Through the years, I have made it clear that I am an unabashed fan of Koei’s Dynasty Warriors franchise. In fact, I would direct your attention to my Dynasty Warriors 7 review for more information on my feelings. Suffice to say, I think it is fair when people regard yet another entry into the franchise with skepticism. But familiarity isn’t always a bad thing, and Koei has really found their groove with this particular title. In fact, I feel comfortable saying that the PS Vita is the platform on which the series is best experienced. I’d even venture to say I’m not sure I’ll play the series on console again after playing it on Vita.
Fans of the series will find Dynasty Warriors Next continues the tradition of “more of the same with slight tweaks,” but those tweaks are noticeable and game-improving. Returning are the Campaign and Conquest modes, which allow you to play through the story of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, or pick your own adventure. The Campaign mode, while often forcing you to control various characters as the story sees fit, also allows you to unlock items, weapons, horse saddles, characters, and design elements for the Customizer. Conquest mode is still my favorite for its freedom of maps and characters, and still allows you to methodically take over the map, one province at a time.
Before each invasion you need to decide your Strategem, which allows you to spend gold to use one or more generals’ special stats. For instance, some generals increase your personal attack speed or strength, while others bolster your army’s defense or attack. The more expensive options are worth the extra coin, depending on the particular map you are heading into — bolstering your main camp isn’t always necessary, but on certain maps you’ll be glad you did.
Between invasions, the game inserts interludes which usually involve the peasants from a province complaining locusts have destroyed their crops, or they are unhappy with your tax rate. These little asides can greatly affect your next invasion as they take money away or, on occasion, provide a big boost (old school gamers may find themselves making Oregon Trail jokes). These interludes are also where any discussions between generals will take place, such as Cao Cao admiring Liu Bei’s skill as a warrior. Scintillating.
Combat is now a mixture of button mashing and touch controls (more on that below), and it is every bit as stress-relieving as its console counterpart. The camera is a bit feisty, but never grating.
The game still insists on starting you with the three “main” generals of each faction, and forces you to unlock the rest, which is still a mild irritation to long-time fans. Fortunately, the character customizer is one of the best yet, with the characters looking every bit as detailed and fancy as the “real” characters, which means I can just make a girl to play rather than pout that Da Qiao isn’t available at the onset. Gathering sets of armor and weapons for the customizer can prove to be addicting, as well.
When use of the Vita’s various features works, it works great. When they don’t work, it is a little cumbersome. For instance, on occasion the game will prompt you that enemy soldiers are ambushing you, and you must either slash (or “flick” as they call it) your fingers on the touch screen at incoming arrow attacks, or vigorously slash your fingers across incoming foot soldiers. It’s enjoyable and while not terribly challenging, it breaks up the monotony of continually charging into battle.
Some musou attacks are enhanced by repeatedly tapping or slashing the front and rear touch screens and these also work well. The musou attacks which require gamers to shake the Vita are less enjoyable. The shaking mechanic is clunky and feels awkward, especially when playing in public. (Nothing like a grown woman actively shaking a gaming device in the middle of a crowded train, eh?)
On the list of “meh” features is the Duel system. In many maps, when you encounter the final general (or, in some maps, big name generals such as Lu Bu), you will enter in a duel. This system is designed to utilize many of the touchscreen controls used throughout the game, but it occasionally feels unwieldy. Also, it’s impossible to not draw comparison between it and Infinity Blade.
Despite some of the clunky features, bad dialog, voice work and same-old story, Dynasty Warriors Next is a great game. The fast-paced, mindless hack-and-slash for which the series is renowned is perfect for on-the-go, commuter game play. The divisions of campaign maps also works well for the 45 minute train ride, or two hour DMV line.
Fans of Dynasty Warriors should consider this a must-buy for the PS Vita. If you’ve never played Dynasty Warriors before, this is the perfect intro to the series, but if Dynasty Warriors isn’t your “thing,” I doubt this will woo you over.
As first seen on VideoGameWriters.com