Review by CNash

"Die-hard fans'll love it, casual fans will have deja vu."

Another year, another Dynasty Warriors game. After DW4, and its two spin-offs, one wonders how Koei could possibly go further with the franchise. Well, the good news is, they have gone further. The bad news, however, is that it's more of a "tweak" than an actual update - very little has changed.

The gameplay is still the same. Pick one of 48 officers - of which six are new additions to the pool - and go beat up some random Chinese soldiers. It's the same formula that Koei have relied on for all the previous PS2 incarnations, and Samurai Warriors too. And on a more basic level, it works - it appeals to the baser instincts of the game's target audience, namely teenage boys. But doesn't everyone like to just let loose and go kill a bunch of people? No? Maybe it's just me.

The "tweaks" to the gameplay include improved archery towers - now they actually hurt when they fall on you! - extra combo attacks (up to nine, plenty for button-mashers), and a new "Musou Rage" item that triggers some kind of sugar rush, making your attacks faster and more powerful. The "weapon EXP" system from the previous game has been ditched and replaced with the system from Samurai Warriors, whereby you find weapons scattered on the battlefield and must choose which ones to keep and which to discard.

The graphics engine hasn't had too much of an overhaul. The backgrounds - while slightly more colourful that DW4's - are disappointing, and the character models haven't really changed (unless you count the gaudy costumes that you may unlock). What's really improved are the attack animations. After a "True Musou" special attack - where your character slashes wildly at the nearby enemies, generally causing death to all - there is now a "special effect". For example, Zhang Liao shoots out a fireball reminiscent of Ryu's "Hadoken" blasts from Street Fighter. Other characters will cause the ground to erupt beneath their enemies' feet, or perform intricate arial combo attacks as the hapless peons fly into the air. It's rather awe-inspiring, and makes those True Musou attacks that much more desirable.

Story-wise, it's the same as ever. Wei, Wu and Shu are the Three Kingdoms, and they battle it out in order to rule over ancient China. Other factions, like the fanatical Yellow Turbans, serve as background scenery to provoke conflict between the major three. The way the story unfolds in DW5 has changed; instead of selecting a kingdom and going down a set path of battles, a la DW4, players now select a single character. They play through five stages as that character, each of which pushes that particular character's "legend" onwards. Sometimes this may seem as though players are missing out on important events - for example, in Sun Shang Xiang's path, the battle at Chi Bi is skipped and replaced with a voice-over detailing what happened. However, this doesn't impact the gameplay too much. All in all, it's more like DW3 than anything else.

What can I say about the music other than "It's the same as before"? Half of the background tracks are remixes of tracks from the previous games. The other half are the usual electric-guitar driven pieces, which STILL seem out of place in ancient China. And after the effort made in DW4 to incorporate traditional instruments into some of the maps, DW5 seems to have forgotten it entirely.

The voice-acting isn't remarkable. Koei like to get different voice actors for every generation of Dynasty Warriors, a fact which irks me somewhat - some of the voices for DW3 and DW4 were absolutely perfect for their character, while in DW5, they mostly seem out of place. The big, beefy generic (non-playable) generals have been given a weedy voice that doesn't suit them at all. Zhang He's voice is as effeminate as ever, to the chagrin of many, and Xu Zhu still sounds like the class dunce. While the quality of the acting isn't quite as bad as in the GCN's "Baten Kaitos", it's not exactly top quality either.

To sum up, Dynasty Warriors 5 is great if you're a fan of the series who's become bored with the DW4 generation. There are enough changes to keep you satisfied, and unlocking everything is a remarkably satisfying experience. But if you're a casual player, you might find it worthwhile to pick up an older (cheaper) version instead; the gameplay hasn't really changed enough to warrant purchasing this if you're satisfied with what you've got.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 07/06/05

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