Thursday, October 31, 2013

Musou Orochi 2 Ultimate (Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate) Review


Note: This review is based upon the Japanese version of the game (Musou Orochi 2 Ultimate) and uses translated names. English names of certain things may be different in the English release.

INTRODUCTION


Musou Orochi 2 Ultimate, or if you would like to be future optimistic, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate, is a re-release of 2012's Musou Orochi 2 with new content. Albeit having expansion characteristics including new characters, features and storyline, it goes beyond that classification by including every content in the original game without the need to swap discs back and forth. A stand-alone expansion, or expandalone if you want to call it that. Hence, if you're familiar with the Xtreme Legend expansions of the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, think of it as Musou Orochi 2 Xtreme Legends with Musou Orochi 2 already included. Ingenious, isn't it?

Okay, so if you're reading this review, I'm having an enormous hunch you probably already have played Musou Orochi 2 or its many international releases. If not, I'm anticipating you at least know the game details well. Thus, to keep things sweet and simple, I'm only going to cover the new stuff that is introduced in Ultimate.

GAME MODES


Musou Orochi 2 Ultimate introduces two new gameplay modes. These are Unlimited Mode and Duel Mode. Duel Mode is not entirely new, as it's a straight rip from the Duel Mode introduced in Musou Orochi 2 Hyper (one of the other many incarnations of this game).

DUEL MODE is as you guessed, a VS mode where the game takes on a 3D arena tag team fighting genre. Character stats including weapons are not factored into this mode, so it's utterly toned down to be better balanced fighting against the CPU, a local buddy or an online opponent. Choosing to fight the CPU will result in challenging yourself to obtain the highest win streak. A vast difference between regular gameplay and Duel Mode gameplay is the addition of four character specific strategy cards you can equip for battle. Each character has their own distinctive card and they add various tactics and effects when used during battle, which can be categorized into "Attack", "Auxiliary", "Obstruct" and "Special". Again, this is all fairly familiar territory if you ever played the Hyper version of the game—nothing much has changed here. Hence, that also causes Duel Mode to still be a weird, broken mess. With you and the opponent spamming hundreds of different cards which all do different things, the actual fighting becomes incredibly random and unpredictable. Most of the time, you don't know what is going on to react soon enough. Essentially, this also renders the fluid and smooth combat system of the game something entirely else that you have to re-adapt exclusively for this mode. If there was an option to disable the usage of strategy cards, then Duel Mode might actually have some potential. I haven't got a clue what they were trying to pull off with their inclusion, but personally, I think it's a rather poor implementation. I say bring back the real Duel Mode of Maou Sairin!

Those damn cards!

UNLIMITED MODE is the actual uniquely new mode to Ultimate. You are essentially task to complete a series of randomly generated dungeons that involves fighting infinite spawning enemies, collecting treasure, avoiding the strengthening evil miasma and eventually finding an escape point in veins of glowing blue aureoles called "Dragon Spots".

Character selection is also different from any other mode, in which you are allowed to select up to five characters instead of the usual three. Once initial character selection has occurred, it is permanently locked until you unlock other characters exclusively for this mode. That's correct, Unlimited Mode requires you to unlock all 145 characters over again, or should I say 140. Oh joy, aren't we loving Unlimited Mode already?

After character selection, you'll be greeted to the same, familiar hub area of Story Mode. Only this time, the NPCs and merchants are different. Only the blacksmith and tea house are present, and oh, a female mystic. The female mystic is exclusionary to Unlimited Mode, and you'll be talking to her often to fetch request missions (yes, there are side missions you get to accomplish while dungeon crawling) and unlock additional characters you can play as—the 145 unique characters in the game, that is.

When you're ready to dungeon crawl, you'll be greeted to the dungeon selection screen, which are comprised of squares (regular dungeons) and hexagons (boss dungeons) connected to each other by a series of straight lines. Think of the dungeon selection as the Story Mode selection, instead with much more paths to unlock and partake. There are also deeper layers you can unlock once you finished the boss dungeon on the prior layer. The deeper you go, the higher the difficulty and the closer you are to fighting the ultimate boss of this mode.

