Seven years ago, I randomly spotted this game during the obligatory mall visit Gamestop walkthrough. The Warriors logo was worth a pause. The Orochi bit, a double take. The blurb on the back – an instant sell.
It was a crossover between Dynasty Warriors, which I loved, and Samurai Warriors, which I kept meaning to play but never got around to trying. It was equal parts grandeur and absurdity, thoughtful craft and happy accident slapdash. It was a beat ’em up addiction with “it” factor rivaled only by my reigning personal KOEI Jesus of Dynasty Warriors 5.
To this day, I’m not sure which won. I’m not sure it matters.
Fan Service For the Win
Warriors Orochi’s premise is a one-line excuse for squishing historical timelines across a thousand-year schism. This minimal setup makes room for a more interesting focus on character-driven actions – finding old friends, forging new alliances, serving Orochi to survive, to undermine and backstab him, or to seek power themselves. Screen time is reasonably distributed among the seventy plus character cast. Though each of the four story modes focuses on a small core of personalities, the battles are all about variety. Everyone gets a meaningful or entertaining role, small though it might be.
Some stages pay homage to scenarios from the original games. Others throw characters together for maximum amusement. A strategist gets increasingly aggravated at his ragtag allies rushing ahead and dropping rocks on themselves. A would-be ladies’ man teams up with a stoic warrior and a fiery Amazon who repeatedly shoot him down. A seductive vixen requests stimulation in the form of bloodshed, flustering a self-proclaimed serious man tasked with rescuing her.
This all comes with a boatload of solid dialog well aware of its corny crossover context. Characters slyly accuse noble families of inbreeding, threaten to take a battle into the 16th century, poke fun at tropes and similarities between certain Dynasty and Samurai personae. Much of this is hidden in battle to be discovered while playing. A fair amount of such consists of broadly in-character comebacks, but it’s enjoyable and varied enough to add replay value and incentive to work with the whole roster.
Personal items, unlockable via secret objectives, add to the something for everyone appeal. Though just a statistical increment and a line of text, they uniquely reference an aspect of each character’s history or legend.
Everything Old is New Again
I expected to get to know the Samurai Warriors while having all my Dynasty mainstays to fall back on. Instead I discovered the whole roster anew. Characters play differently thanks to new inherent abilities and a weapon upgrade system that alters move set properties well beyond the limits in the source material. This bugs some attacks into uselessness, but it’s a fair tradeoff for the glee of stomp bouncing helpless boss officers to death.
The tag team system changes it up even further, bringing three characters into battle for you to switch between at will – or to chain together into combos to continually beat on enemies with style.
Warriors Orochi is a dream that works on multiple levels – a yacht party on the surface with weight in the depths below. The script suits its combination of old school Dynasty and Samurai aesthetics, which nailed a similar tone of larger than life historical legend with a judicious sense of fun. The soundtrack draws from both franchises’ era-flavored asskicking music and mashes up its elements to fantastic effect – the driving Samurai Scanners, the haunting Antispecter.
Back in the day, I was a hesitant KOEI gamer. I liked to unlock characters, mess around, scratch that beat ’em up itch as I saw fit. I never cared about meeting any standard of Good – until Warriors Orochi’s highest difficulty came along.
Chaos is awful. Chaos is awesome. You die in seconds – as do the enemies if you are fully equipped for maximum offense. Save states and character swapping can scrape you through most situations, especially with lucky recovery drops. But a solid chaos run feels damn good, especially on video starring favorite characters popularly dumped on for perceived suckitude.
Which is how I found myself with a video capture device, YouTube channel, and authoritative voice in the inevitable tier list discussion. Tier talk tends to devolve into endless arguments about subjective bullhockey. Instead, our group recruited the much respected author of the Dynasty Warriors 5 chaos tiers. We worked together to develop metrics for objective evaluation of move set effectiveness – speed, safety, and consistency of defeating officers and those deadly crowds of archers and musketeers. We ended up with a sound evaluation and precedent for future character rankings. I ended up getting Bat signaled for other KOEI tiers long after I was burned out on character maximization. I do appreciate the shout-out.
tetsuo9999 – Tag combo exhibitions.
DW5chaosmodeguide – Maximized gameplay videos created for the tier list evaluation.
RydainDarkstar – My Very First Videos ™, best I could do at the time – linked for the soft spot nostalgia factor and the fun I had with custom soundtracks. “Run to the Hills” will forever remind me of virtual whack-a-mole.
Warriors Orochi Chaos Tier List – A convenient summary of our work.
Battle Conversations FAQ – All the amusing chatter referenced above.