Games don’t get more hack-and-slash than the Dynasty Warriors series (known as Musou in Japan). A legendary warrior faces off against an entire army, striking down ten soldiers with a single swing of their sword. While mainline Musou games mostly take place with historical figures in a historical setting, the Musou concept has also been translated to vastly different franchises. The Legend of Zelda franchise was given the Koei Tecmo-developed Musou hack-and-slash treatment in 2014 to favorable reviews, and the crossovers didn’t end there. Dragon Quest Heroes was released a year later, and Fire Emblem Warriors dropped in 2017. Just recently, a Persona 5/Dynasty Warriors game, Persona 5 Scramble, was announced for the Switch.
These crossovers are fun detours for franchise fans, but they are also surprising when they are announced; a more aggressive Zelda game with new character designs and metal soundtrack wasn’t necessarily where fans thought these characters would go next. There is a method to the madness in choosing the next franchise to be spun off, however. The games chosen to fill the Musou mold have the elements necessary to create an appealing hack-and-slash spin-off. Here are the ingredients to a Musou-style game made from your favorite franchises, as well as some other franchises that could fit the formula perfectly.
The Perfect Pieces To The Musou Puzzle
Though it may seem random, not just any series is a good fit for a Musou game. A franchise must have five main elements before it can make the genre leap. The first is close-quarters combat. That sounds simple, but it’s important; Dynasty Warriors games are built on charging head-first into seemingly never-ending swarms of enemies, which could be substantially hindered by simply sitting back and firing arrows into the crowd. Instead, the games chosen are typically centered around an element of close-quarters combat. Even characters with range in those games tend to focus on short-range bursts to handle the large crowds. Speaking of, the second important trait these franchises have are hordes of enemies with a class structure. The key is to have easily handled small enemies that could feasibly be numbered in the thousands. There are enemies of varying size or ability, which changes up the field of play. For example, the army structure in Fire Emblem means you can go up against basic foot soldiers or enemies riding wyverns.
A third key trait is a backlog of bosses that can be pulled out of retirement for major battles. Big or small, memorable bosses are key to the pacing of these kinds of games. Fourth, the games need a deep and iconic history. This history provides an alternate game mode that both Fire Emblem Warriors and Hyrule Warriors had. Fire Emblem called it history mode and Hyrule Warriors called it adventure mode, but what it is at its core is a tribute to the franchise’s legacy as well as a means to collect new items or characters. The final, and arguably the most important feature the Musou-ed franchises need, is a huge catalogue of beloved characters that players want to unlock and play as. As the gameplay gets repetitive, players unlock fun characters to make it feel new again. The technique used in these games is to pull many characters that have interesting combat potential and haven’t been playable before, as well as a few characters with the “I didn’t know I wanted that until you offered” appeal (you can play as a Cucco in Hyrule Warriors, for example). Fire Emblem’s nearly 30 years of games certainly served well in this department, as there are over 30 playable characters (including DLC). This is a huge strength in the Musou department; more characters to play as means new gameplay opportunities and a longer play time.
Now, with all of the fundamentals out of the way, we can start applying these principles to other franchises to come up with new crossover ideas for the next Musou spin-off.
The Musou games are fun distractions for franchise fans. Whether these games are chosen for the next spin-off or it’s something completely different, what makes these games enjoyable is the attention to detail with the legacy of the games chosen to be spun off. I’m just excited to see what gets chosen next.
For more on these hack-and-slashers, check out our interview with Koei”>https://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2018/01/25/koei-tecmo-presi… Tecmo president Hisashi Koinuma where he agrees with our Star Wars idea, or our interview with Dynasty”>https://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2018/01/25/dynasty-warriors… Warriors producer Akihiro Suzuki.