by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
So, I’ve by now, played almost every “Musou” game that has been brought to America. The only exceptions being the “first” which was a fighting game (really just the dueling mode from Musou 2) and Musou 2. I pretty much conquered all the others. But this is more in the vein of Warriors Orochi, in that characters from multiple franchises join together under Deus Ex Machina shenanigans to “set the world right”. However, Warriors Orochi had about 80-100 characters from just Dynasty/Samurai Warriors. Warriors All-Stars grabs from far more than just these two. Sure, Lu Bu, Mitsunari Ishida, Zhou Yu are here. These are awesome picks for sure, but then you have Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden, several of the Dead or Alive girls, Laegrinna from the Descent franchise, William Adams from Nioh, characters from the Azure series, Atelier … but most important, Nobunyaga Oda. Yes, the Cat Version of Oda Nobunaga from “Samurai Cats”, the social game where Warring States Era characters are turned into cats, and given cat names. Nobunyaga Oda. There is some fan-service and scantily clad female characters, but it’s not the main focus of the game by any stretch. Instead of generals like “Licksplittle”, “Corpsemangler”, “Rotgristle”, we have more generic named lieutenants, which I’m kind of glad for. Edge for the sake of edge didn’t work for me. This is a world we aren’t familiar with, so a little anonymity/simplicity isn’t so bad.
One of the positives is that it exposes people to lots of characters they may never have played as/seen before; like, I’ve never played Nioh, or Descent, and only one of the Atelier games (and only briefly). There’s the “Magical MacGuffin” world where this takes place, and there are three factions, Tamaki, Shiki, and Setsuna’s forces. Each one has a goal and wants to unite the land for better or worse. Each faction has its own group of characters, and I feel like it’s important for players to know which ones they will have access to, while the game is going on. My playthrough was with Setsuna, who is trying to reclaim his kingdom, mostly because I wanted to play as Nobunyaga Oda. This is definitely a good thing though, because it offers replayability, in this, and that so much of the game can be skipped. Each faction has its own “base” of characters, but you can unlock additional playable characters by completing “Hero” Battles. They’ll be visible on the map with the unlockable character on them. But unlocking certain characters can ruin endings (There are fifteen of them), so while this is the shortest Musou, there’s so much replayability on offer. You don’t have to play many of the stages on the open map that you don’t want to. So, let’s go over factions!
– Yukimura Sanada (Samurai Warriors)
– Mitsunari Ishida (Samurai Warriors)
– Naotora Ii (Samurai Warriors)
– Hajime Arima (Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time)
– Darius (Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time)
– William Adams (Nioh)
– Ryu Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden)
– Ayane (Ninja Gaiden)
– Nobunyaga Oda (Samurai Cats)
– Kasumi (Dead or Alive)
– Marie Rose (Dead or Alive)
– Honoka (Dead or Alive)
– Milennia (Deception)
– Laegrinna (Deception)
– Rio (Rio)
– Arnice (Nights of Azure)
– Christophorus (Nights of Azure)
– Zhao Yun (Dynasty Warriors)
– Wang Yuanji (Dynasty Warriors)
– Zhou Cang (Dynasty Warriors)
– Lu Bu (Dynasty Warriors)
– Oka (Toukiden)
– Horo (Toukiden)
– Tokitsugu (Toukiden)
– Opoona (Opoona)
– Sophie Neuenmuller (Atelier)
– Plachta (Atelier)
However, like I said, some of these appear in my Setsuna playthrough (Plachta, Mitsunari) so it’s really hard to say who will appear where. You have a main town, a headquarters, where your characters hang out, where you purchase new cards (you have cards instead of weapons), take on missions from your friends, and plan your next move. There’s also a Hot Springs, and when you have high enough Relationships with characters, you can have a bit of fanservice, and oftentimes hilarious moments in the steamy water. The character interactions between franchises are also pretty entertaining. Instead of buying new weapons and armor, you have playing cards. They have a grade (C, B, A, S) and can have elemental effects/stat bonuses, attack stat. If they have a skill slot, you can enhance them further with skills using the items you acquire in battle. You can also add the elemental effects and things of that nature in the same way. You can create cards by picking three of yours and hoping it comes out with something better, or you can unlock them by completing missions from your allies or simply by killing lots of foes. There are even missions highlighted with a card, that means you’ll get cards by winning the stage.
