Koei’s Warriors Orochi came to consoles in November of last year (it released for both the PS2 and Xbox 360), and while it may have been sub-par, it probably satisfied many an action/strategy fan. The game merged Dynasty Warriors and Samuari Warriors by allowing players to use familiar characters in an epic quest to bring down the demon lord Orochi. It wasn’t a bad game, per se, but its biggest failing centered on the following issue, which has plagued Koei for years: same ol’, same ol’. Yep, we really didn’t see anything even remotely new with Warriors Orochi, but we’re hoping that's not as big of a problem with the PSP installment, slated to arrive this week. Granted, it probably won’t be as big as the likes of Dark Sector, but for gamers on the go who have always appreciated Omega Force titles in the past, Orochi might just fit the bill. Thankfully, it popped up at last month’s Game Developers Conference, so the last bit of hands-on and finalized info has been released to the Internet. Wanna know what to expect from this one?
First up, you shouldn’t expect the same graphical quality you found in the Xbox 360 version. If you do, you’re not exactly an educated gamer in the first place; it’s far more logical to assume the visual quality might come close to the PS2 version. The good news is that the impressive size of the maps should remain intact for the PSP iteration, and that’s a big plus because it was one of the few highlights of the game. The build on display at the GDC displayed the first few levels, and players were allowed to take control of three warriors, which you can switch between as you progress. Being able to instantly switch your character was the other major positive, because it instituted a certain level of strategy not normally found in these games. See, usually, you only have the one character you chose, and you must make him last throughout the entire mission. But in Warriors Orochi, if one of your characters has taken a beating, let him/her take a break and bring in a substitute. Furthermore, each character had their own special set of skills and abilities, and were also better at certain aspects of fighting than others.
All of this should sound encouraging – and it is – but Omega Force never really took the next step, and this could once again be a drawback for the PSP version. Sure, it’s nice to be able to access those kick-ass Musou attacks, but they’re not nearly as “kick-ass” as they should be, if we remember correctly. We doubt the developers will tweak the difficulty level of the game for PSP owners, which may or may not be a good thing…do you enjoy a challenge that sometimes seems unfair? If so, Warriors Orochi will probably be right up your alley. After all, it may be annoying when you continuously get swatted around by dozens of enemies, but hey, the depth is there. Practice, strategically switch out characters, use Musou at just the right time, and enjoy the fluid animations. There are a ton of characters available, too, and all of them should be available in the PSP version; no skimping on the features or additions just because we’re talking about a handheld entry! That’s the kind of thing that bugs the crap out of us. We understand gimping the graphics a bit, but don’t get rid of the depth and presentation that made the console versions decent.
Bottom line- if you’re a fan of button-mashing insanity with lots and lots of baddies on screen at once, Warriors Orochi is worth checking out. There’s more here than meets the eye (mounted combat, for example), and the inherent differences from character to character really add a great deal to the game. It not only enhances the diversity level but it also ramps up the strategy even more, as you must select the character(s) that best suits your playing style. All of this should be evident in the handheld Orochi, but we hope the system’s limited potential won’t negatively impact the later battles in the game, which boast hundreds of enemies. From what we’ve heard about the GDC demonstration, though, everything moved relatively well. Omega Force and Koei have yet to provide us with something truly innovative in this generation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t make good games. For PSP owners who love non-stop action with a touch of strategy, Warriors Orochi won't be a bad option come March 25.
3/21/2008 Ben Dutka