Dynasty Warriors Makes the Leap to Mobile

Dynasty Warriors Makes the Leap to Mobile

The iconic combat action series is making it’s way to phones and tablets today with its newest instalment, Dynasty Warriors Unleashed. So far there have been eight main entries in the franchise and several in the Xtreme Legends and Empires spin-offs but this is the first time the game has made the jump to mobile devices (though there have been a few versions released for PSP and Vita in the past).

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Attack on Titan (PlayStation 4) Review

Attack on Titan (PlayStation 4) Review

Most of our readers have probably heard of Attack on Titan at least once by now, but in case you’ve been living under a rock it’s a popular manga-turned-anime that follows the last remnants of humanity living in a city surrounded by walls to protect them from an outside world has been overrun by giant nude (but lacking genitalia) giants. With this release, players get to experience that as a game. Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force finally brings the franchise to the PC and consoles, and while it is easily the best gamified iteration yet, it suffers many of the same issues as the previously released 3DS game based on the series.

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Attack on Titan is one of those franchises that sounds like it would be great as a video game but if you stop to think about it, that isn’t the case. A majority of the anime has only one of two things happening: characters talking or having long drawn out introspectives, or killing titans. The actual killing of titans almost always plays out the same way. Characters use their specialized gear to zip through the sky and then slice the back of titans’ necks to kill them—rinse, repeat. While this game captures all that, the fighting of titans is so simple and repetitive that it becomes a real bore after just a few missions.

Attack on Titan (PlayStation 4) Review 11 Nearly every mission in Attack on Titan is exactly the same. Players travel around the town killing various titans and doing side quests to get CPU helpers or equipment until the final titan spawns. Even though you play as various characters from the series, they all control nearly identically aside from some small variances that aren’t enough to make a big difference. Combat plays out the same every time as well: zip in with your gear, lock-on to a titan, select which part of its body you want to attack, reel yourself in, attack. Imagine doing that about 1,000 times and you’ve just played the game without buying it!

As the only way to kill titans is to attack the nape of their neck, you’ll always have to hit them there last, and some require the player to take out certain limbs before being able to do so. This limb chopping mechanic doesn’t so much relate to the anime and seems to only exist just to extend the gameplay a bit and does nothing to mix it up.

There are also a few levels in Attack on Titan where players get to control a titan, which plays like a very basic beat ’em up with no thought required. As simple as these levels were, they were a welcome change to the mind numbing slicing of titan necks.

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At least movement feels great; zipping through the air is easy and fun. Simply hold the correct button and you’ll be grabbing onto buildings, trees and titans on your way to victory. If you’ve ever played the fantastic Spider-Man 2 game from two generations ago, it feels a bit like that only faster and with some motion blur to really sell the feeling of travelling at breakneck speeds.

Attack on Titan (PlayStation 4) Review 8The art style in Attack on Titan is decent as well. Characters are all cel-shaded and look like 3D versions of their anime counterparts. The story directly follows the anime and ends at the same place. Characters are voiced by the same Japanese voice actors as the anime, meaning you’re going to have to read subtitles if you don’t understand Japanese. While this probably won’t be a problem for most people, at times during missions characters are discussing what is going on with their words displayed in a large box that takes up a decent portion of the bottom right side of the screen. I was only able to read that box maybe once or twice, as it is very hard to focus on the task at hand and read at the same time.

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I ran into a few glitches during my time with the PS4 version of Attack on Titan, such as minor but noticeable framerate drops, the physics on titans bodies going haywire after hitting the ground, and at one point a titan’s face seemingly flew off and stretched to the fit the entire screen for a moment. None of these directly impacted my enjoyment of the game but were annoying enough to be worth mentioning.

Another major disappointment is the lack of the score from the anime, even though everything else is here. The provided score isn’t bad at all, but it certainly isn’t as memorable or catchy as the tunes found in the game’s animated counterpart.

Attack on Titan (PlayStation 4) Review 14Almost all the action in Attack on Titan takes place across three different types of maps: the town, the country, and the forest. While there are some small variations on these settings, the majority of the missions take place in the town (as that is what the story calls for) and you’ll be there for hours before you visit anywhere else. Again, this is a reason why the series doesn’t translate well to a game, at least if you directly follow the storyline of the anime.

