Review by GaIcian

"Before Koei, there was Capcom."

The Sanguo Yanyi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) chronicle is possibly one of the most beloved books in the world. It is possibly the most extensive and detailed historical novel ever written. Recorded centuries ago, the Sanguo Yanyi centers on the tale of three great dynasties that fought for complete control over the largest provinces in China during the turn of the century, during 180-220 A.D. It is one of the most important eras in Chinese history, and considering how well it was chronicled, there's no wonder why it is still one of the most popular subjects in Asia.

The Sanguo Yanyi spawned countless media adaptations. A TV series in China, fictional novels, dolls, merchandise, and a slew of games. The most popular of these are a series of video games by Koei known simply as The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Since then, Koei has pretty much retained the title of being the most popular outlet for RotTK gaming material, but Capcom once had their own hand in the ancient Chinese saga.

The first of these was Dynasty Wars, a unique new style of scrolling beat'em up type game that followed the story of the legendary novel. The game centers on Liu Bei and the Shu Dynasty, which is where most of the greatest warriors written about in the Sanguo Yanyi hail from. Together with his surrogate brothers and his greatest companions, he must topple the forces of the evil tyrant, Dong Zhuo.

As far as looks are concerned, Dynasty Wars didn't look quite as good as Strider or Final Fight, but what it lacked in graphical quality, it more than made up for with incredible numbers of sprites on screen at once. The game sports strength in numbers. The battlefields are constantly filled with enemies, sometimes dozens at a time. This was almost an impossible task on any home console because of slowdown, but thanks to Capcom's CPS1 technology, the games runs as smooth as silk.

The game also sports some sound samples during the stage intermissions, but some of these just sound really silly. The game would've just been better off left silent as far as voices are concerned. The music also shares some of the sound's mediocrity. Once again, the sound team behind Mega Man delivers yet another mediocre soundtrack on a system with far greater sound capability than the NES.

But what this game is really about are the battles. You can play as one of the four greatest heroes of the Shu Dynasty; Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, or Zhao Yun. Aside from their attributes, the characters pretty much act the same, but that doesn't take any fun away from the game. Like any full-blooded beat'em up, you go around fighting enemies on a side-scrolling plain. The difference here is that your character is mounted on a horse, ridding players of the confusion sometimes found in games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage.

The central aspect of the battles is that you can use strategic maneuvers depending on the terrain. In a mountain area, you can sweep your enemies away with a rockslide. In open areas, your troops can rain arrows down on your enemies. There are various other effects for other types of stages. They change just often enough for them not to get old, and not getting old is something Dynasty Wars does fairly well for such a long forgotten game.

Capcom's attempt at RotTK wouldn't end with Dynasty Wars. A few months afterward, they would make the cult classic, Destiny of an Emperor, on NES, and later on down the road would come Warriors of Fate, a sequel to Dynasty Wars. But even though its prodigy would be more successful, Dynasty Wars was no less fun. A definite arcade classic for the ages.

Graphics 7/10
Design 7/10
Sound 3/5
Music 7/15
Story 2/5
Control 5/5
Gameplay 45/50
Total 76/100 (8/10)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/21/05

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