The knock you'll often hear about long-running franchises is that they become increasingly complicated as the series grows and evolves. Somebody new to the Assassin's Creed universe will likely be completely overwhelmed by the dozens of disparate modes that include everything from farming the homestead to recruiting fellow assassins to customizing a pirate ship. And despite playing a lot of John Madden Football '93 on my Sega Genesis, I always feel lost and confused when playing the newer iterations.
I'm not sure why, but I expected Dynasty Warriors to fall into this category. Although I've dabbled with a few of the installments over the years, it was never enough to form much of an opinion. They always seemed very simplistic, so I assumed the developers were constantly adding exciting new gameplay elements and modes with each sequel and spin-off. I went into this game expecting to be overwhelmed by the changes, ready to learn a bunch of new play mechanics and marvel at the improvements. Sadly, that is not the case with Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn.
Don't get me wrong, this new PlayStation 3 sequel still offers the same thrills gamers have come to expect from the 17-year-old franchise. But even though I was fighting my way through hundreds of enemies at once, I couldn't help but wonder why the Dynasty Warriors games haven't evolved. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn is a perfectly passable action game that will likely satisfy the loyal base of fans, but this is one series that is in serious need of a major overhaul.
Regardless of whether they're in space or ancient China, the objective remains the same. You'll play a strong warrior who is somehow able to fight off hordes of enemies, simulating the chaos of a real battlefield. This hero will need to race around a large open level not only taking on hundreds of soldiers, but also finding and killing their leaders. If our brave hero can take back the red enemy territory, then they'll move on to the next stage and do it all over again.
The gimmick here is that players are controlling popular Gundam characters. This means that most of our battles are waged against robot creatures and other giant mechs. Instead of telling one long story, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn is split up between six different episodes, each telling their own story through lengthy cut scenes. Fans of the anime will feel at home, as all six are based on different Gundam movies. This package includes Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed and Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny. Phew.
As somebody with only a passing interest in the series, I was eager to experience these stories I've heard people rave about. I figured that I was in for a real treat, full of great anime cinemas and explosive video game action. And yet again, I was letdown by this Dynasty Warriors game. I'm sure the original movies are incredible, but I had a hard time warming up to the stories the way they are presented in this game.
Instead of watching fully animated scenes, we're stuck watching conversations between still images. There are a few in-game cut scenes, but even those aren't as exciting as you would expect from a game about giant mechs. These are over-the-top characters stuck in a futuristic fight, and yet all this feels so mundane because of the way the narration is handled.
The gameplay is also disappointing, offering little more than shallow hack and slash. Players fight off enemy hordes with both short and long-range attacks, which includes a sword and gun. You can also radio in for backup, and use your special abilities to become even more powerful. This works well at cutting through the many, many bad guys, but I wish there was more to it. I quickly grew bored of the repetition and had a hard time staying interested in the dull missions.
Oddly enough, my favorite parts of the game are also the worst. I enjoyed seeing the large bosses show up, if only because it broke up the monotony of the rest of the missions. However, these boss fights aren't very good. They offer different weak points to hit, which is tough when your suit is so limited. These fights left me with a lot of mixed feelings, but at least they were a change of pace.
It's worth noting that Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn has a lot of customization options, which does offer some much-needed depth. While it's nowhere near the level of Armored Core, I was impressed by the different gear players can snag throughout the six stories. I also liked how different each character handled. There are slow and lumbering mechs, as well as small and quick characters. I really enjoyed testing them out, but wished they could be in a more interesting action game.
No matter how interesting your customized character is, you're still stuck fighting through dull corridors. There are only a handful of locations to fight in, and none of them have much going on visually. This may have something to do with the amount of bad guys on screen at any given time, but I couldn't get into the way the stages looked.
It's a shame this series hasn't figured out how to evolve. I was reminded of Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes, a similar action game with a medieval setting and rockin' heavy metal soundtrack. What set the game apart was the ability to command your armies in what amounted to lite real-time strategy elements. You never had a chance to get sick of the shallow gameplay, because hacking and slashing was always broken up by ordering your units around.
I'm not saying that Dynasty Warriors needs to become an RTS, but this series does need to do something. Any good elements in this game are marred by the dull and repetitive gameplay. Couple that with the boring storytelling and the ugly levels, and you have a game that I can only recommend to die-hard fans. People who love Gundam and Dynasty Warriors deserve better than Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.