Review by Richter13
"Djmyxx Review: Improving by taking that first step... Backwards"
Let's face it. After a long and weary day, there's nothing better than taking out your frustrations on the nearest wall without anyone looking at you.
Pretend it's your boss. Pretend it's your nagging girlfriend. Pretend it's one of your close friends who just happened to have forgotten to tell you you're old group is having a drinking session in some foreign locale--- all expense-paid.
Now change the date and time to that of China in the waning days of the Later Han Dynasty.
After a long day, some pirate wanted to get a promotion for his achievements in battle, yet he is ignored by his commander. After a long day, a warrior with a long spear gets entangled in a tragic affair with the concubine of a tyrant. After a long day, the third sworn brother isn't even invited to visit the most expensive gentleman's club in China, thus he joins a rival faction Okay that was not exactly it.
Instead of punching walls, generals and warriors back then did, what would probably be condemned nowadays by the UN. Some away at enemy soldiers, others attack enemy supply lines, and there are a few who by crook just defect to the enemy in the middle of battle.
That's pretty much the whole gist on Dynasty Warriors.
All kidding aside though, the series, based on the so-called First Masterpiece Romance of the Three Kingdoms, is the predominant one in the hack-n-slash genre. I say that boldly, for I could not remember the last hack-n-slash series that figured so prominently in many-a-gamer's library.
Story: As I said before, Dynasty Warriors is a melting-pot of sorts for several individuals that figured prominently in the novel (some that probably did not really exist, but hey, who cares?). You follow the story of, err, warriors in their attempts to serve their respective kingdoms. I don't need to speak much on this, as anyone who's even just attempting to play the game would likely have heard more about the story from several sources.
Graphics: For a PS2 game, the graphics are quite, nice, actually. I apologize, nice, is the best way I can describe it. Okay, maybe sweet would be appropriate as well. Comparing it to previous incarnations in the series though, it's a bar higher, as evidenced by the in-battle layout (dust from horse gallops, rain and weather effects), as well as eye-candy CG in the credits (I know, I'm that shallow), and, most notably, the higher count of onscreen characters (less fog as well) this is no doubt a good improvement compared to its predecessors as it gives gamers a somewhat larger view of the battlefield, as well as more troops to bring down at the initial blow. The downside of this is the sporadic slowdown while playing the game, especially if your PS2's quite old already.
Sound (Music): Oh well, what else can you expect from a hack-n-slash game except some techno and j-pop-rock-sounding tracks. I tell you now, don't expect to hear anyone singing in Chinese or Japanese while you're trying to get 1000 KOs.
Sound (Effects): Not much difference here from previous games. You'll hear little distinction among spear-type weapons when they hit an opponent, as well as that for swords and staff-types. Peasants and enemies scream in agony, while PCs and NP-Cs all do a terrible job at voice-acting (please do turn on the Japanese voice-overs at the options screen, English will just make you squirm I mean that in a bad way).
Gameplay: This is one of the factors that make Dynasty Warriors games simply a blast to play. I know, I know, how can pressing just four buttons at the most for 30 minutes be considered fun? Well, aside from trying it out for yourself, I can tell you that the moment you start your killing spree, something devastating has to happen in the world first to get you look the other way. Anyone who's played DW and got hooked to it for the first time would no doubt remember the feeling of attaining his/her first 100 kills and want MORE!
Sorry. Anyways, the weapons and items system goes back to the brilliance of Dynasty Warriors 3 with its random pickups instead of the horrible and inane level-up system from the set 4 of the series. 1st- 3rd tier weapons (with some stat bonuses) are picked up randomly via chest boxes; items from satchel packs. The tough-to-get 4th weapons are attained by performing various tasks within a stage using the officer whose weapon you're trying to get. Special items such as orbs, harnesses and rare accessories are also gotten the same way.
Speaking of various tasks within a stage, the game loosely follows battle tactics as they were written in then novel: an ambush here, a flood there, and the ever-popular fire attack in a few levels.
The bodyguard system has also been revamped to just that of a randomly-named guy or girl appearing after you clear a stage instead of a posse. There are rankings and letter grades on how good you can max them out as well as the quality of the bonus abilities they get. Superior S being the best and Veteran C as the fodder of the bunch.
Character Development: Koei pretty much risked it big-time here, putting 8 missions for the 3 rulers and some magical-yet-awesome super-duper-ultra-multi-genarian, 6 for their respective subordinates, 5 for the rest in their kingdoms, and only 4 for those whom no one cares about that's why they don't have colored flags.
While some people see the average stages of 5 as lacking, others may see it as good storytelling, as it keeps the Musou mode short and simple, yet the player is still able to distinguish their character's achievements in the novel. Yeah stop whining, there's always Free Mode.
Character actions naturally come from the DW bible: square- normal attack, triangle- charge attack, circle- musou attack, well, you get the picture. A few minutes of using any character and you'll be able to get the hang of their juggling and combo moves as well as good strategies when fighting a single general or hordes of enemy troops.
Each character is unique in its own way (voice, costume, duh!) though a few have either been typecast as clones, generics, or nefariously toned down. It certainly does not lessen the appeal for fans of the series, as each have a specific learning curve when used (Lu Bu to Xiao Qiao for example).
New characters have been added to the mix: For Wei, there's the cavalier Pang De and the devil son Cao Pi; for Wu, the lightning-fast Ling Tong (no more ninja turtle references); for Shu, Guan Ping and Xing Cai step up for their proud fathers; finally, Zuo Ci, that mystical dude rivals Lu Bu's greatness in battle.
Replay Value: 48 characters + dozens of stages (multiplied several times per side) + tons of weapons and items to collect + 48 characters I mentioned + bodyguards to build up + some ho~hum challenges + a little encyclopedia + 48 characters in a hack-n-slash?
Wow, the first reason's enough to get the game.
I gave the game a ten though the whole review might show me in light as someone unimpressed. Well, for someone who's been a fan of the series since DW2, there's really not A LOT to be impressed about with this latest installment (as opposed to GTA: London to GTA 3 transition), but I'll be damned if it did not have me coming back for more.
After a long and weary day, there's nothing better than punching a wall first, not minding my parents, shooing away the nagging girlfriend, forgetting I have friends waiting outside the gate, and popping this baby in my dusty PS2.
*whistles the tune of Hey Jude for no reason *
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/19/05
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