Should I Buy? – Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3

I don’t make any secret of the fact that I really like the Dynasty Warriors games and the associated spinoffs, something which is not common among a lot of professional reviewers due to how “formulaic” and “repetitive” the games are.

Usually I take umbridge with those words attached to a Dynasty Warriors game as I roll my eyes and go through the mental Rolodex of redesigned maps, new mechanics, tweaked movesets, overhauled weapon systems, brand new characters or gradual improvements in storytelling each iteration brings. But with Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3  those words really do feel applicable, at least to the game itself.

By the way, if you’re a Gundam fan looking to see if your favourite characters, Mobile Suits, musical tracks or whatever are recreated for you to play with I’m afraid I hadn’t seen a single episode before playing this game so I can’t help you there. Also, I haven’t played the two preceeding DWG games so I don’t know how much has changed for this third installment.  I’m sure it’s a big deal to some of you out there that Ribbons Alamark and Char Aznable can go Mobile Suit-to-Mobile Suit or have Setsuna and Amuro fighting hoardes of Zukos back to back.

Despite the same huge cast of loosely connected characters and frantic button-mashing combat being in place from the DW franchise, this game feels a lot different from the main series.

All the battles take place on a handful of small maps, made up of connected “Fields” that you battle for control for. Whenever one side loses a Field, their special gauge at the top of the screen drops by a certain amount. Once below 50%, an army’s Ace Pilots can no longer respawn and the powerful laser cannons at their Headquarters are powered down, making it that easier to move in for the kill.

In and of itself, this promotes moving fast from Field to Field, taking them from your enemies and claiming neutral ones in a furious, explosion filled tug of war. Thankfully, this isn’t all there is to it, as certain Fields are special bases that confer bonuses to the army that control them and provide incentive to pick a certain route through the battlefield and prioritise your target instead of just hitting everything you come across with laser swords.

Given that the special objectives in missions are both rare and seem to revolve entirely around which random Ace Pilots seem to be on the field (i.e. only Seabook ever gets ambushed by ‘Bugs’ that you have to save him from) this rinse and repeat formula of field claiming isn’t enough to sustain long missions. Which probably makes it a good thing that this game *has* no long missions. It’s always the same few small maps to scrap your way through.

I can’t really call that a problem though, the game doesn’t go all out on a story mode that would make such missions necessary and the fast pace of the game will probably ensure you don’t notice. Given that you’re into effortlessly slicing through hords of giant robots with laser swords on Easy, or mastering combo strings and block timing and emergency dash on Hard, that is.

Often Dynasty Warriors games bore me because their pace can be too slow depending on my mood, so pumping the action to a break-neck  pace is pretty much the perfect method of enrapturing me. Of course, everybody’s tolerance for repetitive missions and button-mashing is different so while it worked for me better than just about any previous DW titles, you know your own limits on the subject way better than I could.

I mentioned the story mode not being up to much above, and it’s really not. Each character (seemingly at random) is part of one of several groups who band together after finding themselves in some mysterious alternate dimension, and start battling over control of several self-replicating facilities. Each group goes through exactly the same motions, so only the characters spouting the lines are really any different. I’m sure all the people forced together by the whims of fate means something to a Gundam fan, but as I said before I don’t have that connection to the source material.

Aside from the story missions (which will probably take you a few days to get all the way through, just going by the sheer number of them), there’s an array of extra ones for specific purposes. History missions let you replay battles from the different shows, Collection missions let you fight themed collections of Mobile Suits to get the Plans for certain types, Relationship Missions let you get a huge boost to your Friendship with certain characters, etc.

Oh yes, Friendships.  You can forge one with each character in the game and levelling it up to certain levels confers bonuses, like being able to call on them for special attacks or unlocking them as either your mission control or a playable pilot. The system for levelling them up isn’t entirely explained and as such seems a bit random, but I can’t really think of a better way it could have been done that wouldn’t have made the production team cry for a week and go on crunch for an extra six months.

The music? The same high octane metal guitars DW games are famed for. The visual design? A cel-shaded approach which often comes off more as a really great 3d anime than it does a cel-shaded videogame. Seriously, it took me a long time to realise it even was cel-shaded.

