Played on: Playstation 2
The fifth installment in Koei’s cash cow offers very little that isn’t offered in the previous instalment. In fact, Koei has actually simplified gameplay in Dynasty Warriors 5 by removing all traces of strategy. All I really need to do now is to just pick a character and hack and slash my way to victory. I guess if I want strategy, I’ll have to play the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games, of which Dynasty Warriors is a spin-off of.
Loosely based on the book Romance of the Three Kingdoms, this game requires me to choose a warrior and then complete five stages of mission in the main storyline mode, called “Musou Mode”. There are three levels of difficulty ranging from Easy to Hard, with the toughest level “Chaos” unlocked upon completion of the Hard mode. The funny thing is, this game doesn’t differentiate between characters. The character will be continuously levelled up even if he or she is used by different players at different time, which is to say, if I level up a character to Level 9 and someone else plays the game later and starts a new game using this character, this character begins the game at Level 9 and with all the items and weapons I discovered in my previous game. I can also choose a bodyguard to help me fight from a pool of bodyguards and every character in this game pick from the same pool. Bodyguards are generally not too useful except for those fan-wielding female warriors that can heal my character.
Characters come from the three feuding clans of ancient war torn China, the Shu, the Wei, or the Wu, as well as a few ragtag non-clan characters that ally themselves to one of the three factions. The characters in Wu are noted for their stance on virtue and loyalty, and their storyline revolves around the tragically blind, rigid, and loyal Wu leader Liu Bei and his willingness to sacrifice his people to assuage his need for revenge against his brother’s death. The Shu are a bunch of young warriors who try to uphold the legacy and lust for power and glory of their late parents and what-not, and these young lads and lasses are one cocky bunch who trade insults to their enemies and each other. The Wei clan are cunning, cruel, and beautiful. The Wu and the Shu characters mostly use spears and swords but the Wei characters are more creative – Zheng Ji, the wife of the prince Chao Pi, for example, uses her flute in battle.
Gameplay is simple: there is one button on the joystick for slash, another for what they call a “charge” move (a more powerful weapon attack), one for jumps, and the final one for “Musou attack”, which launches a flurry of powered-up blows on the enemies. Each character has a unique form of slash, charge, and Musou attacks, although some characters in a clan may share a similarly-themed charge attack. Zheng Ji and Cao Pi, for example, have a similar kind of charge attack where they launch a small orb of power into the air. Zheng Ji’s orb will explode after one second to stun the enemies in its vicinity while Cao Pi’s will freeze the enemies in blocks of ice. There are 30 secret characters that will be unlocked upon specific conditions of completion of quest, such as completion of the Musou quests of three characters from the same clan. These unlocked characters, by the way, can be ridiculously cheesy and overpowered. Lu Bu, for example, is a spear-wielding monster who has a huge range sweep and can take down even the strongest enemies with one hand tied behind his back. Playing him is boring because he is too powerful.
While this game is basically dumb slash and hack in its most fundamental level, it’s addictive and fun. Part of the fun comes from the flashy and visually impressive combos the characters can execute and it’s exhilarating to send zillions of stupid soldiers flying from my character’s flurry of blows and attacks. Since I like characters with unorthodox appearances or methods of attack, I like using Zheng Ji especially since she’s fast and can clear a huge crowd of enemies closing in on her with one impressive Musou attack. The storylines are pretty interesting too, especially those of the constantly plotting Weis. Zheng Ji, for example, in this game is Cao Pi’s wife but she and her husband behave more like rivals until the closing scene of Zheng Ji’s victory credit when he grudgingly admits that he loves her and she doesn’t respond but stands a little closer by his side nonetheless, heh. Of course, according to history, she is forced to marry Cao Pi after his father Cao Cao murdered her husband’s family and she is actually in love with Cao Pi’s brother and later in her life she will be executed by Cao Pi on the instigation of his favorite mistress but in this game, Cao Pi and Zheng Ji are antiheroic lovers and I’m fine with that. In each mission, character must hunt down and kill the leader of the enemies, in the meantime taking down as many soldiers and generals in the process, but I must watch out because there will be other generals (of which my character is one) roaming the map clashing with the troops of the enemy. If my leader dies, the game is over, As a result, often I have to keep my eye on the map and rush towards a location to defend my leader if he is in danger. Some stages force me to defend more than one leader and it’s a headache.
On the downside, the game feels very short for each character because there are only five stages. All characters from one clan will play the same five stages so repetition sets in very quickly in this game. The other modes of gameplay are nothing more than short quests, such as trying to kill 100 enemies within a specific time limit. They don’t add much to the overall gameplay value of Dynasty Warriors 5.
Still, there’s no denying that this game is insanely addictive. It’s prime fun… at least before the boredom factor quickly sets in, that is.