Musou video games—the large-scale hack-and-slash video games typified by sequence like Dynasty Warriors—usually get a nasty wrap, with detractors arguing that they’re simply monotonous energy fantasies missing in depth. Whereas there’s some reality to that, such a reductive studying misses the purpose behind video games on this style, which nonetheless has tens of millions of ardent followers regardless of evolving little since its PlayStation origins. Clearly it’s doing one thing proper, and though not everybody appreciates these video games, I’m grateful that their distinctive musou magic helped me bond with my cousin as we wreaked havoc throughout historic battlefields.
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Typically referred to as “Warriors” video games right here within the U.S., these third-person action-RPG hack-and-slash titles all largely perform the identical. When you’ve performed 1997’s Dynasty Warriors or 2004’s Samurai Warriors, then precisely how 2020’s Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity or 2022’s Hearth Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes performs—particularly since they’re all made by Japanese studios Koei Tecmo and Omega Power. You choose a personality and lower via an assortment of battlefields, wrecking everybody in sight on a warpath to complete domination whereas leveling up, unlocking strikes, and grabbing tools. It’s a well-known gameplay loop that grows rote throughout Tecmo Power’s catalog, but it surely’s additionally a comfy expertise that my cousin and I completely loved rising up.
My cousin, about three years youthful than myself, is on the autism spectrum. Specifically, his dyslexia makes gaming a problem, as parsing the intricacies and nuances of sport mechanics is usually a irritating expertise for him. It’s definitely not unattainable; he’s overwhelmed FromSoftware’s Darkish Souls trilogy a lot quicker than I ever did, partly as a result of he’s much more cussed than I’m, however choosing up any sport requires a relentless recalibration in his mind, one which takes for much longer than most of us expertise after merely being away from a sport for a short time. There have been numerous instances the place I’ve watched him restart a sport because of the exasperation he felt over forgetting the place to go or how issues labored, one thing that’s all the time left me hurting for him. Warriors video games, for us, don’t have this challenge, primarily as a result of they’re all mainly equivalent to 1 one other.
Take our favourite of those video games, 2006’s Samurai Warriors 2. Largely specializing in the Battle of Sekigahara throughout Japan’s Sengoku interval, we’d choose our fave generals—the demon king Nobunaga Oda for my cousin, his trustworthy retainer Mitsuhide Akechi for myself—and completely fuck shit up. Locking ourselves in my bed room in my grandma’s dwelling, a kind of clear PS2 controllers in every of our fingers because the chunky CRTV illuminated our faces, we’d demolish each single battlefield for hours on finish. It didn’t matter that our characters have been maxed out. It didn’t matter that the anonymous warriors and wimpy generals stood no likelihood in opposition to us. Hell, it didn’t matter that we had overwhelmed the sport a number of instances over. As a result of on the finish of the day, we have been merely enamored with the sport’s energy fantasy. In our shared expertise, the simplicity and approachability of mowing down tons of of random and necessary dudes, the very factor so many individuals assault the style for, grew to become its biggest characteristic.
That energy fantasy, for us, has all the time been the promoting level of Musou video games. Nevermind that split-screen native co-op is normally an choice in these sorts of titles. It was all the time the 1vs1000 mythos that we purchased into, particularly contemplating how flashy the Warriors franchise has turn into with the likes of 2021’s Samurai Warriors 5. These video games are the right embodiment of “gaming as escapism,” transporting us to the historic settings of feudal Japan to see a not-so-historical model of how well-known figures vied for final management of the Land of the Rising Solar. It normally ends in tragedy, however with the ability to expertise historical past via an interactive medium gave us a a lot deeper fascination with and understanding of Japanese tradition, one thing we each recognize to today.
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I nonetheless play Musou video games on a regular basis. The truth is, One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 is all the time put in on my PlayStation, prepared for me to chop down hundreds of hapless goons on my quest to be the strongest warrior. I simply want my cousin, who I left behind in California, was by my facet to expertise it with me. He’s such a giant One Piece fan that I do know he would love enjoying as Luffy or Zoro.