She’s not an especially well known character here in the West, since most of her prior appearances have been confined to Japan-only popular media, but she’s had a fairly long and eventful career on her native soil.
So let’s take a look at this feisty young casino dealer and see what makes her tick!
Rio is a longstanding moe mascot in Japan, having first appeared in Tecmo’s Super Black Jack in 2003. She was developed in collaboration with pachislot company Net, and proved very popular in her initial appearance. As such, she became especially well known through her subsequent pachislot games as well as a variety of other media, including music and drama CDs featuring the Super Black Jack cast. She also put in an appearance in the 2010 PSP spinoff of Dead or Alive Xtreme, Dead or Alive Paradise; this was also her debut in the West.
Besides Dead or Alive Paradise, Rio had several of her own games throughout the PS2 era as well as a DS game; unsurprisingly, these mostly took the form of pachislot games. She also had an iPhone blackjack game back in 2009, though at the time of writing this does not appear to be available any more, presumably as it was not updated for subsequent versions of iOS.
In 2011, Rio took the lead role in her own anime series. This was known as Rio: Rainbow Gate! and produced by Xebec (Love Hina, To Love Ru, Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs). In the anime, Rio reprises her typical role as a popular casino dealer, only this time around she has mystical powers. Not only is she able to bring good luck to gamblers simply by walking past them — surely not a profitable ability for a casino dealer to have — but she also discovers she is a “Gate Holder”, destined to collect 13 legendary cards and become the world’s Most Valuable Casino Dealer.
When Warriors All-Stars was in development, the team was keen to incorporate characters from all throughout Koei Tecmo’s history — including those who were perhaps less well-known by video gamers. Rio’s past work had been an important part of Tecmo history, though, so it was natural that she be included — the question was, of course, how you make a typically non-violent character into a suitable cast member for a bombastic hack-and-slash game?
Initial attempts to incorporate Rio into the game left her feeling a little flat. She didn’t hail from an action series, after all, and hadn’t really been seen fighting in a traditional sense before; Rainbow Gate’s “battle” sequences had all revolved around casino-style games rather than direct physical conflict. Clearly, just having her kicking people in those heels wasn’t going to be enough.
As such, the team decided to make her feel more “festive”, and certainly didn’t hold back in that regard. Not that it’s a problem, mind; we’re talking about a game where, depending on your stage, you’re fighting off everything from furries to Punis from the Atelier series via clockwork toy soldiers from Nights of Azure, so it’s pretty fair to say anything goes.
After some refinement, the team eventually settled on her making use of various oversized gambling implements in her special attacks — slot machines, poker chips, dice; you name it, it’s probably here. And it’s ridiculous. And it’s a ton of fun that goes well with Rio’s cheerful personality.
Other aspects of Rio’s Warriors All-Stars mechanics reflect her background as a casino dealer, too. When she’s an AI-controlled party member rather than the leader, her skill sees her playing a quick game of blackjack with you, the player, with effects on your stats according to whether you win or lose. If you’re victorious, you’ll find yourself with a substantial attack boost; lose to Rio, however, and you’ll temporarily drop your defense for a short period — so be sure it’s worth the gamble!
As a reasonably niche character — and one who is largely unknown outside of Japan — Rio hasn’t had a ton of fanart over the years. She is, however, noteworthy in that she’s a character who has stuck around for a very long time indeed. The earliest post of her on imageboard Danbooru (NSFW) dates back to early 2006, less than a year after the site launched, and at the time of writing the most recent images of her are less than a year old.
She’s been presented in quite a few different styles over the years, including a semi-realistic look for Dead or Alive Paradise and an exaggerated anime look for Warriors All-Stars; in the latter case, the team found her inclusion to be quite challenging because they wanted to remain faithful to her classic appearance without venturing too far into the uncanny valley — and she’s one of the most moe anime-style members of the cast. That said, this is also a game that features Opoona, so, once again, pretty much anything would have been fine, I’m sure.
It’s hard to know if we’ll see Rio again in the West after Warriors All-Stars. That game is a niche-interest entry in an already niche-interest series — so outside of another All-Stars game or her taking a guest spot in a future Warriors Orochi title, it’s probably unlikely.
As such, enjoy the time you get to spend with Rio in Warriors All-Stars’ mysterious other world; she really is a joy to have around and, it turns out, she’s not all that bad in a scrap, either — have you ever seen what happens when you drop a slot machine on someone?
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