Koei’s Dynasty Warriors franchise has become something of a familiar staple among launch lineups for new consoles these days, and that trend continues with Dynasty Warriors Next, the latest entry into the long-running hack-and-slash Chinese epic for Sony’s hungry new PS Vita. As someone who’s haven’t exactly been a enthusiastic follower for the series even in its glory days on the PlayStation 2, especially given the glut of countless spin-offs and crossover versions over the years, so you’ll have to forgive my trepidation about stepping into yet another version of this anime-inspired world of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. So imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying what’s essentially the same game the series’ many fans (and detractors) have grown accustomed to.
For many, the biggest attraction to playing Next is seeing just how well the Vita handles the series’ large battles and never-ending action sequences. No worries, as the game looks pretty great running on that gorgeous new screen, easily on par with the more recent versions on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, with crisp visuals set to a familiar soundtrack of rock music and clashing swords. There is some new strategy with ouchscreen controls and light online play options but, on the whole, it’s business as usual in hack ‘n slash land. True, there’s nothing revolutionary here and the game does little to move the franchise forward, but its still fun when you combine stereotypical caricatures of Chinese generals with the endless hordes of disposable infantrymen.
You can either play through the same story campaign you’ve been playing for years or take things up a notch with Conquest Mode, which plays similarly to a game of Risk. You have a map and the option to battle between two-five rival groups and the territory they occupy, with an element of strategy involved and keep things interesting. After plotting your strategy the game reverts to its normal song-and-dance of violently taking over the land and gaining more characters along the way. These acquired warriors also play a hand in enhancing abilities outside of battles (such as speed, defense, etc.) in the form of collectable cards. When used, each card grants their own set of pros and cons that can dramatically change the outcome of battle.
Touch controls also do an admirable job of utilizing the Vita’s ample touchscreen with all of the usual assortment of swipes, taps, and flicks to deflect projectiles, escape ambushes, and grind through the occasional minigame. You’ll also use them to zoom in/out of the maps and to even drag your warriors to launch attacks of defend conquered bases. The game also uses the Vita’s gyroscope tilting to help assist in aiming some of your most devastating Musou (super)attacks that gloriously mow down your enemies (though ‘help’ is subjective), though the rear touchpad continues to be less impressive as having to fiddle with the Vita’s undercarriage to manipulate turrets leaves much to be desired.
There’s even a small degree of online connectivity that lets you fight with customized officers created and uploaded by other people, but you might become quickly frustrated as many of these creations often make the game a lot more difficult than it should be.
Rabid fans of Koei’s never-ending saga probably can’t wait to plug Dynasty Warriors Next into their new PS Vita consoles, and chances are they’ll be more than satisfied with what they find. Superficially, this is pretty much the same game that Koei has been releasing again and again, based around the same maniacally savage battles for historical dominance. But well-used touch controls and blistering visuals easily make this the best and most potent mobile game in the series yet, one that doesn’t look for feel compromised by its form factor. As linear as it might be this game won’t change your overall opinion of the series (positive or negative), but for a brief hack-and-slash marathon it gets the job done.
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