If you're a fan of Dynasty Warriors and of Samurai Warriors, then Warriors Orochi is probably a gift from God. It seems like an obvious idea, actually. Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors are essentially the same game. So it made sense that eventually there would be a crossover of sorts. While both franchises are constantly criticized for lacking much depth and for each game being the same as the previous, it should be known that Warriors Orochi (the first and second) sold a TON of copies in Japan... because over there these games are still incredibly popular (Warriors Orochi 2 sold almost a million copies in Japan according to Famitsu Magazine).
Of course, how do you get both of these games to take place in the same world in the first place? Since they both take place in very different centuries? Enter Orochi, who causes a rift in time and brings the characters of Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors together where he orders them to fight for his amusement. And they do. If some of this seems crazy, then you've never played Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors. Separetely the two series are actually inspired actual events in actual history. Dynasty Warriors is inspired by the Three Kingdoms Era of China (and the games are loosely based on the books Romance of the Three Kingdoms--which is also a video game series in and of itself). Samurai Warriors draws its inspiration from the Sengoku period in Japan. Thus, the characters you play as in both games (and Warriors Orochi)... probably actually existed at some point. There are indeed records (for Dynasty Warriors fans, you might want to pick up Romance of the Three Kingdoms).
Warriors Orochi, on the other hand, doesn't rely too much on history from either game. You'll play battles from both games but having any sort of familiarity with the games doesn't really make much of a difference in the long run. For example, knowing the history and playing through The Battle of Hu Lao Gate in any of the Dynasty Warriors games won't help you out in the slightest in Warriors Orochi.
At its core the gameplay is the same kind of hack and slash you see in both Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors... who knew. And its complete with charge attacks and all. There's a twist though. Because there are so many characters, the game lets you pick three to send into any mission. and you'll be a team. As a result, the game also has another attribute. Each character is of a certain type. Either a Power, Speed or Technique character. There's hardly much difference on the surface, but when playing it can make a difference. Power characters can't be interruped with they're in the middle of an attack (and thus, don't stumble) while Speed characters are able to do a quick air dash in the air and also have swift attacks. Technique characters have the ability to counter-attack.
There are also specials to keep in mind. Every character has a musou gauge and special attacks that deplete from the musou gauge. Technique characters can use their special attacks to make enhanced strikes that can syphon a lot of health from your enemies. And these strikes can be used in place of charge attacks. Power characters, as you might expect do an ultra powerful strike (that is often unblockable), but the most unique are speed characters. While the others have special attacks that drain the musou gauge, speed type characters don't. Most of them, anyway. You'll come across some who do from time to time, but for the most part, you can spam their special attacks because they're quick and swift blows.
This may sound like you can use Speed Characters for virtually anything. Indeed, they are some of the best characters in the game, but there's a balancing act in play in Warriors Orochi--especially on higher difficulty levels. Each character type has their strengths and weaknesses. Power characters hit hard and may not stumble, but they're often slow to attack... and just because they don't stumble in mid stride doesn't mean you don't take damage you do. Also of note, enemy officers might be able to make you stumble if they use a charge attack and you're not facing them. Technique characters have enchanced strikes but aren't always good in a large crowd. Not to mention they're special attacks are the most valuable... but also cost the most musou. Speed characters may be fast and able to get away but the majority of them are horrible in crowds and they are among the most vulnerable in the game. For a speed character... their speed is their defense. So they may seem like the best, but they probably take the most time to master.
The games design also has other things it does differently from other Warriors Games. You can refill your life gauge like normal by grabbing health, but as you roam the battlefield, you're health will actually begin to refill on its own. Switch characters and any sitting character will also recover health and musou as they rest. Unlike Dynasty Warriors, however, your musou gauge doesn't refill by simply attacking and taking damage. If that happened Warriors Orochi would be laughably easy. Instead you have to either find items which restore musou or let that character rest. Your musou gauge DOES refill as you battle but at such a slow pace you'll actually take time to consider whether or not using a musou is worth it in a situation... or if a special attack might be better.
The game isn't too restricting, though. If you're up for it you could easily take three speed characters in the battle if you want. There's nothing wrong with mixing and matching, but on higher difficulty levels, you may want to consider whether or not to take certain characters based on whether or not they're a Power, Speed or Technique character. Of all the "Warriors" games out there, Warriors Orochi ramps up in difficulty the fastest. Easy mode is laughable. So much so that if you actually even lose life it's a miracle. On the other hand, even just jumping up to normal the difficulty ramps up considerably. And this means that jumping up to Hard mode can be suicide for players who've yet to master the game. Your life drains at a remarkable rate on Hard... so much so that even normal troops can take you down with little easy at all. On Hard mode, the idea of switching characters at the right time and sending the right type into the right situation is very important. Luckily you can always save in the middle of battle on the fly.
Most times you'll find yourself trumping through levels blindly hacking and slashing. In spite of the new gameplay elements, Warriors Orochi isn't that different from Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors. But thanks to some of the aforementioned tweaks it's not exactly the same experience. Some might find the idea of switching between characters gimmicky, but once you go back to Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors, you'll wonder how you ever go by without it.
