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.

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Should I Buy? – Warriors Orochi 3


The works of Koei, now Tecmo-Koei, are a rather love it or hate it affair. Koei is best known for its two Warriors series, Dynasty Warriors set in the Three Kingdoms Era of ancient China and Samurai Warriors set in the Sengoku Jidai of feudal Japan.

They both follow the same basic hack’n’slash structure, you choose a character and beat up on folk through a recreation of a historical battle. In Japan they’re well received, but in the West they’ve never really caught on thanks in part to critics deriding the entire series as repetitive regardless of what changes were actually made between iterations.

Warriors Orochi is a subseries which unites the casts of Dynasty and Samurai Warriors into one game. Why? Because it’s freakin’ awesome, that’s why. With WO3 some of the greatest warriors, strategists and leaders of Asian history are united to wage war against demons. See what I meant when I said it was an awesome premise?

Those of you who have played a Warriors game before will find the basic combat mechanics incredibly familiar, as this is essentially more of that. For those of you who haven’t, each character has a one note personality, a ridiculous weapon and can string together a variety of combos from their “Normal”, “Charge” and “Musou” attacks to slaughter waves of footsoliders and the occasional enemy officer.

So, the excuse to have Oda Nobunaga facing off against Guan Yu this time is that several years after the events of WO2, the demon army returns with a giant 8-headed Hydra at the…head of it. Unfortunately, the war against the Hydra goes south and we start the game with only three of the game’s impressive 132 playable characters still alive. And so just when it seems that Sima Zhao,  Ma Chao and Takenaka Hanbie are about to fall, the Mystic Kaguya rescues them and takes them back in time to find a way to destroy the Hydra.

From here the game’s story consists of the various characters using their knowledge of the past and future to revisit important battles in order to turn the war around. This makes for a surprisingly interesting tale, where one character can lament the loss of a close friend, only to travel back in time and save them.

I appreciate and admire Koei’s attempt to craft more engaging and mature stories for their Warriors games over the years, but WO3 won’t knock your socks off in the story department. While it’s perfectly competent in what it tries to achieve, with such a huge cast it can’t ever focus on the development of the major characters that would be necessary for a truly engrossing story.

Attempts have been made to invigorate the combat with a few extra tweaks that keep things flowing faster. For example, you can now combo straight off of a rush attack and switching a character mid combo will make them come out swinging, allowing you to extend your combo with all the tricks your two allies can bring to the table. All these changes work and give you a lot of new options to experiment with.

Unfortunately, most of the characters who lost their unique fighting styles in Dynasty Warriors 7 don’t regain them here, though there has been some effort to shake things up. As a tradeoff for this though, each character is stuck with one weapon style instead of being able to chop and change between two on the fly.

The shared movesets aren’t as annoying here as they were in DW7 because A) you have dozens more characters to play with and B) the focus on the more obscure characters means that you won’t have to put up with the damned Spear and Sword movesets all the time.

Tecmo-Koei have come up with a rather elegant solution to the problem of managing the huge cast. Each mission has a set of “Recommended” characters, who often tie in to the particular story thread at hand. Thanks to the “Growth Points” system, you won’t have to keep on carting a load of level one characters into battle. Growth Points are basically EXP that gets put into a bank from which you can assign them to any character you like.

Though you can get a good few days out of the Story Mode, once it’s done you can’t restart it without making a fresh save. You still get the pre and post mission briefing, but not the connecting cutscenes and such. If you’re not the sort of person who can keep replaying old battles without a sense context, this might give you problems.

Another potential problem is that each battle is very much intended to fill a role within the story, and as such are highly based around completing certain objectives and not big pitched battles. Sure, you can ignore these objectives, but this will often lead to the odds becoming highly stacked against you.

Unfortunately there’s no “Legendary Battles” for each character like some of the other games, or versions of famous battles like Sekigahara or Chi Bi to play. That a few of the maps get recycled isn’t as much of a problem, however, as they’re not that common and each time it does happen, the allied and enemy armies tend to be laid out in completely different patterns.

There are a few other things I should mention. the most important is the lack of English voice acting in this game. Though everything has subtitles, some people may be put off by this (especially as it has that problem where the text is tiny if you’re not using an HD TV).

There’s nothing wrong with the Japanese VAs, though I found myself thrown by how wildly differently some of the characters sounded between versions.  The biggest of these was the contrast between Guo Huai’s deep raspy death rattle in the English version and his high-pitched Japanese version.

The other thing to mention is that this game includes a number of guest character from various Tecmo franchises. Included are Ayane from Dead Or Alive, Ryu Hyabusa from Ninja Gaiden, Joan of Arc from Bladestorm: Hundred Year War, Achilles from Warriors: Legends of Troy and Nemea from Trinity: Souls Of Zill O’Ill. Which is pretty cool.

It’s pretty fair to say that you’ll get out of Warriors Orochi 3 what you get out of any Warriors game. If you’ve never played one, this game is an acquired taste but if it grooves with you there’s a lot to be got out of it.

The various team mechanics and overall polish can make for a lot of crazy combo options, combined with the numerous difficulty settings means there’s a lot here for players who like to master a game to find. If you’re after something casual then playing a few battles on Easy Mode every now and again is a fun way to pass the time, especially with a friend.

But if you’re after a great story then this isn’t the game for you. As nicely as it’s presented, this game is about the mechanics first and foremost.

Warriors Orochi 3 is available on XBOX 360 and PS3, although it is exclusively a digital download for the PS3.

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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