Dynasty Warriors NEXT
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: February 22, 2012
Price: $39.99 – Available Here
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms has been a source of inspiration for many video games from Tecmo Koei and one of these inspired series has seen quite a few releases over the years across many different platforms. I’m speaking of course, about Dynasty Warriors. With the launch of the PlayStation Vita Tecmo Koei has set Dynasty Warriors NEXT loose on the public, aiming to wow the world with what Dynasty Warriors can do when handed the Vita’s capabilities. Is Dynasty Warriors NEXT a true warrior of the Three Kingdoms or will it fall like the Han Dynasty?
As with every other Dynasty Warriors game since the series was created, the storyline follows the Romance of the Three Kingdoms all the way from the Yellow Turbans Rebellion to where the Wei, Wu, and Shu empires battle against one another in an effort to unite all of the land under their rule. While the presentation of the story takes a bit of a different approach from what fans may be used to, the storyline is still the same as before so don’t expect too many surprises here.
The story mode of Dynasty Warriors NEXT takes place during the Campaign option, where a multitude of scenarios are presented. At the start of each campaign a video plays that introduces the player to what will be happening during that part of the story as well as providing a bit of background. Between various battles players will also be treated to some small conversations between the characters, however as before the storyline feels like something we’ve seen plenty of times before, retold in a different way.
If you had to pick a title among the launch line-up that would demonstrate what the PlayStation Vita is capable of, then Dynasty Warriors NEXT would be a perfect example. At any given time there can be a hundred different soldiers on the battlefield at any given time, this includes both ally and enemy soldier alike. At worst I only experienced minor slowdowns when performing a musou attack on a very large amount of enemies, only for the game to pick right back up with its impressive frame-rate.
As far as the quality of the graphics go, Dynasty Warriors NEXT manages to look just as good as the ones available on the home consoles, though some of the musou attack effects have been toned down slightly to accommodate the frame-rate. Enemy soldiers retain their samey appearance, however are varied in appearance according to their soldier-type.
Another plus for NEXT is that all of the cutscenes that you are treated to in the campaign are absolutely gorgeous. These cutscenes rival those that you would have been treated to on current generations and watching them on the large Vita screen makes for an impressive showing.
It appears that nearly every voice actor that has performed characters in the past Dynasty Warrior games has managed to retain their roles and handle the voice work yet again for NEXT. This is rather impressive, as although the uttered phrases can become grating after multiple repetitions, all of the battles in Dynasty Warriors NEXT are fully voiced meaning you’ll hear the yells of soldiers, challenges/retreats from opposing generals, support/help from allies and story content all spoken aloud.
As for the background music, it feels like a lot of the music was recycled from past games with plenty of fast paced music that is suited to the amount of action going on screen at any given time, although it would have been nice to see a little change of pace given the fact that nearly every piece of music sounds the same after a very brief time of listening to it.
Are you ready to slay droves similar looking soldiers, leaving hundreds of bodies in your wake to pave the way for a unified land? Then you best get your fingers ready, because most of what made Dynasty Warriors great and enjoyable for its fans has returned. Players will be controlling a single warrior on the battlefield and is tasked with capturing the enemies’ bases while also defeating anyone who stands in their way.
Dynasty Warriors NEXT keeps plenty of things similar to past titles, however there are plenty of changes to keep the game fresh for returning players, most of which involve the Vita’s unique capabilities. But first let us go with how you will progress from battle to battle. In the game’s campaign mode, rather than follow an individual story for each character players will take part in various scenarios each occurring on selected parts of China. In these scenarios players will be presented with a map of China, where they are shown what territories they own, and what the enemy does. This is more or less a level select screen, though players can only invade territories adjacent to ones they already rule.
Before entering battle, players will accrue gold for each region they own, this gold can then be used on Strategems, various special boosts that are granted for a price by the warriors currently fighting alongside you. The Strategems range from increasing the attack and defense of a player, the speed of their player, boosting their army defense and more. Also players are able to equip various weapons and accessories before they enter a battle which boosts their abilities in one way or another.
As you enter a battle in Campaign mode, you will occasionally be able to choose which warrior you want to play as, however there are multiple times you will be forced to play as a certain warrior for story purposes which somewhat limits your choices. Besides slaying hundreds of enemy soldiers and officers, Dynasty Warriors has also always focused around Bases; however in NEXT they are more important than ever.
