Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: August 29, 2017
2017 marks the twentieth anniversary of the development studio Omega Force, as well as the studio’s first and longest-running franchise: the 'Warriors' series. A lot has happened in the two decades since the studio’s founding; larger historical highlights include its parent company Koei completed a merger with Tecmo, and the combined Koei Tecmo later took in the RPG studio 'Gust.'
To mark Omega Force’s twenty years, the studio has produced Warriors All-Stars; a Warriors title that highlights not just the developer's history, but that of Koei Tecmo as a whole.
People familiar with the Warriors franchise may recall the Warriors Orochi series. This trilogy began as a crossover between the Three Kingdoms-themed Dynasty Warriors and feudal Japan-themed Samurai Warriors series, but Warriors Orochi 3, through subsequent iterative releases, expanded the crossover idea by including more and more characters from outside of the Warriors franchise. By the time Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate released on the PS4, the game included characters from Koei, Tecmo, and Gust’s combined library. Warriors All-Stars takes this idea and runs with it, focusing less on the Warriors franchise specifically and more on Koei Tecmo’s full history.
The crossover is structured around a narrative involving a kingdom and world in peril. Requiring the power of heroes from other worlds to restore the power of the world’s spring before it runs completely dry, a summoning ceremony is conducted, but fails, causing those pulled across the dimensional barrier to be scattered far and wide. The heroes become divided into three factions, each allied with a different member of royalty; Tamaki, her older brother Shiki, and their cousin Setsuna, each of whom vies to bring life back to the world in the manner they deem best, even if that means fighting one another. As a narrative in a crossover, the basic storyline is simple, but paths branch based on characters the player has recruited and which battles they choose to engage.
There’s a large host of endings to uncover across the three factions, which range from relatively cut-and-dried “the world is saved” to characters going rogue and turning those efforts at saving the world sideways. In that sense, the replayability of the story mode is very high.
On the surface, the game’s set of features appears sparse. For example, unlike most Warriors titles, there’s no Free Mode that lets you take any character into any battle. Instead, the game’s Story Mode features an open-ended structure with its world map. Markers scattered across the map feature a variety of battle types that include the core story and character-recruitment battles, special “dramatic battles” that play upon similarities between cast members, as well as side battles that emphasize offense, defense, treasure hunting, survival, and more. The variety is good, though those that primarily play Warriors games in multiplayer will be disappointed to find no such option available here.
The combat system in Warriors All-Stars plays very similarly to most entries in the franchise, with every character having light attacks, heavy, or charge attacks, and a unique special attack. Where it differentiates is in its team-based approach. In addition to a leading player-character, up to four additional characters can be assigned as teammates, each with their own assisting special abilities that can be triggered at any time, barring cooldown. Teammates can also be called in to temporarily fight side-by-side with the leader, effectively giving the player control of more than one character simultaneously.
And then, in perhaps the game’s most overt nod to its own celebratory nature, there is the Musou Rush. When triggered, Musou Rush puts the player in an invincible state and fills the screen with enemies, challenging the player to take out as many as possible under a timer.
As the player performs well, the other party members will appear on the edges of the screen to cheer on the player-character while confetti flies about. Limited in use (the player begins every battle with one Rush Star and only earns more with every 1000 non-Rush K.O.s), they can help turn the tide when facing powerful officers.
One of the game’s best mechanics is Bravery. A replacement for the morale systems seen in other Warriors titles, Bravery is a power-scaling mechanic. Every officer in each battle has a Bravery rating, and the player always starts off with a Bravery of 1. The greater in difference between two officers, the harder it is for the officer with the lower Bravery to do damage to the opponent. Completing side-missions and other tasks will raise Bravery over time, so there’s value in attempting to complete every mission given instead of attempting to rush the stage boss ASAP.
Of course, as a crossover, one of the most intriguing aspects of Warriors All-Stars is its roster. While the game does feature a few of the more popular characters from the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors series, as well as returnees from the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive games that previously appeared in Warriors Orochi 3, the vast majority of the roster is new to the Warriors format, and some come from games that never received an English localization or western release. Some of the new franchises represented include the action-RPG Nights of Azure, the trap-focused action/puzzle Deception series, and the otome romance adventure series Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time.
Oh! And this dashing guy:
Many games that don’t feature playable characters are referenced through material items that the player can collect during battle. Callbacks range from the relatively recent (Bladestorm), to the old school (Mighty Bomb Jack and Rygar). Though it is inevitable that what some may see as obvious candidates for any sort of inclusion, playable or otherwise, have been left out.
The game isn’t quite Super Smash Warriors, but it gets close.
The variety of franchise representation carries over into other aspects of the game’s presentation. Many of the game’s stages are themed after the franchises the roster members come from, whether that be Toukiden, Nioh, or the pachislot Rio series. Additionally, the soundtrack features songs from across the board, most if not all of which have been remixed with new instrumentation. And on the voice side of the audio, the game uses the original Japanese voice talent for all of the included characters with one notable exception. William, the Irish protagonist of Nioh, retains his English-language voice actor, and all of his voiced dialogue is in English.
Warriors All-Stars is, above all, a very solid entry in the Warriors franchise. As something of a successor to the Warriors Orochi series, the playable roster isn’t nearly as large, but the diversity of its cast and willingness to poke fun at itself makes it feel like more of the proper celebratory title it was meant to be. If you enjoy Warriors games and you have a fondness for Koei Tecmo titles in general, Warriors All-Stars is the game for you.
+ Includes a fun, diverse roster representing the combined history of Koei Tecmo
+ Smart gameplay tweaks to the Warriors formula
+ Branching story paths and numerous endings add a lot of incentive to replay
+ Numerous fun callbacks and references to characters, events, and oddities within the represented games
- Some well-regarded Koei Tecmo franchises are conspicuously missing
- No way to replay story and dramatic battles outside of new game cycles
- Optional character requests wildly fluctuate in difficulty, time commitment, and RNG chance requirements
Overall Score: 9 (out of 10)
If you enjoy Warriors games and have a fondness for Koei Tecmo titles in general, Warriors All-Stars is the game for you.