Dynasty Warriors 3 brings into life the epic tale of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It basically tells the struggle of the three kingdoms in feudal China, Wei, Wu and Shu and the exploits of their respective generals to ensure that their kingdom have control of the country. It mixes history with fantasy, especially in terms of the genaral’s contributions towards their respective kingdoms.
The gameplay remain unchanged, and frankly why should it. Movement is controlled via the left analogue stick, and action are dictated by the jump, attack, charge and musou buttons. The combos are back, but this time you can execute more interesting combinations, and if you’re proficient enough, even 10+ hit combos on your enemies. There are laos 2 versions of the musou attack, one being your normal attack, the new addition is the ’true musou’ attack, which deals greater damage to your enemies.
The stages are simple huge and more detailed than the original. Moving from point A to B can take a while, but you can always swipe a horse and travel faster. Sometime this is necessary to help your fellow general who is in trouble, or just want to complete the stage quickly. In case you get lost, you’re aided by the map, which details the various flashpoints on the battlfields, and the positions of your troops and enemies. A very useful feature indeed.
Koei has also upped the amount of playable characters and levels, to 40 and 28 respectively. Characters vary in terms of attributes. Smaller fighters are faster, but not as strong as their bigger and slower counterparts. Each character has a history, which you could read about the the game’s database. Some of the characters are automatically unlocked if you have a save file from Dynasty Warriors 2, which is a really neat way to say thanks to those that have played the previous game.
While the game is primarily a hack n slash game, some strategy is require on some levels. First and foremost, if there are archers in the area, you have to neutralise them first as they can interrupt your attacks. You can also plow through a group of soldiers using your horse, and in one of the stages, even an elephant. Whatever the situation may be, in the end, you still have to eliminate the top level general to clear the stage.
A major difference in the sequel is the ability to upgrade your character’s attributes and weapons. Each of them have 4 weapons, each with different attacking power and special attributes. For example weapon A and B might have the same attacking stats, but weapon A has an added ’Defense +10’ while weapon B has ’Bow Attack +5’. You can only keep one weapon type, so choose those with the neccesary attributes that can help.
Items have also been expanded. In addition to the pickup items that replenish your health and musou meter, there are also items that have permanent effect on your attributes. There are variable items, such as the Peacock Urn, which increases your max HP and the Seven Star Orb, which increases your luck in finding rare items and weapons, or more powerful versions of them. Then there are special items such as ’The Art of War’ and ’The Way of the Musou’, which increases the effectiveness of pick up items, and allow you to execute the ’true musou’ attack, repectively.
The degree of customisation doesn’t stop there. In Dynasty Warriors 3, you can even customise your bodyguards. You can choose their weapons, and decide whether you want them to attack enemies or defend you. My personal favourite is equipping them with crossbows, and you get your own personal team of archers.
On the sound front, things have also been improved. For one the game features voiceovers for all characters, based on the events and levels. Granted that most of them are overacted and some downright funny, switching to Japanese voiceovers brings some authenticity to the proceedings. The background music is still composed of 80’s rock guitar riffs, which may not suit some purists, but in my opinion comes out just right to reflect the action on screen.
Graphically, it’s a massive update from the original. The characters look more polished, and the attention to details, especially on the items of clothing and weapons are amazing. The lanscape is also autehntic, with landmarks such as hills and castles look better than ever.
But don’t think it’s all well and good. The nasty popups and fogging that plague the original is still here, albeit reduced a bit. The draw distance is further this time, and enemies do tend to appear out of nowhere. There’s some slowdown in some stages, but hardly noticable and does not detract from the gameplay.
The highlight of the series is the Musou attacks, which are special signature moves executed by the characters. When a character initiates a Musou move, the camera freezes and rotates the view, ala Matrix, and then retuns to normal speed as he/she unleases a series of devastating blows to the surrounding enemies. You just have to see it to believe it.
Dynasty warriors 3 is definately one fun game. The sheer amount of characters, levels and the extensive degree of customisation gives this game a huge replay value. If that’s not enough, there’s also a 2 player mode, where you can play the levels with a friend on a split-screen display. If you want to take a step back from the action, you can browse the ’Database’, which contains the history of all the important characters in the game
Overall, this is a massive update on the already superb original. If you want a game with slick presentation, superb gameplay and immense replay value, then this is the game for you. Highly recommended.
Former owner and editor in chief of Darkstation.com