Koei's Warriors games are essentially critic-proof at this point. You are either in love with the games' utter unwillingness to evolve, or you aren't. Perhaps nowhere is this more the case than with Warriors Orochi. A mash-up of the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors franchises into a single product, this is pure, unadulterated fan service for the squadron of hardcore fans that both brands have amassed over the years. We can sit here and tell you that this is yet another mediocre beat-'em-up that rehashes the same haggard-looking graphics, the same tired mission objectives, and the same "so old it should be in a museum for crummy combat systems" combat system, but we probably don't even have to do that. A single look at a screenshot for this game is probably all you need to decide one way or the other. If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like, and vice versa.
If you're one of the few out there who's never encountered one of these games in any form, here's the lowdown. Dynasty Warriors takes a bunch of ancient warriors from Chinese history, dolls them up in severely colorful costumes, gives them gigantic novelty weapons, and then has them fight each other in addition to scads and scads of mouth-breathing grunt soldiers over the course of a bunch of beat-'em-up levels that kinda, sorta mimic historical battles, but not really. Samurai Warriors is the same thing, except that it swaps out ancient China for Japan's sengoku period. The premise for Warriors Orochi is that an evil serpent/sorcerer/king/demon...thing, named Orochi, has ripped a hole in the fabric of time and space and kidnapped all of the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors. OK, we'll bite, why exactly would someone do this? Well, because he's bored and wants to "test his strength" against the world's mightiest warriors. Hey, why not, right? If you're so powerful that you can rip open time itself, what else would you do for kicks?
Let's face it: Koei and developer Omega Force have never been great fiction writers, and though the old Dynasty and Samurai games were all steeped in the same historical scenarios over and over again, at least this is something different. Certainly, longtime fans of these games will take some delight in some of the scenarios that have been built out. For what it's worth, the game doesn't take its premise remotely seriously, and instead is content to try to create any fan's dream match-ups and fights--provided that there is such a thing. Seeing Nobunaga Oda jokingly get mistaken for Cao Cao, or watching Zhao Yun team up with Yukimura Sanada is probably enough to send some fans into hysterics. There seems to be a lot of that stuff on offer.
There are four different main story campaigns in Warriors Orochi, three of which involve the Wu, Wei, and Shu factions from Dynasty Warriors, and one of which is an all-purpose Samurai Warriors group. The storylines are obviously different from faction to faction, though the missions and combat are just as repetitive and dull as they've ever been. Like in every other Warriors game of the last decade, you drop into battle against hordes of the stupidest soldiers on the planet, fight off a few boss and sub-boss officers, and move on to the next stage. All you need to do is mash on the two main attack buttons while periodically tossing in a special attack, and you're pretty much good to go. The game tries to dress things up a bit by having you escort certain officers to safety, capture specific points on a map, or make alliances with other officers, but none of this really does much to quell the sensation of monotony.
To be fair, there are a couple of small differences to the gameplay in Orochi. For one, the game has something of a team-based mechanic where you can play as three different warriors within the same battle. Unfortunately, you get only one warrior at a time, and you simply switch between them on the fly. As you play through each stage, you'll unlock more warriors that you can swap into your group. There are 77 in all, so at least fans will be kept busy. The other change is to the prebattle setup. After each battle, you'll have likely collected a few different weapons on the battlefield, each with different bonuses and attacks attached to them. Now you can actually merge two of these weapons into one superweapon, if you so desire. You just hop into the menu, pick two weapons, and merge them. It's as simple as that. The tangible differences between the weapons aren't ever that great, but hey, at least the option is there.
Outside of the story campaigns, there's really not much to Orochi. There's a free mode in which you can pick any three warriors and take on a battle outside of the story, as well as a few gallery unlockables, but that's basically it. You can play through the story cooperatively if you find a willing friend, but the game really isn't much more interesting in multiplayer than it is in single-player.
Graphically, Warriors Orochi maintains the same level of quality of the last few games that hit both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360. The game is very clearly built off the old PS2 engine, and then ported upward to the 360. As a result, the 360 game looks more like an original Xbox game than anything else. Sure, it's a great deal more colorful than its PS2 counterpart, and there's more visual flair with the special attacks and whatnot, but otherwise, this is a rather ugly game. Both versions' primary character models are at least detailed, but the battle environments are plain to the point of drab. Likewise, even though this game has a totally different storyline, it's still recycling the same battlefields from previous games.
At least all the dialogue is new, though it's not exactly well written, and the voice acting is predictably horrific. Furthermore, there's no Japanese language track, so you're stuck with the overenthusiastic and underenthusiastic English actors. Also, the thumping techno soundtrack and the hyperrepetitive shrieks of the warriors on the battlefield are enough to give someone a seizure.
If all that's been said previously isn't enough to dissuade you from taking Warriors Orochi for a spin, this probably means you're one of the dedicated faithful who would play anything with the word "Warriors" on the box. In that case, this game is clearly designed for you, and by all means you should take it for a spin. For the rest of humanity, Warriors Orochi can safely be ignored.