Attack on Titan (PlayStation 4) Review 6 If you’re a hardcore fan of the anime, you might find Attack on Titan worth purchasing, but otherwise, I’d suggest newcomers avoid this and just watch the anime instead. It’s far more entertaining than this game lets on and doesn’t last nearly as long. While the movement is fun, the combat is so repetitive that it will surely turn some players off, It is kind of what Omega Force is known for with the Dynasty Warriors games, but at least those have different moves for different characters. That said, whatever you do, don’t watch the live action movie; it’s an abomination. If you have to choose, play this instead.

Gundam Breaker 3 (PS Vita) Review

Gundam Breaker 3 (PS Vita) Review

If you’re a fan of the Gundam franchise then you need to import Gundam Breaker 3, it’s really that simple. Featuring 100’s of playable mecha from every single entry in the series with near limitless customization options, the only thing stopping you from creating the mobile suit of your dreams and destroying the competition is your own imagination. Despite being available only in Japan on PlayStation 4 and PS Vita, Gundam Breaker 3 can be enjoyed by any English consumer because of its dedicated English subtitled SKU.

Gundam Breaker 3 (PS Vita) Review 3Gundam Breaker is a third-person, hack-and-slash, action game that features combat mechanics very similar to those used in the Dynasty Warriors series. The primary goal in a majority of the levels is to destroy every enemy in sight as you progress your way to end of stage bosses. The real addiction behind Gundam Breaker’s gameplay starts to set in as you begin collecting weapons, limbs and back packs from your wrecked opponents, which can be used to power up and stylize your own creations. While games like these are commonly criticized for their repetitive combat, the sheer amount of customization that users have in Gundam Breaker 3 allows them to keep the experience feeling fresh by giving them the ability to develop their own move sets and special techniques.

There is some noticeable slow-down and stuttering on the vita version when the screen gets too filled or there are too many effects going on, but surprisingly, the game never crashed on me and performed quite well under the stress. The graphics aren’t particularly impressive, even for a portable title, but these issues are solved in the PS4 version if you’re a gamer that prefers the at-home experience for this type of game.

Gundam Breaker 3 (PS Vita) Review 5You play as the protagonist, a talented Gundam model fighter who gets quickly roped up into saving a dying shopping district by competing and winning in the local tournaments. Breaker 3’s story mode attempts to replicate the fun and humorous style of the Gundam Build Fighters anime, but forgets to add the memorable characters and conflicts that made the anime a worthwhile watch. Nothing in the story feels like it carries any weight and the characters become annoying to the point that I was quickly skipping through cutscenes just so I could get to the next battle. Ultimately, the story in Breaker 3 falls flat due to its weak writing and is easily the worst part of the package.

However, the latest introduction to the series, arena mode, is easily one of the games best features. Instead of just cooperating with other players and their Gundams in the multiplayer levels, arena mode allows you to upload you creations into the bounty hunter gametype for other players to fight against. Not only does this show off great ideas in the community for cool, new designs, but you can still obtain parts from these suits to break progression, along with obtaining a healthy amount of currency to improve your current builds or purchase new models.

Gundam Breaker 3 (PS Vita) Review 2There are also some new ways to improve the quality of your parts and make them stronger. In the older Breaker games, you only had the option to merge parts together one at a time or with the various plastic materials you acquire during your missions. This upgrade system gives your favourite parts new abilities and skills to improve the stats of your creations. Now you can package merge parts together, making the process a lot faster if all you’re doing is throwing away your junk, as well as derive merge, which creates a completely random part whenever you combine two.

Gundam Breaker 3 (PS Vita) Review 6The English translation for Gundam Breaker 3 feels like the same quality any gamer would experience and expect if the game were localized in their region. I did notice any glaring typos or grammar in the story mode, and nearly every Gundam part in the game I encountered was labeled and named correctly. This was a dream come true for me as a fellow fan of the franchise and I hope that other Japanese publishers can follow Bandai Namco’s example by offering English SKUs of their future games with this kind of quality.

Gundam Breaker 3 appears to be a very simple game on the surface that actually offers a wealth of depth and playability for the players that seek to get into all of its interesting systems and customization menus. I never once felt lost or overwhelmed during my experience, thanks to the very well explained tutorials, and I still find myself easily wasting hours on building my next super robot. Even though it’s packaged with an incredibly weak story, Breaker 3 is a love letter to anyone who enjoys the Gundam franchise and now that you can understand every menu and item in the English language, I guarantee you won’t want to put it down, no matter what platform you pick it up on.

