I’ll be the first to admit that I approached Dynasty Warriors Next with quite a bit of hesitation. The series has been around since 1997, when it launched on the original PlayStation, with The Warriors series by developer Omega Force and publisher Tecmo Koei mostly known for releasing a new version basically every year, without much change to the game itself. But then again, the Dynasty Warriors franchise is Tecmo Koei’s bestselling, so you never know what to expect. Here we have Dynasty Warriors Next, a launch title for the PlayStation Vita. – does this latest entry invigorate the longrunning series, or is this game best left for diehard fans? Find out in our review.
For those who may not know, the Dynasty Warriors series is heavily influenced by the Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which recounts the battles and struggles which took place during the Han Dynasty in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. That particular novel has hundreds of characters, and Dynasty Warriors sure feels like it brings a lot of them along for the ride. The story is told through exchanges between a few key characters for the given chapter that you are in between battles, as well as some pre-rendered cutscenes after thr defeat of a boss, to set the stage for the next chapter. Unless you’re very familiar with the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and/or Dynasty Warriors, you’ll probably get a bit lost. The cutscenes as well as the exchanges are all fully voiced, which is always a great thing to see. Heck, there’s even a narrator! For those into the series, this can create quite the immersive experience.
Conquering lands is the name of the game in Dynasty Warriors Next, and you’ll be doing a lot of it. Ancient China was often divided up into various sects, which makes for a lot of battlefields. You’ll do combat in various locations throughout the country, though it doesn’t really do much to add variety to combat. Next‘s combat system is decidedly simple on the surface, as it has been for most of the series. Mashing square and triangle in various combos can definitely get the job done as your character will slice and dice thousands of enemies in a single battle. Throw in circle for a sweeping attack to throw enemies up into the air, a speed/chain attack button, and running charges, and suddenly you can get pretty creative when dispatching entire armies. You can mount horses and attack from up high, assuming you can get on one in the first place – they can be hard to jump on at times. Adding various items to your character pre-battle will give you various bonuses, from more valuable weapon drops to attacks that have a chance of setting fire to or freezing enemies.
If all of that sounds like fun, that’s because it is. But wait! We’re playing on the PlayStation Vita. Omega Force did indeed decide to use all the unique control options the Vita affords to add some spice to your slice. For starters, each character has two super moves, dubbed Musou and Speed Musou, both of which are earned when their respective energy bars are filled by landing hits on the enemy. Musou is triggered by simply tapping the front touchscreen anywhere, or pressing circle. This launches a devastating attack on surround enemies, and if done within an enemy force’s location currently available for capture, that control point is permanently yours for the duration of the battle. Speed Musou moves are triggered by tapping the touchscreen with two fingers, one on each side. The actual attack varies based on your character, but involves swiping at the touchscreen, tapping or swiping the rear touchpad, shaking the Vita in rhythm to the attack animations, and more. While this attack doesn’t capture an area like Musou attacks, they are still pretty powerful and will decimate an area.
The Vita integration doesn’t end there. You can customize your character using the camera, and battles are interspersed with random ambushes. These require quick reflexes to avoid damage on your character. Enemies will charge at you or fire projectiles, and you’ll have to swipe or tap at the screen to deflect these random events, occasionally using the Vita as an in-game camera to find every enemy about to come down on you. There are also duels against boss characters, which basically boil down to furiously swiping at the screen until you inevitably win. The whole game has you feeling like an overpowered warlord, in fact. On normal difficulty you won’t really have many problems obtaining victory.
Dynasty Warriors Next isn’t without its faults. This is still a game mostly for fans – combat may have been helped with the Vita enhancements, but since you need to build up those Musou bars, expect to continue to mash the square and triangle buttons a lot. The graphics are nothing out of the ordinary, though the player’s character model has a crisp, new-gen look to it. Since Dynasty Warriors is all about wiping out thousands of enemies, there is a ton of pop-in of enemies. They often spawn right next to you, simply fading in to existence. These enemies also don’t look too pretty – they’re bland and generally insignificant. Important and boss characters have more detail to them, however. The battlefields themselves are also pretty drab, and if you’ve seen one patch of grass here, you’ve seen them all. But the good news is that the frame rate remains constant, ensuring that you can destroy those thousands of enemies with nary a hiccup. Online support is here as well, though it appears you fight randomly against ghost data of another gamer. This even occurs in between battles in the campaign, with no option to decline the duel.
Dynasty Warriors Next shows us that the series still has some life left in it. The addition of various Vita technology adds to gameplay, rather than detracting and feeling forced on you. Yes, the combat is mostly repetitive, and yes, the graphics are nothing to write home about. But with plenty of items to collect and various strategies to try before going into battle, Omega Force has made some significant changes that change up the monotony of battle. Newcomers to the Dynasty Warriors franchise may want to rent Next first, but this is a definite buy for the fan.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+ PS Vita controls feel right and help to break up the monotony.
– Combat is still mostly repetitive, graphics lackluster, story a bit convoluted.