Warriors Orochi 3 is the Tecmo Koei all star game for all of their hack n slash roster. Pooling a healthy dose of characters from the Dynasty and Samurai Warriors series, WO3 managed to take the best combat found in both series and applied the branching combo structure to EVERY character. In steps the Ultimate Edition and Tecmo Koei wanted to add just enough content to warrant an ‘upgrade’ from your PS3 or Xbox 360 version of this hack n slash staple.

That’s right. I said it. When it comes to hack n slash games, Tecmo Koei has the genre on lock. Probably the only thing holding them back in the US is the lack of familiarity most gamers have with the stories and characters featured. Often times it is that subtle connection that separates a good game from a great game. Take a look at the success Hyrule Warriors has had since it simply stands on the use of a popular license yet has the same structure as the Dynasty Warriors series. Makes you wonder what other developer is looking for a ‘quick buck’ or two because this formula is golden despite the jeers it often receives. The real question for Tecmo Koei is what feature, mode, or even just story can they add to their existing games to draw more to the fray?

Well, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate looks to take on that role in what seems to be an experimental style approach. Since this franchise doesn’t usually get the psuedo DLC treatment (by receiving Xtreme Legends, Empires, or other alternate versions), this Ultimate version seems to be Tecmo Koei’s attempt to bring the franchise to next gen consoles without really having to break into any new ground.

Typically not criticized for its amount of content or value, the original Warriors Orochi 3 game remains in tact with the same odd difficulty that seems a tad too easy until that one boss or general shows up at an unsuspecting time. The whole “I just wasted 20 minutes” effect still remains as some missions have unclear objectives that, if you’re not paying attention, can cause you to lose a match midstream and have to start all over again. There’s a ridiculous amount of characters to play as since your battlefield sessions are tag teams of 3 ‘generals’ and each have unique weapons and attacks to lay waste to the masses of grunts, captains, and soldiers on every mission. Running and dying in waves almost like a marching band well versed in synchronized falling, the fodder that you blast through are mere opportunities for ‘gems’ and xp to upgrade all of those characters. Again, WO3 will have ‘completionists’ spending close to 100 hours upgrading and unlocking characters.

When it comes to what was added, WO3U packs in the new Gauntlet and Duel modes along with about 8 new characters including Sophita from SoulCalibur IV, Kasumi from Dead Or Alive 5, and Rachel from Ninja Gaiden fame. Stuffed into the already overflowing suitcase of ‘things’ are more attacks, more unique weapons, more scenarios, more story, more items, and just an overall sense of more than what WO3 originally offered.

The new Gauntlet mode, in short, is a poor and frustrating attempt at adding a horde mode. You explore a map with a team of generals (in different formations that are hot swappable) looking for a dimensional gate to escape the incoming foes that get progressively harder and harder. You keep the XP if you fail but lose any equipment or gems acquired if you don’t escape. Escape and you gain material that can be used to craft weapons and gems in ANY mode. Oddly enough, the general’s progress in this mode isn’t reflected in the main story or free modes. That means there is yet another mode to grind through that potentially requires another 100 hours to ‘master’. Reach the end level after clearing areas and you fight a boss for a prize of some sort. Honestly, the payback isn’t worth the frustration. It is time consuming enough to unlock all of the generals and characters in the regular modes to have yet another mode to do the exact same thing in.

A part of me sees this mode as Tecmo Koei’s way of adding an ‘Empires’ expansion pack to this franchise yet there is NO strategy and no dynasty or faction to align with or against. You open up areas on a grid and clear them here and there until the boss. It’s possible that a unique weapon or something may be imbedded as a reward for certain tasks, but just as in the other modes, there is NO explanation or hint as to how to do so. In the end, it seems like a laborious grind that was added to an already grind-heavy experience. Just so you understand me, that’s not a good thing.

Then there is the Duel Mode. Set up as a card collecting action battle, you select your general and square off against other players online or the CPU in an attempt to win more cards, more weapon crafting material, and gems. The cards are used like consumable power-ups during the battle which I can easily see turning into a juggle-fest. Interesting idea. Lackluster execution.

Still, with all of this, the one good thing that can be said is that each of these modes and offerings are all local and online coop and versus capable. You are able to hope and pray that someone is playing online the same time as you (most times there was no one for me to play with) so that you can flail through mission after mission of fodder in order to speed up the grinding process. While the online coop is improbable, the local coop is a welcome feature for the console versions (PS3, PS4, and Xbox One).

Also, if you have a PS4, there are even more goodies added including an odd social feature involving the Share button. Apparently friends can affect your game with power-ups as you play or additional enemies depending on how they choose to interact.

Thankfully, for me especially, PS Vita owners can cheer for yet another great port as the Vita still lacks a energetic new release library. With excellent graphics and the ability to upload and download save files to PSN, the PS Vita port is a great way to play and take it with you. Tecmo Koei has been dedicated to bringing all of their action-y titles to portable form.

Tecmo Koei definitely cannot be criticized for not giving you enough to do with Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate. One might even argue that there is TOO much to do (if there is such a thing for gamers). Still, the additions for this version of the Dynasty Warriors saga aren’t enough to pull this franchise out of the ‘ho-hum’ response that casual fans have branded it with. The additional content will be a huge score for fans of the series but ‘more-of-the-same’ won’t spark a resurgence.