Up until a few years ago, if you knew Koei-Tecmo’s Omega Force, you probably knew creators by their reputation as the developers of the exhaustively long-winded Dynasty Warriors series, covering one aspect or another of the same period of Chinese history since 1997. (That period being one inspired by the Chinese historical text Records of the Three Kingdoms, which you may be familiar with through Koei’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms series).
These are made in Omega Force’s signature “Musou” hack-and-slash style of design, cutting through scores of baddies on-screen at once. It’s an acquired taste that can lead to a relatively straightforward experience, though it’s still fun if handled properly. The formula got a bit of a boost in 2014, when the team evidently decided they wanted to take the series in a new direction.
Rather than falling back on the past – not that they’ve stopped with Dynasty Warriors proper – Omega partnered with Nintendo to release a Musou game based on The Legend of Zelda. Like anything Nintendo ever deigns to make in the Zelda universe, the resultant spin-off Hyrule Warriors was a hit.
From that jumping off point Omega has branched out further. Last year they worked with Square Enix to make the Warriors-style Dragon Quest Heroes, which sold well enough for a sequel of its own; following its other recent successes with beloved series, Omega announced earlier this month that their newest Musou would be an adaptation of the dark fantasy manga and anime, Berserk.
On paper, this may be the best ever use of their trademark design. Berserk is set in a grim and violent depiction of a fantastical medieval Europe; the series follows the journey of Guts, a branded warrior who escaped from becoming a sacrifice to an ancient evil and now wanders the lands killing evil men and demons alike with his giant bigger-than-bastard-caliber sword. (read into the overt phallic imagery therein as you will.)
There’s actually quite a bit more to the story, which the developers have stated their adaptation will delve into significantly, even if you’re already familiar with the series’ plot (note to the developers: please include an option for the Japanese voiceover). Regardless, Guts is beset with monsters every day, so there’s narratively quite a bit of room for an action game about a man who routinely is drenched in blood during combat –an effect the developers should certainly attempt to include.
The heritage of Dynasty Warriors works in favor of this union as well. The allure of Omega Force’s series has been the sheer number of bodies each game has been able to render, and that you can then simultaneously thrash, particularly as technology has started to catch up with increasingly higher enemy counts.
At a glance, Dragon Quest Heroes has dozens of critters on-screen at once; from the scant in-game footage of Berserk 2016 actual gameplay seen in the released teaser, it looks like Guts will have no issue adding to the slaughter. The fact that he can go on a bloody rampage is new territory for Omega (and good news for fans), as Musou games usually don’t indulge in gore.
Berserk 2016 isn’t the only adaptation the series has received over the years. The Dreamcast Sword of the Berserk was decent, if repetitive, for its era. Its PS2 sequel never saw the light of day in the US. It’s not the first manga adaptation Omega has handled either, with One Piece and Fist of the North Star having been previously been brought to game form as well, and not without their charms for fans of the source material. (Fist of the North Star’s Ken’s Rage was particularly fun in the way that a lot of Japanese comics from the ‘70s and ‘80s exude testosterone.)
For as messy as anime and manga can be, Japan often skews conservative with its game violence proper. Omega is reportedly aiming for a Cero D rating at home, basically one grade below the most “mature” Cero Z, which will effectively get you banned.
Guts’ would-be arterial rage already appears pretty intense, and even when games end up censored in Japan, they’re often released without restriction of violence in the US – essentially the opposite of how the western world views sexual content in the medium. In any case, for Guts’ first PS4 outing, Omega is vying to be faithful to the series’ mature subject matter as much as possible. With any luck, the world may finally get the Berserk game it deserves.