I’ve always had a soft spot for the Dynasty Warriors series. I can remember the months of anticipation, waiting for Dynasty Warriors 2 to come with the launch of the PS2. When the day came and the game was finally in my hands, I called every friend in a ten block radius to
come over and play it. “Look at all the enemies!” we cried as we defeated soldier after soldier, mashing the square and triangle buttons with glee. With some 13 games in the main series and countless spinoffs, developer Omega Force has had one heck of a time keeping the series fresh. Will the Vita’s touch controls be the series’ saving grace, ushering it into a new era? The answer, I’m sorry to say, is a resounding “no”.
The story behind Dynasty Warriors Next is nothing new. Like past games in the series, the game’s story is loosely based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and takes place in feudal China. The story plays out over a mix of delightfully overacted cutscenes and voiceovers. The
cutscenes are on par with many of the series’ console releases and look particular vivid and detailed on the Vita’s HD screen. Those of you who enjoy 70′s Kung-Fu flicks will surely get a kick out of them, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably end up watching Bruce Lee flicks afterwards.
Before players can actually begin slicing and dicing their way through enemies in the campaign mode, they’ll find themselves presented with a large overhead map, showing who controls what area and where players can attack next. Players will also have the chance to choose up to
four different stratagems, or abilities, that give your character various boosts and bonuses during battle. These elements are all welcome additions to the game, adding the feeling of playing a big, virtual board game in between actual battles.
The gameplay, at its most basic, is exactly what players have come to expect. The Dynasty Warriors series has always been simple fun. Approach the bad guys, beat ‘em up, approach more bad guys, beat them up. Wash, rinse, repeat. Though I was impressed by the sheer numbers of enemies and allies alike swarming across the screen, this part of the game gets stale quickly. It really is same old thing we’ve seen from the series before, though it certainly does look nice. Especially considering that this is a handheld game we’re talking about.
Developer Omega Force does attempt to freshen things up a bit, adding a minimap that players must pay attention to while they’re running about. The minimap displays crucial outposts and fortresses, letting you know if they’re occupied by your allies or the enemy and showing troop movements in real time. Players will have to keep an eye on the map throughout the battle, as enemy forces will constantly attempt to retake outposts once your forces have overtaken them. You can choose to issue orders to your forces via the map or take care of things yourself, running to each point indicated and wreaking havoc. Overall, the minimap adds an element of strategy to the game’s hacking and slashing, though on easier difficulties, players can mostly ignore it and get by unscathed.
The game also tries to break the button mashing monotony with several different touchscreen sequences. At any point during the battle, players may find their character in the middle of an ambush. When that happens, the game switches into a slowed down, “bullet time” (arrow
time?) touchscreen mode. In order to repel the ambush, players will have to frantically tap specific spots on the screen. Though these sequences are a pretty good idea and are initially impressive, they are really nothing more than glorified button mashing sequences. Just all dressed up in a fancy touchscreen package.
The same can be said for battles with other heroes and generals, or duels, which utilize the same type of touchscreen sequence. When the game first described these “boss battles” in a tutorial, I was admittedly intrigued. But in practice, the duels boil down into little more than a test to see how fast you can perform certain motions on the touchscreen. Again, it’s a good idea that falls short and eventually grows boring.
The touchscreen can also be used to go into the charged up “musou mode”. Throughout the battle and as players defeat enemies, their musou bar will gradually fill up. Once the bar is full players will be able to execute one of two special attacks. The “standard” musou mode is
activated by pressing the square button. But the “speed” musou mode is activated by touching both sides of the touch screen at the same time. Once in “speed mode”, the game will have you use the Vita’s specialized controls in various ways, depending on your character. Some will use the rear touch pad, while some will have you shake the Vita, and others will just use the good ‘ol touchscreen. While fun at first, these attacks eventually grow tiresome and I found
myself avoiding them after I knew what each character’s special attack entailed.
Dynasty Warriors Next also employs the Vita’s specialized controls in other less successful, much more rage inducing ways. There are a few horseback sequences that have players use the Vita’s tilt controls to dodge obstacles. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how this made
it through the play testing without someone saying, “Hey guys, this is terrible”. These sequences are largely awful and absolutely do not work. Unlike the touchscreen sequences mentioned above, I’m not even sure how anyone thought this was a good idea. It really is
The game’s other modes are okay. Conquest mode plays out similar to a game of Risk, allowing you to invade weaker territories adjacent from yours on the map. Before each turn, a random territory of yours will receive a level boost, adding an element of randomness to your conquesting strategy. It is worth noting that this mode does give players a bit more freedom than the campaign does with regards to who they can choose to attack. Gala mode is nothing special and lets you play through minigames that you’ve unlocked, allowing you to keep track of and beat your past high scores. These minigames are a mixed bag, using the Vita’s various specialized controls and even the Augmented Reality components.
All in all, Dynasty Warriors Next falls short, and while it may do the Dynasty Warriors “thing” well, it suffers from a serious case of redundancy. Maybe those looking for some mindless fun will get something out of it, but those looking for a deeper experience should stay away. If you’re really jonesin’ for some Three Kingdoms era fun, do yourself a favor and pick up Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI.
Dynasty Warriors Next was released on February 22nd, 2012 for the PlayStation Vita.