Hyrule Warriors: Legends (3DS) Review

Hyrule Warriors: Legends (3DS) Review

If you hop in the way back machine to 2014, you have a good chance of catching me in the middle of a conversation about the latest Wii U hit Hyrule Warriors. Koei Tecmo and Nintendo seemed to have made an odd couple relationship with two series that have completely different styles.  While it’s a great game, and one of the better titles to come to the console in some time, I always felt like it would work better on the 3DS.  Jump back to the present day, and I’m now seeing that reality and It turns out I was right. While it is almost beat for beat the same game as its Wii U counterpart (with a few additions) Hyrule Warriors Legends is much better suited to Nintendo’s handheld than their home console, and that’s mostly because the game ’s style works better when you can walk away.

That’s not a knock on the game itself; the Dynasty Warriors style gameplay is just better designed for on the go gaming.  If you’ve ever picked up a Warriors game, you’ll feel right at home. You fight waves of enemies while trying to capture enemy outposts. Between that chaos, smaller side missions pop up to make life more hectic. When done right, Dynasty Warriors type games can be really rewarding and Hyrule Warriors might be one of the best examples of that style. While it doesn’t deviate from the original formula much, the addition of characters and items from the Legend of Zelda series makes for an original experience you can only find in this game. Whether that’s using Link’s bow, or escorting a giant bombchu across a battlefield, Hyrule Warriors is unique and different from any other Warriors title out there.

And it just works on the 3DS. Obviously, because of the hardware, there is a visual downgrade. Instead of that really pretty HD Wii U title, we have something more akin to a GameCube game visually;but it still looks really nice. The best thing going for it is its combat just lends itself to the shorter playtimes a handheld system accommodates. It keeps the repetitive hack n’ slash fighting style fresh, so it never overstays its welcome. That was one of the biggest issues on the console version. I couldn’t sink my teeth into the game as much as I wanted to because it’s just not designed for longer play sessions.  With that being said, Hyrule Warriors has a surprisingly complex battle system that requires a lot of attention. Since there is so much happening on the battlefield at any given time, players can control any main story character on the map. That means you can hop over and play as whichever character, or even send them to specific areas of the battlefield. On top of that, the addition of the golden ocarina lets players teleport to other portions of the map wherever another statue resides. It makes traversing larger levels much easier and more streamlined.  It’s really easy to discount the game because it’s a Dynasty Warriors spin off, but the amount of focus required for each battle makes it really engaging.

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What’s a little less captivating is the story. It’s not different from any of the simplest Legend of Zelda plots, but the scale of the situation mixed with one of the coolest art directions the series has ever seen makes the game feel epic. Hyrule is at war. The citizens are under constant attack from evil monsters like Moblins, Poes and Stalfos. Amidst this horror and bloodshed, Princess Zelda believes the hero of legend will save them. It turns out he’s the only Hylian Soldier who doesn’t wear a helmet making the selection process very streamlined.  Before she can know for sure, she’s kidnapped. This leads to Link, Zelda’s protector, Impa, and whomever you meet along the way to traverse the war torn Hyrule in search of her. There’s also something about the Triforce and the Sword of Evil’s Bane because this wouldn’t be a Legend of Zelda game if there weren’t at least a casual reference to these items.

It’s pretty much the same plot as the Wii U game, but with some new characters, like the King of Hyrule, Tetra from Wind Waker, and Skull Kid from Majora’s Mask. This is also the debut of Linkle, the oddly named female Link. She’s a faster character with twin crossbows, so you know she’s badass. Personally, I found Link and Shiek to be my go-to characters to control, so I didn’t stray much. No two characters are the same, and there are many weapons and variations, so different play styles are accommodated.

