Game: Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Available on: Wii U only
If you cast your minds back, I had a look at the PlayStation 3 version of Warriors Orochi 3 earlier in the year. I am a long-time fan of the kind of historically inaccurate slice and dice madness that Omega Force perennially turn out, and this particular instalment was a fantastic entry to the series. Not only did you get to blur the lines between Japanese and Chinese military history, there were a load of monsters thrown into the mix, as well as some interesting new faces from other titles in the Tecmo Koei canon.
If it was an album, it would be a bumper Greatest Hits Collection, featuring some kind of surprisingly ace brand new tracks with some guest or other on it, or a nice live version of an old fave. I know this is a terrible analogy, and I am not sure I know where this is going, but it is an accurate one. A newcomer could easily dip into Orochi 3 and see most of the best stuff a Warriors game can offer, the same way as a well selected Greatest Hits CD can hit the spot whilst not visiting some of the deep cuts off of the LPs. In other words, think of Warriors Orochi 3 as the “Neil Young – Decade” of bonkers Far Eastern killing sprees.
Now that is out of the way, I am here to look at the Wii U version of the game, which is – ironically as it turns out – given the name Hyper. What you get ostensibly is a straight up port of the original game, with one brand new mode, and some new features that take advantage of the Wii U Gamepad. You get the same modes from the original, the same awesome pantheon of selectable characters, and the same high volumes of voice acting, cut-scenes, bombast and madness. There are also four brand new additions to the roster, including Rachel and Momiji from the Ninja Gaiden series, and Shennong and Seimei, two historical badasses who fit in nicely with the existing rogues gallery.
The game plays absolutely fine using the gamepad. I have been consistently impressed by how surprisingly comfortable the thing is to hold, and like some of the other launch titles you get the option to revert to using the smaller screen to play the game if the missus is wanting to settle down in front of the soaps, or the kids are fiending for some iCarly. If you want, you can use the handheld screen to display a map, which is a nice idea but spoiled by the fact the map is a bit too small.
Where Hyper innovates is the way you can use a combination of the gamepad and a pro controller to play local co-op or a brand new three-on-three battle mode known as Duel. It completely eliminates the need for a splitscreen display, which is never ideal for a game as hectic as this in the first place. Duel mode itself gives you the Warriors Orochi mechanics in something like a pared-down VS fighting game, during which you tag between your three selected characters on the fly. Also playable online, it is good, clean, mindless fun and an addition I would like to see Omega Force explore further in the future.
It is nice to see a decent stab at a Warriors game on a Nintendo console for once, but what isn’t quite as palatable are the flaws in the game engine that threaten to ruin your experience from the word go. When you start the game it is immediately obvious is that Omega Force have struggled to make the leap to the new hardware. The series is famous for its epic battles which sometimes have a load of enemies on screen, and while the PS3 version did have a few gremlins, the Wii U port suffers from horrific frame-rate issues and an unacceptable amount of pop in and poor draw distances. Enemies literally appear before you on the battlefield without any warning, and while the actions and fighting system are as solid as ever, it is jarring to see your targets just arrive from out of nowhere. The textures also seem to be decidedly inferior compared to the PS3 version I already own, and there’s no option to see the game in 3D, which helped make my Sony Orochi 3 experience go off with a bang.
VERDICT: If you can forgive these annoying visual flaws, then this is easily the best version of a Warriors title on a Nintendo console. It does all of the stuff that you get from the seven month old PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, with the enticing option of TV-free play, some interesting new characters and the Duel mode, which on its own almost makes the game worthy of selection over the competition from a gameplay standpoint. It is still a rum old lark playing through the Musou Battlefield mode, and indeed the crazy story mode itself, which features the same hydra-demon-slaying nonsense I loved from the start. It is a fun, button mashing romp, the same game at heart, but one hopes that next time around, the developers make better use of the hardware at their disposal, which really should have been able to do better.