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Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate Vita Review

Musou games are like the death and taxes of videogames: they are as big a certainty as first person shooters and Mario games, if not more so. If you have never experienced the long-running one-versus-one-million genre yourself, you are at least aware of its frequent releases. No longer content to staying within its Dynasty Warriors origins, Tecmo Koei has branched off their one-note, two-button concept to other games as well as other franchises, including Anime properties like One Piece, Gundam and Fist of the North Star, and just recently with The Legend of Zelda, with Dragon Quest recently announced as getting in on the annual action as well.

In any event, the Warriors Orochi series is what happens when you put all the Dynasty Warriors games into a blender and churn out a massive crossover event. Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate (which is actually the third re-release in the third game of this spin-off of a cash cow milked beyond its limits) brings a new enemy known as the Hydra to disturb the heard-earned peace of the kingdoms. Unable to defeat the powerful beast with their dwindling numbers, heroes Ma Chao, Sima Zhao, and Hanbei Takenaka are rescued by a mysterious priestess named Kaguya, who offers to send them back to key moments in the past in order to rescue and/or recruit other warriors who fell in battle against Orochi and his army.

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Despite the heavy mixing of characters from other linked properties as well as guest characters from Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive, the end result is ultimately the same: this is a Musou title. For those unaware, each stage takes place on a wide open field filled to the brim with allies and enemies, many of which won’t lift a finger, giving players the adrenaline rush of mowing down hundreds upon thousands of hapless enemy fodder and the occasional resistant enemy leader. Despite the brainless button-bashing, players must still keep an eye on their objectives: should they fail to protect a certain key figure or stop a certain enemy unit from reaching a checkpoint, the entire mission will fail. Players must also be prepared to fend off against those few foes that do put up a fight, as they can also deal a deadly combo that quickly drains your health without any means of counterattacking.

Orochi 3 does little to innovate past this highly recycled formula of gameplay, but it certainly cannot be accused of not stuffing the game with enormous amounts of content; the playable character list is so massive that the game needs an encyclopedia just to try and keep track of every Chinese emperor and their hundreds of retainers and/or relatives. Each character also possesses their own unique weapon styles and skills, which is quite impressive given the roster, though in the end they all only have three methods of attacking (two attack buttons and a Musou attack button for firing off special moves that use up the meter). Orochi spices things up by allowing players to switch between three chosen teammates at a time, as well as the ability to bring out all three characters at once (one player controls one character while the other two are AI-controlled), which can also lead into team-up attacks to cause further death and destruction on the battlefield.

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As if the character unlocks weren’t enough, there are also weapons which can either be earned in battle or purchased by blacksmiths. These weapons can be further modified by fusing two existing weapons together, crafting rare weapons with materials, and even a lottery to win rarer weapons. Similarly, characters can be quickly leveled using growth points, and can also increase their bonds with one another, leading to more team-up attacks. There’s even a respec option (called “promote”) that resets a character’s level to 1 but lets them learn additional abilities while powering up their existing stats. Also, there are unlockable character costumes, because all of that development time has to go somewhere if not toward the base gameplay.

It’s too bad more manpower wasn’t put toward the visuals. Musou games tend to not be played for their graphics, and Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate’s visuals are serviceable enough considering its source material. Regardless, the game could have been optimized to better accommodate the Vita’s tinier screen; players and enemies fill up just fine, but the UI and text boxes tend to be a bit on the tiny side. The map can be especially cumbersome to navigate, which is the one thing that requires the most attention given how quickly mission objectives will change. The game also has framerate issues, which is borderline unforgivable in a fast-paced game such as, although thankfully the periods of slowdown aren’t as noticeable on the Vita as they are on the big-screen console versions. One minor problem that has cropped up on the portable version of the game is the occasional missing of sound effects, which can subtract a bit of the impact of these thousand-man skirmishes.

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In addition to the main Story Mode and Free Mode, the game also has a create-a-stage option in the form of Musou Battlefields (which can also allow for custom battle speeches and music in addition to sharing the completed results online), Duel Mode (a weird one-on-one versus mode knockoff that’s better left ignored) and Gauntlet Mode (a randomized mode that can either yield great rewards for characters or obliterate them in a single hit). There is also online co-op, but during the portion of this review no players were available to connect with. It should also be noted that Vita owners can play alongside PS3 owners of the same game, but not PS4 owners.

As previously mentioned, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate’s main draw is its quantity of content, rather than its quality. If you have no interest in Musou’s simplistic-yet-satisfying action, the number of minute enhancements won’t change your mind, nor will the compromised visuals impress for anyone enjoying the steady framerate of the recent PC release of Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends (they are clearly running out of subtitles for all these re-releases). Still, any Musou junkies looking for a meaty experience that will probably last the entire duration of the Vita’s lifetime will have no second thoughts about this Ultimate package of repetitive gameplay.

6 out of 10