Warriors All-Stars is a story-driven, hack-and-slash, crossover RPG featuring stars from a variety of Koei Tecmo releases. From Sophie (Atelier), to Yukimura Sanada (Samurai Warriors), to Tokitsugu (Toukiden) and more, you’ll have a personal favorite as whom to play, without a doubt. There’s only one mode — story mode — but this hosts various types of battles, multiple endings, and multiple difficulty modes which alter the recommended level of a battle, ensuring replayability.
Key battles advance the story: they help restore power to the spring within the main village. Other battles you may find on the world map portray a character (hero battles), which recruit that hero into your party (if won). Field battles are optional, but offer rewards. Scrolling across the world map may cause a random battle to appear, and you have but a few seconds to accept before it disappears. Finally, under certain conditions, you unlock dramatic battles.
Your first battle is a tutorial, accustoming you to the controls for both basic attacks and special skills. KOs obtained during a Musou rush don’t seem to count toward your KO count at the end of the battle (used toward your battle rating), nor do they count toward your total KOs overall or for that character. After you complete minor tasks, such as activating a skill, you face Tamaki (this depends on whose story you choose). Tamaki acts as a mentor and is the protagonist around which the story, and all of its turmoil, revolves. You win the battle after defeating her and shortly after that you return to the world map. It seems that, according to a helpful pre-match tip, any items you don’t pick up in time are sent to you after the battle ends, so you needn’t fret you’d miss out on any loot.
You soon have access to a small village area called the Sanctuary.
Here, you may accept requests from other heroes, refine and enhance hero cards, speak with others, pay gold to level people, or take a relaxing bath. You obtain hero cards as drops from particular enemies, and each person on your team can equip only one at a given time. They boost that player’s attack and may offer a helpful boost, such as greater likelihood of a drop after defeating an enemy. You may add an effect to empty slots of a card in exchange for materials and add or increase a card’s elemental attribute. There doesn’t seem to be a way to overwrite a skill, so as to open up a free slot; you can, however, destroy the card in exchange for materials. If a card has an elemental attribute, adding a different one replaces the existing element. But, if you enhance a card’s fire attribute with another card that has a fire attribute, the effect is additive. You cannot use the training facility to raise a player’s level beyond the maximum level in your roster.
As you explore the village, you may discover a few references: there are arcade machines in one corner in the inn that say TECMO, and in another area, a cauldron that Sophie stirs around and — according to the dialogue — from which she obtains a bomb, through her alchemical procedures. Using a different person as the leader yields a different result when you interact with the cauldron. And, of course, there are barrels with which you may interact. Warriors All-Stars wouldn’t be complete without the iconic barrel, a recurring item within the Atelier series. Items taken from other series and implemented here may help evoke a sense of familiarity between the player and the game, assuming the player has played that other game; nevertheless, it’s always fun to see iconic items make their way into other releases, which makes sense here, given this is a crossover.
Airhead-ishness, blended with an unwavering determination and a tinge of naivety
There is a friendship level, called Regard. It represents the closeness of two characters, and you can raise it by fighting alongside a player or completing a request from that player. Once this value increases beyond a threshold, you may activate new friendship gifts and unlock special events. Friendship levels found in Koei Tecmo titles, such as Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, and in certain (if not all) Atelier releases, and Lily Ranks found in Idea Factory’s Neptunia series, offer a similar system. Contrary to what I first thought of the system, based on the title, you don’t give a gift to another character; rather, a friendship gift is a special skill that automatically activates during a battle. It’s noteworthy that this Regard level is unilateral — a character could consider you (your team leader) a friend, but not vice-versa. You must play as both characters to raise both Regard levels. If, for instance, Plachta’s Regard toward Sophie is at level four, you must play as Plachta to raise Sophie’s Regard toward her. You cannot switch leaders within a battle.
The length of a playthrough inevitably varies: if you rush through the story and aim to beat it quickly, it’ll be a quick game indeed. You can explore the map or take time completing optional battles and requests, or take another route, to prolong the story. After you reload a cleared file, you can pick another character as your starter; your gold, Regard levels, character levels, hero cards, etc., carry over. After my first clear, I wanted to try hard mode, but my characters were under-leveled. Yeah, I picked Sophie again — who doesn’t love her airhead-ishness, blended with an unwavering determination and a tinge of naivety? With each playthrough, the locations of certain battles are randomized, but it seems that the variation is kept minimal. The playthrough you’re on (whether fresh or after clearing the game) doesn’t seem to affect the spot in which it appears. As alluded to, any hero you unlocked in a previous play, you must unlock once again. New enemies spawn when you redo those matches, but they leave the field after a certain amount of time passes.
The only ‘issue’ I encountered is the fact that there isn’t English voice acting, only Japanese. I’m more familiar with a few of the English voice actors (namely, those who voice Sophie and Plachta from the Atelier series). For other characters that come from the Dynasty/Sanada Warriors series, the absence of English voice acting doesn’t come as too much of a shock, but I opt for the English option when available. Aside from this, there are a few typos, such as “neatral” instead of “neutral” in the paragraph regarding reserve bases. I didn’t notice any lag or glitches, and loading times for a battle are remarkably short.
Warriors All-Stars is a superb title, with relatively no issues whatsoever. The entire roster of playables come from a fairly wide array of Koei Tecmo titles, nearly guaranteeing you’ll find someone with whom you’re familiar, unless this is your first Koei Tecmo game — but you needn’t necessarily be familiar with the studio to enjoy this release. The RPG elements, hero cards, and regard (friendship) levels, combined with over a dozen different endings, ensure replayability and sustained play value.