Warriors All Stars continues the proud run of ridiculous hack and slash Musou games, providing another heaping helping of hack and slash comfort food. This time, though, players get a roster composed of characters from dozens of Koei Tecmo games, and watch how well characters from Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive, Deception, Opoona, and many more would get along with one another. It’s unabashed fan service fun for lovers of Koei Tecmo games, and an utter blast to play.
Warriors All Stars features a story that follows cat people politics, which may not ignite any literary fires, but the game’s interactions between its characters are a big draw. How does Zhao Yun of Dynasty Warriors get along with Oka from Toukiden upon meeting her in the field? What would a run-in between Oka and Darius from Haruka: Beyond the Streams of Time be like? Warriors All Stars features encounters between characters from all over Koei Tecmo’s catalogue, showing that a lot of thought went into making connections between all of its characters.
Many of these encounters translate into fights in the field. Players are given a world map and central base to play around with, and that map is populated with dozens of missions for players to take on. Many of these will be built around small relationships between the characters, doing rescue missions or fighting battles that draw upon shared stories of building friendships or shared goals.
These relationships also grow in other ways. Players can get more intimate information about allies by talking to them as they hang around their home base. They can also take a moment to head to their base’s bath house, getting varied private moments between characters based on their levels and other things. Those friendships even grow in combat, but more on that in a moment.
Not all the matches are designed around building up friendships. Some will help players build up gold, experience, or cards (this game’s version of equipment), doing so through all-out battles, protecting certain sections of the map, saving allies, returning food stores from bandits, and any other excuse Warriors All Stars can find to have players bash enemies.
Expect to clobber soldiers by the hundreds, and Warriors All Stars offers many ways to keep that entertaining. Players will not be fighting alone; for starters they will be bringing up to five fighters into a single battle. These characters act as AI backup, assisting as players work over basic grunts and more powerful lieutenants.
The backup characters have more uses than that, though. Players can tap the D-pad in four different directions to force one of their allies to line up alongside them, and can bring all five together into a steamrolling wall of death. Players can also separately summon each of these characters for a special attack that will do heavy damage, but they may want to use them sparingly as they have a long cooldown.
These allies grow in friendship as players use them, filling a buddy bar that grants players extra buffs as they become better pals with their partners. These fill up quickly—encouraging players to try new allies often—and also provide handy boosts in a hurry.
If players are more interested in fighting on their own in Warriors All Stars, each character offers unique combat abilities that feel like they set them apart. Many are the wide, swiping attacks players will need to clear the field, but each character’s execution with their weapon—from giant stone fists and swords to the ball on Opoona’s head—looks different enough to keep it fun.
Players also have access to a special power that cranks their power through the roof (they are given one use at the start of the match, and another use for every one thousand kills). Their allies will appear on the sidelines to cheer them on as they use it, and enemies will spawn by the hundreds, allowing players to cleave through them. It’s enough to make players feel like super heroes, and works in a pinch if they are having trouble downing a challenging enemy.
Warriors All Stars isn’t exactly a pushover, so they may need the help. Depending on which starting character they choose, players will meet certain allies and go through the story in a set way, but they will also have set enemies from other factions, and when Ayane, Ryu, and Nobunyaga Oda all come at once they can easily stomp a careless player. Special powers will help here, but players will also want to pay attention to their Brave level.
Brave level is a separate power level that is tied to that stage. This begins at one in every match and increases as players complete side objectives, beat strong allies, or capture territory. If a player isn’t around the same brave level as an enemy character, even if they’re technically high level and decked out, they can get crushed easily. This encourages players to hurry up and complete some extra side objectives rather than gun for bosses, and is a welcome way of getting players to do more in a fight.
What isn’t quite as welcome is the card system. Cards are equipment in Warriors All Stars, with characters receiving new cards in fights or through side quests (which can be picked up at the Base). However, the game tosses tons of useless low level cards at the player, and while it lets players merge them in hopes of making better cards, these fusions often result in more garbage cards, even when mixing up higher level ones. It feels like a broken system, and beyond a few handy boosts, their power doesn’t feel necessary to finish the game.
Interesting friendships between varied characters from multiple games, a fun combat system with some welcome additions, and that same soldier stomping fun as previous Dynasty games make Warriors All Stars a solid Musou game, and may just be what players need who are nervous about the open world of Dynasty Warriors 9.