There is a good chance that I am giving this title more leeway than it deserves because it’s in the Legend of Zelda universe, but whatever, it’s fun and I’m a fan.   It’s kind of crazy to think that after all the horrid reception from gamers and critics that the Dynasty Warriors franchise has not only continued, but also flourished. Hyrule Warriors Legends might be the best incarnation of this style. It’s one of the better offerings in the already robust 3DS library. Even if you’ve played the Wii U version, this should be on your radar. The gameplay tends to work better on Nintendo’s handheld, and the new playable characters differentiate the title from 2014’s offering. I had a blast returning to this alternate take on my favourite franchise; this is a game that I will constantly come back to.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus (PS4) Review

Senran Kagura Estival Versus (PS4) Review

I knew what I was getting into when I was asked to review Marvelous’ Senran Kagura Estival Versus—sort of. I knew the series is essentially fap fuel, and I knew this particular game plays like Dynasty Warriors, so I expected this review to bother a lot of people. All I really had to go off of was my general knowledge of the series, and the trailers showing simple gameplay where you literally hit the clothes off women. Part of me didn’t believe this game actually exists, but I had to see it with my own eyes. And I’m really glad I did. While it’s nowhere near incredible in any sense, I had a lot of fun with this title, despite its obvious objectification of its all-female cast.

I don’t want to sound like a social justice warrior or anything like that, but I have a hard time investing in a story, a game, or any media when the characters are nothing more than a deposit in the spank bank. It makes it hard to really connect with anyone. This is a huge problem in Senran Kagura Estival because they’re not real. They’re real in this world that’s created, but it’s hard to feel any attachment. And even then, you probably won’t. Despite that, there is a story, and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s kind of entertaining. The game starts when two large-breasted girls go to a forest to pray. But when one girl bends over to have her friend smack her ass, they discover an old woman performing an ancient ritual. As they look on they see the spirit of one of the girl’s dead sister as she’s being sent to another realm. They try to run to stop it, but end up going with her. They end up on a beach because why not? This starts a sequence of events where a bunch of girls keep ending up on this beach. It’s a good thing they get there, because it’s a time for celebration! The locals there are preparing to ease the spirits of fallen shinobi to their final resting places and they need the help of this ragtag group of busty, barely legal high-schoolers.

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How can they help, you ask? To be honest, I can’t say. But it involves beating the clothes off of waves of ninjas (literally). Also our sexy warriors take their clothes off for some reason. There’re a lot of half-naked women. The story I made in my head is so they can move better. And they need to, because there is a really deep combat system in place. It is very Koei Tecmo inspired, but it feels a little more refined. Hordes of enemies attack, and you mix light, powerful, ranged, and area attacks with wall running and bomb throwing to make the best combo imaginable. Each character has her own special berserker-type mode where she changes attire, takes less damage, and uses stronger attacks. But there are a few problems with this style of game. The first is there are 34 characters. While they do play kind of differently, they don’t vary enough to ever change your strategy. On top of that, the Dynasty Warriors-style gameplay can get boring if you play for too long. I feel like this type of game would be better suited for the Vita.

But I wouldn’t recommend playing this game outside of your home. Every cutscene feels like an excuse to show some boobs and booty. Also throw in some are really groan-worthy (but sometimes unintentionally hilarious) dialogue scenes whose only purpose is to try to turn you on.  These dialogue gems had some great lines like “just let me grab your boobs!” and “call me a bitch.”  There was one interaction when one girl offered to give another a shoulder rub very slowly “up….and down…” she offered. It was weird.

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But I question its staying power. Yes, I enjoyed it more than I anticipated, but between the time I got the game and started writing this review, I didn’t overexpose myself to the game. I don’t think the combat will ever be an issue, but the novelty of the scantily-clad-pseudo-lesbian-large-breasted-ninja–boob-fighter can get old eventually. That’s sort of the nature of the beast, but it’s also the hook.

It is what it is, really, and I wish I hated this game a little more. But for whatever reason I found it kind of fun in short bursts, which makes this sort of a mixed bag for me. On one hand I had a lot of fun, but on the other, there are some serious questions about the sexual objectification of the characters, and where the line is drawn between fun and overkill. To that extent, I don’t think this game has much staying power, and if you’re into this series, you’ll love this game. But if you’re unfamiliar with Senran Kagura Estival you should be warned. If you’re not a fan of over-sexualisation, and character arcs as deep as a Five Seconds of Summer song, maybe you should pass on this. But if you’ve seen the trailer and are even slightly interested, I’d say give it a shot; there is a lot of fun to be had.