And yet there are more differences in gameplay that go beyond the battlefield. In most of Koei's games raising characters is about defeating generals and grabbing their item. Be it an Attack Up, Defense Up or what have you. Increasing Life and Musou is often about finding the correct item on the battlefield to do so (usually hidden away in a box somewhere). Warriors Orochi gets rid of that and instead uses the simple level up system. As you fight through ordes of enemies you'll gain experience. Enemy officers you defeat will give you experience and drop experience scrolls. Every character begins at level 1 and will progress all the way to level 99. Your level is more important than it sounds. As you level up, this is what makes the difference in not just how strong you are, but also how many attacks you can string together. If a character has a combo of eight hits, for example, he'll have to be around level 20 before he can actually perform all eight strikes. The effect in battle is immediate, though. So it's not like you'll gain four, five or ten levels in a given battle and the effects take place on the next fight. New combos and moves you learn can be used the moment you unlock them.
But there's more. There are tons of abilities to unlock as well that can be equipped to your entire team. Abilities like Vitality which increase your health or impulse which increases attack strength. There are plenty of them and your team can equip 7 at a time. Getting them, however, and mastering them all requires a bit of work on your part... because you'll do it by using every character at least once. Every character carries four team abilities they can learn. And there are a ton of them. For example more than one character can learn vitality. This simply means that the more vitalities you put on, the more your health increases. They also stack. So it's not like you have to equip Vitality seven times in order to get the best results. Rather you just equip it once and it all takes effect in one swell swoop. Obtaining these abilities can feel more like a chore than anything, however. To get them you have to fulfill certain requirements. Some are simple such as getting a certain number of KO's in a certain number of times. Others just feel like a chore. When you're asked to defeat 180 enemies plus four officers without performing any attacks that use the musou gauge for a moment. It wouldn't be so bad if more of the abilities were worth the effort. Increasing your Health and Musou is great, but other abilities just don't feel like they're worth the trouble to go for. Nothing is hard to obtain. If there was any moment in Warriors Orochi that felt gimmicky, this woud be it. The Items System from Dynasty Warriors would be fine... but then people would complain about it being the same.
On the other hand, weapons are remarkable. The only real difference at first each weapon makes is attack strength. But as you get further and obtain more you'll notice certain weapons carry certain abilities. Some carry elemental properties while others carry abilities that increase attacks against enemy generals, or might make enemies unable to block your charge attacks. They're VERY useful abilities. It sounds a little strange, but the weapon system really is where Warriors Orochi shows depth. Every character has four weapons. Three can be obtained anyway you see fit, but each characters last weapon can only be obtained on Hard mode or Chaos mode (which is hard mode with enemy troops taking down half a full life gauge with TWO hits--even at level 99).
What makes it deep is that you can combine weapons together to make better weapons that carry over abilities... and with you able to enhance these abilities. Sure, you might think, this makes every character virtually the same. Not at all. Since each character has a unique fighting style, it also means you wouldn't want to put the same abilities on a particular character. In all a weapon can hold eight abilities. Depending on who you use you just might choose to allocate them differently. For example, there's an abilitiy called "AIR" which lets you deal more damage to air based enemies. For jugglers such as Zhou Yu, this is a great ability to put on them. But for characters such as Mitsuhide Akechi, this would be a waste of a slot. Juggling just isn't something he's good for.
So for a Warriors game there's a bit more here. Unfortunately, some are still going to complain it's the same thing... even with all these additions. They may not change the core gameplay (which will mostly have you mashing on the square button) but some of these additions makes it so that you can no longer rush into battle while mindlessly mashing the button. It's not a huge step up, but it always strikes me as odd how so many complain about a game doing the same thing over and over and then don't want to pay attention when it does things differently (or they piss and moan that it does things differently). There's just no satisfying the gaming public. And I agree, Warriors Orochi doesn't do anything to change it's core gameplay. But it does A LOT to enhance it.
If only they could've really enhanced the graphics. In terms of its looks, Koei hit their greatest years ago. The environments are bland, the character models look a little messy at times. The PSP version of the game looks especially bad and fuzzy. The 360 version looks no different than the PS2. The character models and portraits might raise an eye, but aside from that sort of thing, Warriors Orachi isn't a visual looker. The game is fun at least.
The music doesn't fair much better, but for different reasons. The music mixes a lot of the Rock and Roll themes from Dynasty Warriors with the Trance like thems of Samurai Warriors. They're original and do a good balance (you'll play one mission with rock and the next will be trance). It's just that it isn't memorable. Let me make the clear... the music isn't bad. It's just forgettable. Music in most Koei games is an acquired taste. Warriors Orochi is no different. If you find yourself humming tunes it'll most likely be because after a while you'll have played through specific missions time and time again grinding to level up characters.
If there was actually any real complaint about Warriors Orochi, it would be that there isn't much of a game. There's a story mode with four different stories but the only motivation to play through them is for the sake of unlocking every level and character. And all four stories are the same but with different characters. They discover they've been ripped from their homeworld. You begin fighting because of Orochi until to realize you're missing your lord and then you find your lord and realize Orochi is the bad guy. No one in their right mind would play through the story because they actually want to enjoy it. And it's packed full of bad voice acting and everything. Once you've unlocked everything, the real joy of the game is going into the free mode and slaughtering as many enemies as you can.
At least we can say Warriors Orochi is a fun game. What it lacks in production values and story it more than makes up for in gameplay. And if you've got a friend, you've got an ally. It's not really "deep" or "enriching" but it's fun.