The actual dungeons themselves are not exactly random. They are all based off of unaltered existing stages already in the game, merely randomized with enemies, treasure chests, dragon spots and start positions. Dungeons can also be multi-leveled, in which up to five stages are required to be completed in sequence before the dungeon is cleared. Of course, it wouldn't be a genuine dungeon without a miasma that engulfs the entire stage, limiting your viewing distance and restricting your mini-map until you explore the area. That miasma is not physically harmful, but the longer you allow it to strengthen through time, the higher the difficulty increases in real time, as indicated by a numerical level on the lower right portion of the screen. Once the miasma has become strong enough, it will eventually transform purple. There and then will it significantly impact your viewing distance. Ahh, it's like the good old days of playing co-op Dynasty Warriors on the Playstation 2 again! Not only that, but enemies become much more powerful, so much as to take out you or your team mates in matter of seconds. On the plus side, the higher level of miasma, the better the rewards will be dropped by enemies.

Blue circles: GOOD! Purple mist: BAD! Oh yeah, enemies too!
Dragon spots, as mentioned earlier, are the primary objective of each dungeon level. There are dozens of them scattered throughout the map, and you'll be needing to find the correct one to unlock the escape point, allowing you to win the level. Dragon spots that aren't escape points can be used to be restore health, grant buffs or even warp your party to another spot on the map, but only once. The activation of said dragon spots is hardly innovative; you simply step on the spot and hold the L1 button until it "activates". The good thing is once a dragon spot has been activated, it is notably enlarged on the mini-map, so it's easy to not activate the same spot twice.

Treasure chests are also littered throughout each map and can be both beneficial and harmful. Open the right treasure chests and you'll be greeted to gems, but open the wrong one and you summon a team of baddies that attacks you on the spot.

The real uniqueness of Unlimited Mode comes from the gameplay itself, which is quite different from any other mode. Unlimited Mode allows all five of your chosen characters to fight alongside you simultaneously in battle, rather than be tucked away into another character's uh... body? You still maintain the ability to switch from one character to another, but the ability to execute any sort of switch combo has been eliminated. A new ability which is also available in other modes is Musou Burst, in which two or more of your characters on screen perform a musou together at the same time.

Get ready to burst!
You can also deploy a formation tactic that you can utilize per battle. The effects are reliant on the team's character and composition, but you generally gain special bonuses or techniques when these formations are activated by three characters or more in the team. Mixing certain techniques together can also yield different effects.

Materials you've gathered on your dungeon crawling adventure can be used in various ways that will benefit your characters outside of the mode, including the ability to craft powerful 5 star alchemy weapons and specific weapon attributes that you can attach to your weapons via the blacksmith. The latter is especially useful, as farming weapons for the right attributes has never a fun endeavor in previous games.

Now that you know the meat of Unlimited Mode, let's talk briefly about its flaws, as there are some.

First, dungeon crawling albeit fun in the early beginnings, can wind up dull quickly. This is because the victory objectives never change. Aside from optional side missions, you are always going to be running from one dragon spot to another in hopes of finding the escape point, whilst an infinite slew of enemies slow down your progress. On rare occasions, you may have to fight one or several enemy officers to open an escape point. Later onwards, especially when you gathered enough materials, you'll be urging yourself to just rush through the level, avoiding all enemies and try to get to the escape point as quick as you can to finish the mode. That itself, is not exactly fun.

Second, the AI is strangely off balanced. When the miasma level is high, the enemy's AI (particularly the officers) are very smart, more so than any other mode as a matter of fact. They are swift to execute their specials or musous when they are continuously attacked and comboed. Heck, they'll do a musou if they see you start to do yours. On the other hand, your team's AI is lackluster no matter what you do. They'll constantly swarm around your controlled character like bees, get lost in a opposite end of a map, and regularly die to mere peons over and over again. The death of them is particularly frustrating, as your party members can only be revived by waiting for their resurrection.

Third, I ran across a few fatal bugs which are exclusive to Unlimited Mode. The most fatal being the game failing to implement an escape point on a level. Hence, I was stuck on a single level for almost an entire hour, trying every dragon spot multiple times and fighting off infinite spawning enemies at level 100 miasma. That's not very fun, I'll tell you. I had to eventually wait until the timer ran out to exit the level to preserve my rewards. Had I not, I would have wasted an hour for absolutely nothing.

Fourth, Unlimited Mode takes out many of the game's signature fun combat features mentioned earlier, including switch combos, True Triple Attack and the newly introduced Triple Rush. You feel you are playing an incomplete version of the game with these features wholly annihilated.

STORY MODE is the same mode from the original, Special and Hyper; plus the addition of two entirely new stories, both taking place in different time periods. The first is called "The Tale of the Latter Day", taking place after the Hydra's defeat. The second is called "The Tale of the Former Day", a prequel that also explains Orochi's origins.

