you scratch your head and say Ďdid they deliberately design this to look this awful and confusing, or is my Wii U about to crash?í Slowdown kicks in (especially in two player), enemies pop in and out erratically, and it seems like no enemies exist at all outside of a small radius. There are other moments of slowdown, like if there are more than three or four officers on screen and you perform a special Musou attack (think Killer Instinct combos with a mystic Japanese twist), the action will come to a crawl for a few anxious seconds before resuming to normal. This shouldnít be happening in such a technically average game on the most powerful home console on the market.
While the game is far from pushing any technological boundaries, I have to admit I was impressed that a game that boasts a roster of 130+ playable characters felt less full of clone characters than literally any competitive fighter out there. Most characters look distinct and have their own unique set of tools to deal damage with. Perhaps the more important thing is the feel, and each character has their own weight, combos, and usually animations, making finding the characters you love to feel a pleasant experience. The temptation to copy and paste characters is there, but I guess thatís what developer Omega Force has been working on instead of everything else. You can find whichever play style you want here, and itíll feel satisfying. Itís also excellent that in two player mode you donít have to share characters; each player can have their own 3-player team tailored to their own taste. Experience, items and weapons unlocked by either player are permanent and completely interchangeable too. That, and the fact that many missions require you to cover a lot of area on the battlefields, makes playing this in co-op a very fun experience. Also, some of the ridiculous dialogue in this game has to be read with a friend, such as the conversation between two girls about a cousin who has an obsession with hiding in chests, or the glowing praise all the men give each other about their appearances, all delivered via hyper energetic and distinctly Japanese voice acting.
Despite the average graphics and at times poor performance, Orochi 3 has a kickass soundtrack which helps the presentation immensely.Varied and pronounced, it works wonderfully within the game's atmosphere. Itís a great mix of old school RPG, stereotypical ancient Asia, and rock music. Upon hearing that electric guitar kick out a solo in the heat of battle, your inner patriot is triggered, and they wonít stop until they have bashed two thousand baddies in a display of brute force and bright flashes. It reminded me that no other beat Ďem up is quite as ridiculous as this series, and that Omega Force have carved a neat niche for themselves.
Tecmo Koei themselves, of whom Omega Force is a development team for, are a somewhat a B-grade game company; not quite as good as Capcom, not quite as bad as Akklaim. They seem to be able to make a product greater than the sum of its parts, but by looking at its parts you realise what a steaming pile of steamed hams it is. Thereís plenty of steamed hams within Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper, thatís for sure, but thereís also an aurora borealis localised entirely within that steam. Not having played the franchise in a few years, I can say with certainty that if youíve played any Dynasty, Samurai or Gundam Warriors game, you know what you are in for, and if you enjoyed it in the past youíll enjoy it now too. If youíve never played one before and want to watch a 20 hour Best of Sports Injuries delivered in abnormally enthusiastic shouting, grab a friend and indulge.