In the genre of tactical hack and slash combat titles, many games are often predicated on how well executed the experience is from one battle sequence to the next. Back in February of 1997, Koei teamed up with Omega Force to create a new franchise based on their popular Romance of The Three Kingdoms series. Aptly titled Dynasty Warriors, the award-winning franchise ended up branching off into several different spinoffs with each new console release.
Now that the Playstation Vita has hit retail, Koei has ushered in the system with the launch of Dynasty Warriors Next. This compact entry in the series shines brightly on the Vita and proves that when it comes to strategy games, Koei is still a force to be reckoned with. Here are a few reasons why this game deserves your attention.
The core concept behind this game remains virtually the same as others in the series. Within the campaign, the main objective of the player is to participate in some of the most intense battles ever orchestrated while living out the turbulent events of the 14th century Han Dynasty era. The premise of the game starts out with you working you’re way through the Yellow Turban Rebellion and follows each characters timeline chronologically throughout the entire time period.
While the game has a central group of fighters that are the driving force behind the story, it’s worth noting that there are about 65 editable original fighters in total to choose from. You also have the ability to create your own fighters with a robust set of customizable options. The only drawback to accessing these features is that it requires you to complete the campaign first. Given that the game is insanely repetitive, you’ll have to make the decision as to whether or not it would benefit you to playthrough multiple times.
Graphically, Dynasty Warriors Next is a marvelous display of what can be achieved on the Playstation Vita. Character models have a rich quality to them that instantly rival that of most current gen consoles. Possibly the most impressive aspect about this is showcased within the actual combat battle sequences.
The amount of adversaries that can appear on screen all at once is staggering to the level where you truly do have to strategize how to engage in combat. Often plagued as being bothersome in previous entries, both CG cutscenes and voice acting dialogue have been completely overhauled to maintain an acceptable presentation quality across the board.
When it comes to fighting dynamics, Next features a relatively simple system that employs both regular controls and Vita specific touchscreen technology. You can execute combos by repeatedly tapping on each button simultaneously. In most instances, you’ll be able to seamlessly pull off a range of combos on the fly without hesitation. Doing so will allow you to build up your gauge and perform one of the following special attacks: Musou, Speed Musou, or Direct Break.
Musou attacks make use of standard controls like the circle button, while both the Speed Musou and Direct Break moves require the use of the front and back touchscreens. Musou specials are generally combat driven, while the Direct Break is something you use when claiming bases from the enemy. Another added feature is the option of using the touchscreen to deploy your units across territories.
Lastly, the one-on-one confrontations between you and the main bosses are for the most part structured as hack and slash fests similar to showdown prompts you would have in Infinity Blade titles. For the most part, swiping the screen is in fact the only way to win these bouts.
While all of these mechanics sound great and simple on paper, the one gripe that keeps it from being perfect is the lack of a difficult AI dynamic. Rarely will you break a sweat once you’ve mastered the attacks and some may be cool with that while others will most certainly be wishing for a more challenging experience throughout.
Once you have completed the campaign mode, two other modes worth checking out are Conquest Mode and Coalition Mode. Conquest mode allows players to travel through select areas of China and capture enemy territories one by one. You are given the option of playing this mode either online or off. Playing online would make your territory vulnerable to other players and vice-versa. The end result would then culminate into a battle between your faction and theirs.
Coalition mode is an online-based 4-player co-op multiplayer mode that pretty much functions the same. It’s worth noting that in order to get the most from these modes, you should beat the campaign first so you can unlock all the characters and make use of the Edit character specs respectively. After testing out this mode, I can personally say that I didn’t experience any connectivity issues but yours may vary based on how strong your Wi-Fi or 3G connections are to begin with.
Overall, Dynasty Warriors Next is an excellent strategy hack and slash title that delivers a wealth of features to those willing to invest in it. While simplistic AI and redundant battles may annoy some fans, the latter will appreciate the content and may even be influenced to research the historical content further. If you’re someone who admires tactical action, do yourself a favor and pick this up.
This review was based on a retail copy of the game for the PlayStation Vita provided by Tecmo Koei.