Plenty of new stages to re-love the game once again.
Along with the dozen of new stages, there are also a few new maps that are particularly focused within chapter 7. Maps deriving from Maou Sairin (Warriors Orochi 2) that are slightly modified and updated are also included, including Yamazaki and Wuhang Mountains.

Tamamo no Mae and her true form Kyubi no Kitsune are the new main antagonists, although Orochi is still the antagonist at certain parts of the story. Her feminine prowess and more natural attachment to Da Ji provides a nice contrast to that of Orochi's. It's only unfortunate that KOEI TECMO decided not to give her an epic new final stage, as they had did with Orochi X.

Tamamo no Mae's true form is such a fox! Oh wait...
Collaboration between different game companies also sparked small, short stories of guest characters including Sterk, Sophitia and a portion of the female characters in Dead or Alive 5. These tend to be more comical and fun in nature compared to the main storyline, as the game doesn't take itself too seriously with these characters.

Overall, story mode has greatly been expanded on from the original. And unlike Special and Hyper, which can be considered mere cash ins, Ultimate feels much more polished and complete as a proper expansion with the addition of the new stories, even going to include all new CG cutscenes of their own. Although playing through the four new chapters won't be as long as playing through the original game, it still is great to know you are getting a lot of new quality content to make your money's worth.

MUSOU BATTLEFIELDS also gets a slight re-haul and improvement from its initial introduction in the original game. Adjusting battlefield settings now no longer costs any points, including the replacement of officers and the addition of elements. New elements are also added, along with the ability to create your own custom lines for officers to speak. Because of this, completely changing a battlefield's aspect is now entirely possible. Yeah, you can have your army of Lu Bus fighting an army of Orochis. They can even say stupid stuff to each other!

GAMEPLAY AND CHARACTERS


Along with the entire cast from Hyper (which includes the cast of the original and Special), Ultimate brings along a lot of new faces to the cast, some which are even very surprising. The most surprising being Sophitia from Soulcalibur IV, a game character that belongs exclusively to Bandai Namco. KOEI TECMO actually did collaborate with Bandai Namco multiple times with their Gundam Musou series, so I guess it's not that surprising to see a Soulcalibur character here. Still, it was a shocker to even see a fighting game character from another company make it into a Musou game, aside from Tecmo of course.

More sexy Dead or Alive females are introduced to the already growing mix, now including the renowned Kasumi. Kasumi could be considered the poster girl for the Dead or Alive series; she's also likely the most popular to players, so it's rather unusual that she jumps into Musou Orochi last. Why was that?

Sterkenburg Cranach: Even his name sounds badass.
Another collaboration guest character is Sterkenburg Cranach, who is derived from a rather obscured and little known role playing game series by Gust called Atelier. Sterk is a self-proclaimed badass knight with a voice so deep that it would make even the almighty Morgan Freeman feel like a little girl next to him (I'm pretty sure his voice was heavily audio processed, though). His weapon of choice is a giant mystical sword that can summon electric sparks at will. He can also summon the moon! Well, maybe not exactly... Sterk is actually a reoccurring character from the Atelier series, so it's not nonsensical to see why he was the character chosen from the rest of the Atelier cast. Gust also recently merged with KOEI TECMO, so the rights to put him in this game is also not a issue. He's an awesome addition; the only negative is that anime face and deep voice creeping me out from time to time.

Then you have the obligatory, serious characters crafted specifically for the main storyline to make the game less of a marketing gimmick. Thankfully, Ultimate adds a lot of great characters including the aforementioned Tamamo no Mae and Kyubi no Kitsune, Yinglong (which is Orochi's past human form), a younger version of Nezha (which was also human) and Xu Shu from Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires. A final boss character for Unlimited Mode called Hundun, derived from Chinese mythology, is also included as a last minute treat.

Nezha seems happy being his human self.
Movesets for all the new characters are all unique and quite varied, as you'd expect from KOEI TECMO these days. An interesting note is that a few guest characters' movesets, particularly Sophitia, contain moves from their original games. Sophitia even has that naughty Heaven's Arc throw, where she basically face sits an enemy with her crotch. Well, rejoice! Because she will now be able to face sit an entire army of demons! Man... that must hurt after awhile...

Brushing new characters aside, let's dive in depth about the gameplay itself, or more specifically, the changes and new features to the gameplay in Ultimate. They consist of character reincarnation, team summoning, triple rush, six equipment items, mystic weapons and character color editor. We'll go through each one in detail in order.