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 is no work of art, but it’s a fast, fun experience full of giant robots, laser swords and plentiful explosions. Except for the final boss. Seriously, even on Easy, that guy is some of if not *the* biggest bullshit, fake challenge I’ve ever come across in a videogame. Seriously, fuck that guy.


Should I Buy? – Dynasty Warriors 5

Some days you don’t want to dine on fine cuisine, or even on on your regular culinary fare. You just want junk. It’s cheap, quick, tasty and satisying in its own way. And that’s pretty much how I view the Dynasty Warriors franchise. It’s my gaming junk food.

Despite this review being for number five, there’s no need to have ever played the previous entries as each game is set in the same conflict with the same characters, with each game adding in a new fighters and redesigning the maps. The conflict in question is the Three Kingdoms Era of Ancient China, both the actual history and the popular historical novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Basically, the previous Imperial Dynasty, the Han, fell out of power due to internal corruption and the lack of a strong successor to the line and China pretty much fell apart into a giant, bloody civil war.

And so the game places you in the shoes of one of 48 different fighters who you then lead through a series of historical battles. Exactly which ones is dedicated by the character you pick, with five for your average character and eight if the guy lead a kingdom. The intention was to give each character a storyline based on their historical actions but all too often a character’s actual goals are either so damn vague or gets completely forgotten that ‘uniting the land’ becomes their big ending.

A few characters avert this and almost forge credible storylines. Sun Ce’s story only goes as far as he historically lives, and then hints at the illness which killed him for example, and Zhang Fei’s stops after he rescues his sworn brother from what was historically his death. It’s ones like these that make for the better storylines, as they feel a lot more credible and almost manage something resembling a narrative arc.

Still, with characterisation so broad and voice acting so hammy plot was obviously not a major concern. Instead, this game is all about the battles. And yeah, these work. The maps are well refined and uncomplicated, each one will be teeming with enemies to fight and an effort is made to insert reasonably historically accurate events into each map like fire attacks, betrayals and ambushes.

A lot of these events require player intervention to turn out positively as the people necessary to accomplish them tend to die or fail to reach the required area in time if left to their own devices. While this can be annoying when playing the battle for the damn hundredth time, you’re pretty much doing all the work on every map anyway. If you go out of your way to activate the events that lower enemy morale your allies will start to eat through the enemy forces and kill the generals, but never while you’re onscreen and 99.9% of the time you’ll be the one killing the enemy commander.

The fighting itself is simple. Square is attack. You can mix this up with Charge attacks by pressing triangle. When your Musuo bar is full, press circle to do a really big attack. There are other things like archery and horseback riding that can mix things up, but not enough to ever be important.

The amount of attacks you can string together is determined by your weapon. The only way to acquire new ones is to pick them up from certain crates or defeated officers. Whether or not this weapon will be useful is random, you can get an awesome top tier weapon on your first battle or never encounter anything beyond your base weapon in your entire playthrough. This rarely happens, but it can be incredibly frustrating and really cripple your performance.

For the most part the characters are unique enough for the game to get away with its ridiculous roster size. A few like Xiahou Yuan and Huang Zhong are a bit too similar, and some like Diao Chan feel unbalanced or just plain bad. Their personalities are pretty much all one note as well. Ma Chao is ‘angry honour guy’, Cao Ren is ‘doesn’t like war guy’ and Sun Shang Xiang is ‘tomboy’ etc. Characterisation isn’t too much of a concern, but the game constantly tries to make you care throughout their storylines. At least you can laugh at the bad voice acting.

Despite the fact I’ve spent pretty much the whole review finding flaws with this game, I still recommend it. Like I said, it’s junk food. The gameplay is solid enough to play this for hours and even the battles you’ll see dozens of times like Chi Bi and Hu Lao Gate never get truly annoying. Plus, through playing these games and reading the in-game encyclopaedia I’ve learnt a lot about what is a really fascinating period of Chinese history and that’s always a plus.

Price: PS2 – £3.50 (CEX)
XBOX – £7 (CEX)

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