Monday, February 25, 2008

Return to the Three Kingdoms - A Dynasty Warriors 6 Review

The Dynasty Warriors series, and it's spinoffs have never been media darlings. Despite being almost universally panned by critics with every new incarnation, this series continues to make its way across the ocean. This past week, the US finally saw the release of the latest game in the Dynasty warriors franchise, Dynasty Warriors 6 (Shin Sangoku Musou 5 in Japan), and I have finally been able to spend some time with it.

Dynasty Warriors 6 marks the fifth outing of the main series in it's present form (The original "Dyansty Warriors" was a PS1 1 on 1 fighting game). For those new to the series, the basic concept is you play a famous general in a romanticized version of historical battles. The style is basically that of an epic Chinese action movie, with over the top character personalities, costumes, and odds.

Each general is basically a legendary persona from the famous historical novel "Three Kingdoms" attributed to Luo Guanzhong, their portrayals are "extreme" versions of the characterizations of the novel. This legendary status is conveyed to the player in the way that you glide through battle felling hundreds of enemy troops with sometimes a single flurry of attacks, it's all quite dramatic really.

With the first next gen entry of the main series, Koei and Omega Force decided to mix things up a bit by scrapping the core fighting mechanics for the new "Renbu" system. I had mixed feelings about the change at first, with the focus being more on one attack button combo strings, but it works surprisingly well, and doesn't feel like a downgrade in complexity. The new system allows for an infinite string of attacks, with slight pauses when you hit the end of the string. The length of these strings is affected by the renbu meter, which you raise by beating guys up as fast as possible. The meter will fall if you stop hitting people for too long, so there is a push to keep moving.

Character development is performed via level ups and skill points spent on a skill tree which you can eventually max out(thus obtaining every skill). There is no option to "re-spec" so you your choices are permanent, but its only a matter of time before you have everything anyway because you get enough points to max out the tree. You can also collect weapons and warhorses which you can take into battle with you and level up separately in lieu of bodyguards.

Items have been scrapped, as well as hunting for ultimate weapons(hopefully this will make a return in an expansion of some downloadable content) seemingly in favor of a group of three "targets" for each stage. The game keeps track of each target completed and you are granted bonus experience for each one completed. Unfortunately once you are powerful enough you can just bum rush the boss to get all 3 before they hit a failure condition. It still feels good hitting all 3 at once though.

One area where the "Musou" series has always had trouble is the localization, specifically the voice acting. Previous entries have felt somewhat like a badly mixed Jackie Chan film from the early 90's, with corny dialog delivery, name mispronunciation, and an effects mix that sounded like it was recorded on a different planet from the action on screen. After 5 incarnations, they finally pronounced Cao Cao correctly. The overall quality of the voice acting seems much higher this time around, although many of the actors are reprising their roles from DW5, something about the delivery this time just feels more "right". Cut scenes are all done using the in game engine and have some great direction this time around.

Graphically the game is far from impressive, but leaps and bounds above the previous entry. The sheer number of on screen characters causes some slowdown from time to time, but nothing detrimental to game play. Every character has been redesigned from the ground up with wild new costumes and weapons, A welcome change after having very similar designs for the first 4 games.

Unfortunately, the number of characters with a story mode has been decreased to only about one third of the total cast and the number of available playable characters since the previous game has also been reduced by a small number. It seems that the aesthetic improvements may have come at a cost, and I can only hope this is remedied in a future "Xtreme Legends" expansion.

All in all I was very satisfied with this entry, theres just something special about beating the living crap out of thousands of guys while listening to a rocking soundtrack and I recommend it highly to any action game fan.

Buy it here:

US Version - PS3
US Version - 360
JP Version - PS3
JP Version - 360

17 comments:

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何それ
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