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PSP Review: Dynasty Warriors

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If you had any doubts about the functionality of your PSP’s square button, you can put them to rest with Dynasty Warriors. Offering the same core gameplay that has turned the console versions into multi-million sellers, the game has taken a critical hit in this translation. Some of the changes are acceptable, others baffling.

You’re still about to embark into a brawl in ancient China, wiping out hordes of brainless, unfortunate souls that get into your way. That has yet to change. You’ll also be in control of actual historical figures, each with a distinct fighting style. It may take a while to find one you’re really comfortable with, but once you do, you’ll power him or her up as the game goes on.

Changing things a bit are the four guards you can carry with you into battle. You’ll unlock more choices as the game progresses, each one with a distinct set of characteristics. Some have the ability to heal you, increase your speed, or pick up your squads morale.

While they provide all of that, they still do nothing on the actual battlefield. You simply have to stare in awe as enemies make a game out of circling each other in the heat of the battle, never once entering into an attack mode. What’s the point of having back up if they never actually back you up?

It causes more problems than that. With the decrease in power on the PSP, Dynasty Warriors has been sent back to the launch of the Playstation 2. There’s a deep, gaudy wall of fog surrounding everything; the ground is muddy, textures are bland, and the frame rate takes a hit all to make the skirmishes seem as epic as possible. That works on a more powerful system. On the PSP, it’s a struggle to just make the game work right. It’s fascinating how you can take out 20 enemies without even seeing a single one of them due to pop-up.

To make matters even more despicable, there’s a huge, unnecessary overview of the battlefield taking up almost half the screen. Now, if this provided any useful information, or at least something that couldn’t be displayed another way, it wouldn’t be so bothersome. It doesn’t, and it’s perfectly clear it’s only here to hide the fact that the PSP just doesn’t have enough power to handle the game properly.

What it does show is the morale of the warring troops and the current status of the overall fight. Since the gameplay has been changed so radically to work on a handheld, it seems rather useless. Instead of allowing players to work their way across the entire map as they see fit, they’re now constricted to a small section in which they need to drop the morale meter of their opponent down in its entirety.

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing when this happens. If you’re in the midst of hacking away at 25 opponents, the game stops, tells you you’ve won (you don’t even need to make the final hit), and you select where you want to move next. You lose by either being slashed to death or letting the opposing force take over your base. That would make sense if you could actually defend your base in a desperate situation, but you can only exit a current section when it’s completed. You can lose without even doing anything wrong. This is obviously a change to make the game work on a portable, but why not leave everything the way it was and offer up the ability to save whenever you need to?

If by some chance you are enjoying yourself, you can continue doing so thanks to some decent, if now expected, replay value. Characters are constantly being unlocked, building them up by winning wars is fun, and the free mode lets you select a completed stage to brawl. In addition, none of these flaws mean you’re not going to get the thrill of single handedly wiping out an entire army by yourself. Yes, that means there’s no multi-player, inexcusable given the PSPs ability with ad hoc and infrastructure.

Audio is grating for the most part. The dying cries of enemies never stop being repetitive, the rock music that’s always blaring in this series is ever present, and brief bit of music when you clear a section never changes. It’s all as bland as the visual presentation, maybe even worse.

Dynasty Warriors may be the most rushed, incomplete, and sloppy title for the PSP so far. Fans will make excuses as to why they’re enjoying themselves, only to make their $50 purchase seem satisfying. It does offer the thrills the series is known for, just on a bare bones, ugly, and unnecessary battlefield.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    What historical characters are there?

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    It takes place during the Han Dynasty, if that helps at all. I’m not a Chinese history expert. Does Lu Bu and Gan Ning help?

    The entire series is based on real history. As far as I’m aware, all the selectable characters are ‘real’ people.