Character reincarnation is a new feature added to Ultimate that allows players to reset a max leveled (level 100) character's level including stats back to level 1, but in return, gain growth points per level you increase thereafter. Reincarnation can be applied up to 3 times each for every character.

Growth points, say what?! Growth points can be used to manually increase any stat for a character, such as health, attack, defense, musou and speed without decreasing or affecting the stat bonuses from regular leveling up. Essentially, you can increase a character's stats much higher than you can normally do so by simply leveling to 100 once. Growth points increase in bits every time the character gains a level after reincarnation and can be stacked until you desire to use them.

While character reincarnation is a potential must for players who prefer to maximize every bit of their character's strengths, it's not really desirable for others. Characters absolutely do not need to be any stronger than they already can be. It causes the game to increase in its already tedious level grinding by three times more.

Summon team does exactly that, it summons your inactive team mates to fight alongside you simateously on the battlefield. This is similar to what you would get playing Unlimited Mode, but without it being forced and with only three characters total instead of five. You'll also have no restrictions applied to your combat arsenal (including switch combos and triple rush), but you'll lose your ability to assist counter and the regaining of health and musou for inactive characters. But this is grand, ain't it? This is something we've been waiting for since the beginning of the Orochi series—the ability to have all three team mates fighting together at the same time! Wow!

If only it was as good as it looks...
But I have a very big issue with this feature, a issue that wholly breaks any usability and even fun factor of it—terrible, terrible AI. You see, whenever you summon your team mates, expect them to run around and do nothing for 5 minutes, then quickly get eaten alive by the peon swarm around you. Even though they can't technically die (their health resets to 1 and they get de-summoned), losing their health is harmful to you as the controlled player, as you'll be needing to control other characters if your health drops too low. If the AI continuously acts like idiots and dies, that is no longer is feasible. This is especially more of a problem on higher difficulties such as chaos, where enemy damage is at an all time high. The only real usefulness of team summoning is musou burst, which allows you and one or two of your team mates to perform a musou simultaneously. The musou of all the characters then transforms into true musous, and best of all, your team mates' musou bars doesn't decrease. Musou burst isn't exactly that great regardless. A lot of times your team mates aim their musous at random spots where you don't want them to. If you're a SW character and your team mates are DW characters, expect them to even die before you finish your own musou.

Really, this feature could be a lot better if they improved the AI for your team mates. As of now, it's not something you want to do often, unless you play on Easy or Normal difficulty and don't mind them acting like imbeciles.

Triple rush is a new feature added to your combat arsenal. It replaces your standard switch combo on all charge attacks with an air rush combo that can feature all three characters pummeling the opponent (the amount of characters depends on how many times you press the R2 or L2 button). The damage on triple rush is much greater than standard switch combos, but it does deplete a bit of your musou bar. Unique triple rushes are also available for specific teams of characters, which features unique attack animations for all three characters. Overall, this is a decent feature and quite entertaining to use. The only downsides is that being situated to activate on charges makes it difficult at times when you want to avoid it, that is, when you only want to use the standard switch combo. If you're used to doing switch combos in previous versions of this game, there's a lot to re-learn to adapt to triple rush.

If you love air, you'll love triple rush.
Six equipment items. All characters are now able to equip up to six total items, including one horse saddle, dependent on their level. This is an absolute breath of fresh air from the incredibly insulting two item limiting from previous games, which included saddles!

Mystic weapons are new weapons that can be obtained by completing specific tasks for each character in hard or chaos difficulty. Treasure weapons, if you want to call it that. But yeah, you already know the deal about these weapons that are featured in almost every Musou game. Shamefully, the mystic weapons are not the most powerful weapons you can obtain in the game, but more like the third. The 5 star weapons you can craft with Unlimited Mode materials has higher attack power, and the rare 1 to 4 star weapon drops in Unlimited Mode beats out both with the ability to have up to +99 added attack power from max compatibility. Basically, mystic weapons are cool to use if you want your weapons to also look cool. They also don't look stupid like a lot of the big star weapons.

Character color editor makes a welcome surprise for Ultimate. A relatively minor feature that won't impact actual gameplay, but gives characters you use a more personal vibe. If you're familiar with the color editor from Samurai Warriors 3, this is basically the same thing. Personally, I don't use it. I'm too lazy to color a character, especially when I could use that time leveling up or achieving something more precious in the game.

Character Color Editor: Lots of time to be wasted ahead!
Overall, there's plenty of things new here to satisfy gamers who already played the previous versions of the game and to gamers who haven't touched a Musou game. An exemplary bonus kudos to the very varied and unique selection of new characters KOEI TECMO came up with!