Dragon Quest Heroes (PS4) Review

Dragon Quest Heroes (PS4) Review

I never really got into the Dragon Warrior series. I missed my chance to try it on the NES, being very late to get into the RPG genre (Super Mario RPG being the first one I ever played.) The only official Dragon Warrior (well, it was Dragon Quest at that point) game I played was Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, and to be fair, I only rented it because it came with a demo for Final Fantasy XII.

How curious then that the first Dragon Quest game that I’ve actually gotten into would be a Dynasty Warriors spin-off. Dragon Quest Heroes offers a fun hack-and-slash game with RPG fundamentals that make it feel more like an entry into the Dragon Quest franchise than a Dynasty Warriors game with a coat of Dragon Quest paint slapped on it.

Dragon Quest Heroes takes place in the land of Arba where humans and monsters live peacefully together. On the day of their festival celebrating this union, an evil wizard uses dark magic to turn the hearts of monsters against the humans and they begin terrorizing the lands. Luckily, the two plucky heroes, and captains of the Royal Guard, are on hand when this happens and it’s up to them to begin taking back the land and discover the source of the unprompted attack.

Dragon Quest Heroesinsert2Not unlike Hyrule Warriors, along the way familiar characters from previous Dragon Quest games begin showing up, confused by their sudden emergence in this new world. They band together with our main characters to put a stop to the madness and figure out how to get home.

The player can choose between either of the two main characters: Aurora and Luceus. While Luceus is a master tactician, constantly coming up with long-winded, incredibly complex strategies, Aurora is a tomboyish, headstrong girl who likes to slash first and ask questions later. Both characters are built exactly the same in terms of attacks, and the only notable difference between them is while Aurora uses ice magic, Luceus uses fire.

While Dragon Quest Heroes does feel very similar to almost every other Dynasty Warriors game, there are a few small differences that I really enjoy about it. For starters, the game wears its RPG inspiration on its sleeve, operating under a lot of RPG logic. Rather than populating a large battlefield with heroes to fight off the swarms of enemies, disconnected from each other, players build a team of four (Aurora or Luceus, depending on who you chose, always included) that work together and stay in a group throughout the fight. Players can also switch between each character on-the-fly, adding for a lot of interesting versatility in controlling the fight through each character’s unique style.

I liked how the focus was on building a group, rather than whatever specific hero you chose to bring into battle for that mission. It started to give the game a more RPG feel, but rather than fully commit to the RPG, they gave subtle nods to it. Even midway into the game, you actually acquire an airship to “traverse the world with” and I couldn’t help but giggle and say, “of course we get an airship; can’t not have an airship in an RPG.”

The other interesting mechanic in Dragon Quest Heroes is the “monster medal” system, wherein upon killing monsters you get a chance to spawn a medallion which allows you to summon a monster onto the battlefield to help you fight or hold a certain position. These medals come in two flavours: gold for monsters who will fight by your side, or silver for single-use monster attacks. While it was an interesting mechanic, for too many missions it felt like “defend the thing” was the theme and getting monsters to hold positions in front of said thing while the enemies flank you became repetitive and annoying.

This is particularly because you can’t separate from your group. Trying to manage a group of endlessly-spawning monsters while your summoned monster tries to take on two other groups of endlessly-spawning monsters becomes a herculean task. While several of these missions I had to replay once after failing to protect the thing, it was never so annoying that I wasn’t having fun.

Dragon Quest Heroesinsert3Dragon’s Quest Heroes looks beautiful, albeit a little strange. The character models are polished and have that distinctive Akira Toriyama style. Although, I will say it did feel a bit strange seeing the cel-shaded, anime-style characters amidst realistic backgrounds and environments. I couldn’t help but feel like the art style should’ve committed to one look, either realistic or cartoony. However, the cutscenes are where the game earns real style points, often playing out like really good anime. They’re silly, funny, and have a lot of charm and I found myself praying for a cutscenes at the start or finish of every mission.

