Loads of people think musou is inherently bad just because they didn’t like a Dynasty Warriors game ten or even 20 years ago. As someone who doesn’t really care for Koei’s flagship franchise, allow me to tell you that when Omega Force gets its hands on a more established IP – like Persona or The Legend of Zelda – it manages to pull off literal magic. All I want for Christmas is an endless stream of brilliant musou spin-offs, thanks.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was my fourth-favourite game last year, behind Hades, Persona 5 Royal, and Doom Eternal. That’s pretty high praise when you remember that 2020 was stacked with titans like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, The Last of Us Part 2, Yakuza: Like A Dragon, Final Fantasy 7 Remake… Listen, 2020 may have been total shit, but loads of great video games came out.
Admittedly, we haven’t seen a huge amount of new games in 2021 just yet, but Persona 5 Strikers is definitely top of the pops for me. Both Age of Calamity and Persona 5 Strikers took massively successful series and spun them into Dynasty Warriors-esque musou games, but did so with such flair and pizazz that they quickly established their own unique identity. It’s easy to argue that it’s the IP doing the heavy lifting, but I reckon that’s a very surface level thesis – there’s a lot more going on than “People like Link and Joker.”
For example, when I first sat down to play Strikers, I was acutely aware of the fact that starpower alone could probably carry it for lots of people – we all love Joker and his best buds. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the game was excellent purely based on Omega Force’s own merit. Sure, it helped that I already loved spending time with Yusuke, Makoto, and Ryuji, but the thing that primarily differentiates Strikers from Persona 5 is combat. After a couple of hours, I didn’t even miss the turn-based mechanics of the original game anymore, instead opting to comfortably lean into the real-time action chaos of combos and Persona attacks in Strikers. Also, the sheer style of flitting between All-Out-Attacks, Showtime, and Persona abilities, combined with Lyn’s revamped versions of bangers like Life Will Change and Rivers in the Desert – it’s incredible.
It’s the same with Age of Calamity. Plenty of Breath of the Wild fans weren’t very impressed with how the narrative differed from Nintendo’s most recent entry in the mainline series, while some people reckoned the world without the shrine puzzles was a bit rubbish. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I agree with neither of these sentiments – combat in Age of Calamity slaps, and being able to alternate between Link, Zelda, Impa, the Four Champions, and more makes for electrifying fights where you can smack people around with green lightning and Goron rock-bashes in equal measure. That’s what makes these games so immensely gratifying to play – the combat is dynamic, intuitive, and incredibly versatile, to the extent that switching between your favourite characters to instigate all manner of elemental combos makes each second feel like a slogless eternity.
But the combat isn’t identical, either – not even close. Persona 5 Strikers manages to incorporate all of the vast elemental affinities of the main game’s compendium into moment-to-moment play, attributing skills to SP and HP on top of your more general melee and gun attacks. It’s a bit intimidating at the start, with all of these complex systems existing in tandem with one another, but once you get the hang of it everything becomes extremely fluid. The only similarities between Age of Calamity and Strikers are that mobs consist of about 100 standard enemies and you can spam light attacks to chain decent combos – aside from that, they’re totally disparate games, loosely based on the same airtight formula.
Given how well Omega Force tailored its musou basis to Breath of the Wild runes for Age of Calamity and to elemental abilities for Persona 5 Strikers, I’m just curious about how it would adapt other illustrious combat gimmicks. I’d pump dozens of hours into a Pokemon musou game, or a Nier one. Hell, give me musou Bloodborne. Who wants musou Yakuza? I do! I even wrote about how musou would be the perfect means of incorporating Hunter x Hunter’s Nen into the video game it’s deserved for the last two decades. Seriously, just make everything musou now.
It’s honestly such a clever way of experimenting with established and safe IP. The system is tried and tested – the only thing left to do is write new stories for characters and ongoing narratives that people all over the world already know and love. This is my formal petition for publishers to give Koei Tecmo and Omega Force the rights for whatever they ask for from here on out, OK? Don’t ask questions. Just embrace the musou, cheers.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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