AI AND DIFFICULTY


The AI and difficulty in this game is largely a mixed bag. I already explained my dissatisfaction with the route KOEI TECMO went with attempting to increase gameplay difficulty by having both the player and enemy do enormous amounts of damage. Sadly, the same is still true to this game. Meaning, if you hated the game's difficulty before, you'll still hate it. Perhaps even more so, as Ultimate has a slew of new things that alters a character's overall power, including more damaging weapons, damaging weapon attributes and the breakage of character stat limits. Then again, you do have the choice to avoid all of these and more if you like your game to be more balanced difficulty wise. That is the reason I wrote the Warriors Orochi 3 Combo/Challenge Setup post after all.

The AI is weird in this game, as it's more smart and human like in certain modes than other. Take for example in Unlimited Mode, the enemy AI actually acts very smart, reacting closely to your attacks. In Story Mode and elsewhere, the enemy AI is its usual dumb self, even on the hardest stage in chaos difficulty. What's the deal with that?

Another thing that impacts difficult and makes the game more difficult is in the stage design of new stages. I dare to say that more than half a portion of the new stages forces you as the player to babysit one or several important officers, who are often on the opposite ends of the map. For some reason, enemies love to abruptly ambush your important officers or main camp in the midst of battle. If you get too far ahead of yourself, your important officers or your main camp gets taken out, and you lose before you even realize it. Worse, several stages forces you to rescue many important officers at the same time in a lousy amount of time limit. One of the new stages in chapter 7 forces you to rescue/defend three of these guys at the same time, with all of them being miles apart from each other. Two of them even gets nasty overwhelming ambushes to top it all off.

Again, these babysitting of officers are never fun and quite annoying. If we are forced to babysit, I'd suggest keeping it lenient and restricting to one or two at a time in close proximity, without random ambushes everywhere.

AUDIO AND MUSIC


The Orochi series has always been known to blend a mix of rock and techno-esque tunes and craft beautiful results, the same can be said here. Nearly all of the new characters have their own tunes, either composed by KOEI TECMO themselves, or remixed from the tunes of the games the characters originated from. The exception being Sophitia, in which "Immaculate Pledge" was used without any alteration from Soulcalibur IV. It would be ultra wicked if this song was remixed, but as in its originality, it's still one of more beautiful tunes from that game.

Sound wise, the well adored Japanese voice acting with a great level of professionalism is still here; even the guest characters have the voices from their original games.
 

REPLAYABILITY


Nothing screams replayability than a game that encompasses 145 unique playable characters that can each be individually tailored stats and weapon wise. That isn't even including everything else the game offers, including a very long story mode with multiple stories, higher levels of difficulties, rare items to unlock, versus mode and the hate-it-or-love-it Unlimited Mode.

Though I will repeat the same statement as I did with my Dynasty Warriors 8 review regarding replayability (and this goes out to all other Musou/Warriors games as well). Due to the nature of being a more simplified hack and slash title, playing the game for a large amount of time without a break isn't a welcomed feeling. The game starts to feel repetitive by then, and the amount of finger smashing on the controller will wear out your fingers and hands quite swiftly.

CONCLUSION


Musou Orochi 2 Ultimate adds a lot of new and interesting content to the now aging Musou Orochi 2 title, plentiful enough to warrant purchasing the game again to witness them. Nevertheless, several crucial and minor flaws are additionally introduced in the mix that prohibits it from being a perfect expansion, alongside the flaws of the original game. These are all documented in the above review.

A final note to readers contemplating on purchasing the game: Make sure you have a game save of the original game in the correct region. If you don't, you will be forced to start over from scratch. Having a game save of the original game is not required to progress in Ultimate, but it will save you having to redo things you already done!

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

 
What are you waiting for? Kyubi no Kitsune is waiting!

7 comments:

  1. Ah! There reason for Kasumi coming in last is due to her not actually having Ninja Gaiden moveset until later. Ryu, Ayane and Momiji all had their movesets implemented before WO3 was even announced.

    That's also why Ayane has a different outfit than her DOA outfits. It's from Ninja Giaden Sigma 2.

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  2. Nice. Well-written summary of the new features. I hope I didn't steal any thunder by sharing this on KOEI Warriors Forum ... Desperately hoping this gets an English release though, otherwise I may need to memorize your guide on altering game saves from other regions.

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  3. thank you so much i appreciated your work.

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  4. helo, can i ask how do i activate formation skill in unlimited mode with PSV?? >_<

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