Four Franchises Dying For A Dynasty Warriors Spinoff
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.
A franchise with a long history, melee combat, many characters, countless enemies, and awesome bosses? I’m surprised Castlevania hasn’t already been chosen for this kind of spin-off! The (non-canonical) story of the whole Belmont family and all their allies rising to meet the invading tide of Dracula’s army is a perfect fit for this kind of crossovers. Regarding the characters and combat, Castlevania provides many interesting ways to mow through the enemy. The whips and items of the classic Belmonts can be countered by the sword and abilities of Alucard or Soma Cruz, the magic of Maria Renard or Sypha Belnades, or even the guns of Henry Oldrey could fit in this game. Much like the other Warriors titles, several bosses from the franchise’s history could also be playable, like Dracula or Death. These bosses could also be fought in-game, with no shortage of fearsome foes to pull out of retirement.
Waves of enemies like skeletons and medusa heads could be paired with more powerful enemies like knights or minotaurs to keep the battlefield interesting. A history mode could also be easy to implement, recreating situations that resemble the castles of past games. A series of battles that culminate in, say, the bosses from the original Castlevania in order, would be a fun nod to the games that came before. Moreover, an apparent staple of these Musou-style crossovers – the metal soundtrack covers – could be awesome when applied to Castlevania’s history of bangers. Castlevania fits the Musou mold so harmoniously that I’ve gotten myself all excited about a game I know may never be made.
Final Fantasy Warriors
Final Fantasy may be overqualified for a Musou spin-off. In terms of enemies, characters, bosses, and franchise history, Final Fantasy may actually have too many to fit into one game. It certainly has the combat design down pat; many swordsmen, mages, gunmen, or otherwise that could be tossed onto the battlefield. However, after 15 main games and more than 30 spin-offs, ports, and sequels, there are so many characters that this hack-and-slash could end up being 200 hours long.
Enemies and bosses can be drawn from the storied history of the Final Fantasy games, and a history mode walking us down more than 20 years of memory lane could potentially never end. Square Enix owns the Dissidia games as well as the RPG World of Final Fantasy, which are structured around fan service already. With a franchise as storied and deep as Final Fantasy, fan service should be a cake walk. While the franchise accurately fits into the Musou mold, Square Enix’s previous games prove that it would be one big game.
Star Wars Warriors (Warsiors?)
The Star Wars well of possibilities hasn’t dried up yet, and a Musou game could provide a new look at the battlefields of the Jedi. Star Wars has the combat we are looking for, and the combination of lightsaber and Force abilities that makes blasting through armies engaging. Speaking of armies, Star Wars has a bunch, take your pick. With the droid army, clone army, Empire, and First Order, hordes of similar enemies are a Star Wars staple. The style may be more cartoony than the Battlefront games, but the Clone Wars leaned into the aesthetic, something this game would have to embrace as well.
In terms of playable characters, throw in every character to ever wield a lightsaber and a few who haven’t just for good measure. Just because you aren’t Force-sensitive doesn’t mean you don’t get to rain down destruction; add in characters like Boba or Jango Fett, Commander Cody, or Chewbacca to round out the cast. History mode could return players to iconic battles of the franchise with new characters, like the battles of Kashyyyk, Genosis, or Hoth. Star Wars fits the bill and has all of the pieces it needs to go Musou.
Kingdom Hearts Warriors
The combat in Kingdom Hearts is already pretty similar to Musou in combat. Whipping the keyblade around through groups of heartless is reminiscent of Link’s Master Sword in Hyrule Warriors. Now all we need to do is pile in the playable characters and we have ourselves a bona fide Musou game! Kingdom Hearts isn’t short on characters either; with three sources to pull from (Disney, Kingdom Hearts, and Final Fantasy for some reason) the characters could add a lot of variety to gameplay. Switching between characters like Goofy, Buzz Lightyear, and Cloud Strife sounds like a fever dream, but on the battlefield of a Musou game, it could be reality. With bosses from Disney franchises like Cerberus and Scar mixed with other bosses from the game like Sora’s Heartless and Sephiroth, this series, though not as old as the others, could be a great match for a Musou-style game.
A history mode in this game could return the players to worlds in the past games with set objectives like the ones found in those worlds. For example, a battle between the forces of good and the heartless could rage in the walls of Beast’s castle, culminating in a final battle with Beast like in Kingdom Hearts 2. There is room for creativity in building these homages, and it could be a fun way to keep players coming back. This series is all about fan service, and it fits right in with the Warriors format.
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 Tecmo president Hisashi Koinuma where he agrees with our Star Wars idea, or our interview with Dynasty Warriors producer Akihiro Suzuki.
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