Romance of the Umpteenth Kingdoms.
Somewhere in video game limbo, Lu Bu, Pikachu, and Sonic must be hanging out at the “Milked” lounge, as they sip generic brand coffee from a Styrofoam cup and hang their heads over the murky, brown, grimy, caffeine-boosted sludge that they have been forced to gulp for who knows how long, without sympathy or remorse from their green-eyed corporate overlords. The Dynasty Warriors/Samurai Warriors franchise seems to be that worn-out drone at work who does his job, unimpassioned and disillusioned, enslaved by the machine and forced to continue slugging along because his 401K plan tanked. But even so, Warriors Orochi 2 for PSP isn’t as exploitative as it may seem, though it is almost a direct code-to-code port of the PS2 version of the game.
[image1]First, let’s get all of the redundant chaff out of the way. As usual, the premise of this pan-Asian beat-‘em-up (“pan-Asian” since it combines both Japanese and Chinese warriors from ancient history and folklore in completely different time periods… sure, whatever) is whacking all the horribly under-armored infantry units with teeny red health bars and any officer with a name hovering above their squishy heads. Look at the map, find and eliminate all the red dots, grab a few items, move to the next area, and rinse and repeat until you hate
Asian people the thousands of swarming enemies (who need to be killed anyway due to overpopulation and the provocation of boredom).
This time around, you’re supposed to let bygones be bygones once more, allying yourself with every other character in the franchise regardless of faction, and defeat Orochi who you banished in the first Warriors Orochi and has now been resurrected by his slithering, seductive strategist Da Ji. That is, if you really needed a story other than “I don’t like people that try to poke me with a sharp stick”. No matter which of the five storylines you choose – Samurai, Wu, Wei, Shu, or Orochi – the emphasis on massacring everyone on the battlefield remains the order of the day, even if that means beating the same enemies over and over again.
The twist that saves the game from being a complete cop-out is that instead of going solo, you must choose a team of three warriors, between which you can freely rotate in the midst of battle. Effectively pushing you to switch team members are abilities, which are swappable bonuses that you can equip before any battle for any team of characters, and the mechanics that inactive members steadily recuperate health and musou energy for special attacks. Each character has three abilities that can be unlocked by satisfying certain conditions, which also encourages you to change your team often. There are also certain environmental dangers like fire and poisonous gas that will drain your active member’s health, sometimes forcing you to bring out another character while you hunt for the sorcerer who’s casting the irritating spell.
The overall strength of the team, however, isn’t really based on any shared abilities like triple musou specials and support attacks; it is based on the strength of each individual, whether or not that character is assigned as a power, technical, or speed class. Each class of warrior has their own special attacks, but generally, speed class characters have the leg up because they have a special attack that doesn’t use any musou and thus can be used indefinitely.
[image2]Unlike most other Dynasty Warriors titles, musou doesn’t charge when your attacks hit, so you won’t be using those flashy combination maneuvers often. Still, this might be a disappointment for those used to disbursing a super-duper move every minute or so. But as before, gauging strength usually means analyzing a character’s string of standard and charge attacks – their speed, power, range, recovery rate, and juggling capabilities – so the basics haven’t changed much.
On that note, most of the rooting interest comes from leveling up characters and collecting experience points, if just to garner a stronger collection of abilities and weapons. It’s a design that works well, focusing on weapon fusion for attack enhancements, and a storyline that constantly rewards you with additional characters. Better yet, you receive a bunch of general experience points that you can distribute how you like between all the characters you have unlocked so far.
However, certain weapon upgrades require a weapon to have specific effects and for you to have acquired the appropriate jewels through battle. Getting the required effects, like “flame” or “drain”, through weapon fusion all depends on having the luck of obtaining weapons that have those effects in the first place. Treasures depend on reading a vague clue that is something on par with “defeat so-and-so swiftly when they appear”. Who the hell is so-and-so? And does “swiftly” mean two minutes, thirty seconds, what?
Multiplayer is also a botched idea, full of deplorable mini-games that transform these characters into traditional fighters and even horse racers. Just the idea that you can pit any of these characters on a 3-vs.-3 match, without paying a lick of attention to balance and excitement, is not worthy to be a design idea at all. Same goes for the Mario Kart-styled horse racing where you collect items (yes, items) on a forked race course (there’s only one course, by the way). These are the kind of multiplayer modes that you wish
the designers were locked in a room with and forced to play until they writhe on the floor in a pool of their own crap never happened.
[image3]Worse yet, the only online play is an ad-hoc cooperative mode that severely restricts the second player, who is not only forced to play as the host’s team, but also has to play with the host’s stock of abilities and equipment. Any thought of gaining experience with your own players to help out a friend as support has been thoroughly stripped.
Even with the triple tag team and strong character progression, Warriors Orochi 2 for PSP is more of a rehash of a rehash of its franchise rather than a redesign. Without the prospect of a robust multiplayer mode, the solo experience offers only a better package of the single-player campaign that every title in the series has had so far. But if you’re just looking for a quick Dynasty Warriors fix on the go, you could do
exactly like you did before worse.