In your HQ, you can also take on missions from your allies. They’re all pretty simple: Get four allies to cheer you on during Musou Rush (a new ultimate move), kill 500 enemies in 5 minutes, do that and win the stage 3 times, etc. You increase your relationships with them this way, and by fighting alongside them in battle. As your relationship grows, you unlock new traits and abilities, which stack several times. So it would behoove well of you to play with and as several characters to unlock more powers. Not to mention the Training Grounds. You’ll spend gold to level your allies, and I highly recommend doing it. Otherwise, they appear to level very slowly. So when you get that new character you’re dying on the team and you’re all in the 20s, it’s time to throw money around. There are some stages you won’t be able to undertake with/as certain characters (I’ve seen one I can’t play as Nobunyaga, or have him on the squad, for example), so you can either ignore them or simply play as someone else. I opted to ignore it. I had Cat Justice to bring to the world. The game is pretty simple too. You pick your main character, but you can swap whenever (between battles) that you desire. Then you pick up to four bodyguards, which will help you fight, and you can utilize them like Trap Cards in Yugioh. Holding R1 then a face button, you’ll activate whatever power that they bring to the battle.
Personally, my favorite one is a Vacuum Trap, that pulls everyone nearby into one giant blob, so you can just mow them down. They have cooldowns that can be reduced, but using these is a major key to success. The actual battles work like traditional Musou battles, with the forts having a variety of effects (Attack, Defense, Treasures et al) and defeating the masses there, and the commander will capture the base for your own needs. You still have a Musou Move, but now there’s the new, and ridiculous (but fun!) Musou Rush. You start with one and gain another every 1,000 kills (you can only hold one though), and upon hitting R3, a flood, a literal flood of enemies will hit the field, and you can spam attacks and charge attacks, dash around and kill them as fast as you can.
You can increase the short timer slightly, and the more you kill, the more of your bodyguards will cheer you on! Does it help? … Well, no. But it’s funny! When you win this little mini-game by killing everything that breathes on the planet, you are showered with fantastic prizes, exp, cards, etc. It’s worth doing every time you possibly can. The enemies are kind of a hodgepodge, the standard being the weird cat-people from this world, but also zombies, toys, and all sorts of ridiculous nonsense from the worlds that make up these games. Another new addition to the game is the “Brave” system. This number fluctuates, depending on how well or poor you’re doing. Killing generals/lieutenants seem to increase the number as well as sub-missions in battle. It also increases your power, as well as characters, can use their “Awakened Skill”, a stronger Hero Skill, and gain the ability to start “Hero Chain”, which has all party members lined up and attacking enemies.
It’s Over Nyao: 3/5
While this game is fun, it does have some pretty glaring drawbacks. There’s no online, no multiplayer, not even a free mode! Though it’s short, the plethora of endings really makes up for that, and the overwhelming list of available stages after the first mission or so can feel very overwhelming. And as you just browse the map and scroll around, your allies can randomly give you items, and temporary stages can show up! They have a timer, so you have to decide if it’s for you, and while in stages, it can be a little frustrating. I’ve lost stages in about two to five minutes because I didn’t run immediately to the location that they required me to. Other than that, the stages, in general, are pretty easy. The cast is wide, varied and fun despite how small it is, the gameplay is solid and the character interactions are worth exploring from all points. However, the biggest thing that bothers me is how close this is being released to Dynasty Warriors 9. I feel like this could have come out a bit later. It’s going to sit in the shadow of the titanic undertaking that is Shinsangoku Musou 8, and that’s just the way of it. But it’s fun! It’s niche, but all Musou games are. If you’re a fan of the game, like bright colors and clever dialogue, and don’t want all the historic stuff, pick this up and start finding endings!