Did you know that there are nearly 40 games that have been released in the Dynasty Warriors franchise? Since the original, one-on-one fighter was released on the original PlayStation back in 1997, there have been a TON of sequels and spin-offs for the series and fans of the tale have poured hundreds, if not thousands, of hours into the franchise. When Dynasty Warriors 8 was released last year, it received rave reviews among fans of the series and was widely labeled as one of the, if not the, best entry in the franchise. Now, a year later, the game is getting both an update in the form of the Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends (DW8XL) and being ported to two the PS4 and the Vita.
The Vita version in particular is a nice addition to the franchises family, but unfortunately is falls short of the greatness that the console version(s) of the same game achieve. This direct port of the console versions of the game, which can be both good and bad. On the positive side of things, it features every bit of the content that was packed into the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game, including more than 80 playable characters, tons of modes, and enough replay value to keep you busy for months (literally).
Once again, you are tasked with playing out historic battles from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms saga. This basically basically amounts to an exaggerated retelling of factual events, with a ton of style. You are given the control to determine the outcomes through your gameplay, although the amount of branching done overall is sort of limited. This all plays out over a heavy metal soundtrack that maintains an intense pacing from start to finish.
As usual with nearly all Dynasty Warrior games, the writing is laughably bad and the voice overs (at least the English track) are horrid. However, to be honest, that has become a bit of a staple for the franchise; it is in the gameplay department that things excel and draw in the legions of the fans that the series has formed.
Hacking and slashing your way through (literally) hundreds of enemies at a time is about as fun as it gets. There aren’t any overly-complicated mechanics to worry yourself with; no detailed button strings to learn aside from combo patterns (which are all laid out in the pause menu) and easy to trigger EX attacks that show off your characters’ true power. It is simply mindless fun, with a bit of strategy added in for those who want to dig for it as you can unlock and manage hundreds of weapons amongst your roster.
The sheer amount of weapons combined with the game’s “three point system", helps adds some depth to the game in a fashion similar to rock / paper / scissors. Here, all of the weapons are assigned an affinity of Heaven, Earth, or Man; each one is strong against one affinity and strong against the other. You will want to learn about your enemies before your battle via the game’s information pages prior to launching a mission and prepare yourself accordingly. It is a simple concept, but one that can make the difference between running away with a victory and limping off of the battlefield in defeat later in the game.
Fans of the franchise can easily spend a hundred hours or more battling through the game’s various modes. In addition to playing out the actual storyline in both the story and free modes of the game, you can also face off against a variety of preset challenges with a character of your choice, trying to rack up the best score in a limited amount of time. This helps the game show off what it does best, which is let you lay waste to an endless army of enemies which is as addicting as it is enjoyable. There is also a new mode called Ambition, which challenges you to create and defend a base. There is a lot of strategy involved here as you complete missions in order to earn the materials and assets to improve your weapons and your base (or tower, as the game calls it) in preparation for a visit from the Emperor. Ambition mode is a little less structured than the story mode and gives you a bit more freedom to shape the game as you see fit. There is just a ton of stuff to do which should easily keep the game in heavy rotation for months to come.
Unfortunately, the porting of such a robust package to a small-scale platform has come with its own complications. First off, the game struggles technically at times with everything that is going on in the game. You are usually facing off against hundreds of enemies at a time, and this all has to be crammed into the tiny, 5-inch screen. The screen can become incredibly cluttered and the animation can creep to an absolute crawl. The system itself struggles to keep up with everything and this happens quite regularly given the nonstop action in the game. It never gets to a point that it is un-playable, but it definitely hinders the flow of things during the games largest and most intense battles.
The other main issues lie in the fact that no steps were taken to adapt the game to the smaller screen. The mini map of the game is practically unusable given it’s size; everything blends together and just becomes a nuisance in the corner of the screen. The size issues rears its ugly head with any and all text in the game too; it is almost unreadable at times. This stems from the fact that this is simply a console game shoe-horned into portable package, which is an incredibly technical feat in its own right.
While I personally enjoyed DW8:XL, I have to fully acknowledge its seemingly niche focus. The Vita version of the game is a stellar title, but it feels lackluster when compared to the full, console ports. This game was designed for the bigger screen experience, and that really shows through when things reach their most intense moments. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t fun to be had here, because there surely is plenty to be found; you will just find that a little easier if you are familiar with the Dynasty Warriors experience. This seems more like a good companion title to the big-brother versions than it does a standalone title, so don’t expect this one to sell you on the franchise if you haven’t already been sucked in.
If you have been here before, you know the basics: lifelong gamer, father, and of course, certified news monkey. I have been blogging on the industry for close to a decade now, in some form or another. It wasn't until I landed here at Gaming Nexus that I really dove in head first. Now, writing about games has become what I do for fun (and sometimes work) and something I intend on doing until the day I die.
I'm a huge fan of just about everything you can interact with using a controller, no matter how old or new, good or bad. If you put it in front of me, I will play it... end of story.