As you enter combat, the map is split between your allied bases and the enemies’ bases, with most goals being the capture of the enemies’ main camp or the defeat of the enemy leader who stays in the main camp. In NEXT bases offer quite a strategic bonus as well, supply bases provide healing items that spawn occasionally while magical bases will prevent other nearby bases from being captured and there are even bases which spawn wolves, tigers and even panda bears to help you out in battle. To make things even more heavily focused on the bases, the more you capture the harder it is for your own main base to be taken, which means the more you capture from your enemy the easier it will be to take them down.
While capturing a base may be something simple, simply murder everyone inside until you bring the enemy counter to zero and it is yours, NEXT introduces something called the “break” meter which fills up as you deal out long running combo attacks which can range into the thousands. This break meter can be activated through the use of a simple tap on the middle of the touchscreen, allowing for the instant capture of any camp minus the main camp.
Dynasty Warriors NEXT takes full advantage of what the PlayStation Vita has to offer, by creating a vast amount of mechanics that focus solely on the touchscreen or motion sensing system. The powerful musou attack has been modified to make use of the touchscreen, though it is possible to use a standard musou attack still through the O button. Whenever the musou meter is full the player can activate their attack by taping both sides of the screen which then creates a little mini-game where players must do a number of different things to create a more powerful special attack. These range from using the back touchpad to deal damage to enemies on that part of the screen, tracing circles to create large whirlwinds, shaking the Vita to slam the ground or even direct your attacks with swipes at the enemy. This creates a very enjoyable and satisfying experience that makes the musou attacks all the more special, especially when you can annihilate hundreds of soldiers if done properly.
However the touchscreen is used for much more than musou attacks. A new Duel mode has been added into NEXT where players will have to face off against an enemy officer in a one-on-one battle where everything is done using the touchscreen. To perform attacks you swipe the screen, however you cannot block for some strange reason, which creates quite an issue with the pacing of the battles. Since players cannot block the duels turn into a sluggish affair, where attacking recklessly can cause you to be defeated easily, which means you must simply watch the enemy and wait for an opening. These duels feel extremely forced at times, and indeed are. It is understandable that some enemy officers would need to be dueled; however this sometimes occurs three times in one battle (even against non-unique officers), creating an arduous affair that quickly becomes annoying to deal with.
Also interspersed throughout each battle are squads of enemies which will ambush you in any number of ways. This means there are times a group of enemy soldiers will jump into the air and you must move the Vita around to see them all, tapping them to kill them. Other times players may need to swipe arrows, bombs, and even magic out of the air. These are enjoyable and break up the button mashing of the standard game.
There are also a number of minigames that help break up the pace of the game as these can come in-between battles or also can be activated at the main screen. These range from an enjoyable horse racing game which makes use of the gyroscope, attacking incoming enemies with a swipe of your finger or even aiming at enemies with a giant arrow-machinegun. However one minigame is absolutely terrible and that is calligraphy. This minigame features a Chinese symbol hidden on a screen where players must use the rear touchpad to uncover the entire symbol before writing it on the front; however it is quite difficult and annoying to perform.
Returning for NEXT is the edit mode that allows you to create an original warrior of your very own, allowing you to equip various unlocked gear you unlocked as you level up. You can then take these created characters, as well as officers from the main game and enter into Conquest mode, a non-story related mode that features the same type of gameplay as the Campaign mode with a few adjustments. For example you will need to take over every region to win any given Conquest scenario, however you can only invade regions which have a smaller number than your own. Each area can be leveled up whenever it is your turn; however the enemy can also conquer your areas without a fight, making the entire mode like a more complicated version of Risk.
Another interesting feature in Conquest mode is that it can collect data from other Dynasty Warriors NEXT players and take their custom characters and populate your game with them. This means the enemies’ warlord could possibly be a created character of some unknown origin. Unfortunately there is no other multiplayer mode besides an ad hoc mode that I was unable to use.
Dynasty Warriors NEXT doesn’t change up its standard formula too much, however with the touchscreen capabilities of the PlayStation Vita change-up the standard hack n’ slashing in an interesting and unique way when they don’t shoehorn you into using them constantly. With battles being more strategic than ever and the constant fun of being able to destroy hundreds of soldiers makes Dynasty Warriors NEXT one of the best titles available in the PlayStation Vita’s launch line-up.