Much like Hyrule Warriors, the music selection, I’m guessing, takes the classic Dragon Quest themes and mixes them into an upbeat and intense fusion of rock and orchestral, creating the perfect balance for a game like this; orchestrated themes to fit the fantasy setting, hard rock to capture the intensity of the combat. The voice acting is superb in both the English (and I mean UK English, which I believe is the English option for most of the Dragon Quest games) and the Japanese. In fact, I would highly recommend playing the game in Japanese as it lends itself much better to the anime-style cutscenes.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with Dragon Quest Heroes. It feels like a simple distraction, but it actually has quite a bit of depth. Fans of the Dragon Quest franchise will undoubtedly enjoy it and it certainly feels like a game for the fans; containing multiple characters from several Dragon Quest games. However, if you’re like me and new to the series, Dragon Quest Heroes might also pique your interest for other entries in the franchise.

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 (PS4) Review

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 (PS4) Review

As a child of the late 90s and early 2000s, I have an affinity for the One Piece franchise, and as a teenager of the mid to late 2000s, I am very aware of Dynasty Warriors. Neither are properties I particularly love, but I’ve dabbled enough in both to say I at least enjoy them. Unfortunately, when you bring them together in a crossover series, it doesn’t quite work. By stripping away all the interesting pieces of Koei Tecmo’s biggest franchise and focusing way too heavily on the a story that’s been told far too many times in videogames, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 is a timewaster with very little to offer aside from senseless button mashing.

onepiece3insert1It’s really disheartening to play another subpar One Piece game. The premise should translate easilyit’s a show about pirates featuring a main character with stretchy limbs! But the Dynasty Warriors gameplay only compliments the cast’s fighting style, while leaving out the feeling of exploration and wonder that One Piece is known for. Players press square through hordes of enemies, occasionally pressing triangle to keep things fresh and interesting. Despite its repetition, each attack managed to feel satisfying as I fought my way through thousands of unnamed enemies who went to the Empire’s Shooting Academy. Their accuracy is actually laughable. At one point, I did not move while an enemy tried to attack. He missed every shot and didn’t make a dent in my health bar. There is never a sense of danger unless you’re in a boss battle; even when you’re surrounded, you’ll hardly take any damage. Enemies should be part of the story.Even if they’re insignificant, they serve a purpose; they’re meant to hurt you, not work as fodder to make it a little more time consuming to get to point B. If that’s all they are, then theres a serious problem. The experience is made better with multiplayer, though. All the problems still exist, but there are a ton of playable characters, and if you’re with a friend, you tend to focus less on why the game isn’t working.

But there’s more to a Dynasty Warriors game than senseless button mashing. For instance, the marriage system that’s stuck with the series for a long time changes the way the entire game plays out. It makes the game feel more fluid. Hyrule Warriors did a great job of adding a splash of Zeldastyle puzzle solving to keep the game interesting throughout the entire experience. Pirate Warriors, though, doesn’t really bring anything;it just exists. Its big contribution is the ability to call on a comrade to jump in to aid you to make a super move. The concept is cool and it works well to clear an area, but it’s not a gamechanger. You’re just dropped in a map, fighting hordes of enemies while trying to get to a plot point to watch a cutscene. Then, you’ll fight across the map again for a boss battle and another cutscene. I get that One Piece has over a decade and a half of material and the manga has an even longer run, so there is a lot of content to re-create, but it would be nice to actually play an original story set within the world instead of a streamlined version of Monkey D. Luffy and friends on their adventure to the Grand Line. But the cutscenes were handled interestingly by keeping comic stripstyle conversations and Japanese voice work. Much like the entire game, they’re gorgeous to look at, but their frequent interruptions became more of a hassle than anything. It was just annoying, and most of all, not fun.

And that’s the thing that stays with me when I think about my time playing this game. It’s just not fun. Sure, it’s beautiful, but the game is repetitive, cutscenes break its flow, and there isn’t an original concept found in the entire game. The best parts of either franchise in this crossover were stripped away and we’re left with a Frankenstein monster that only works in theory. As someone who enjoys both Dynasty Warriors and One Piece, I expected a lot more from this title and it definitely disappointed.

Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires (PS4) Review

Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires (PS4) Review

The Chinese War That Never Ends

Fallout once said “War. War never changes,” and that sentiment applies to the Dynasty Warriors franchise too. Despite the fact that the history of military conflict spans the globe, and millennia of different cultures, Koei Tecmo’s never-ending franchise always returns to the War of the Three Kingdoms as its battlefield, with occasional forays into the world of Gundam and, more recently Legend of Zelda. Well, this latest title doesn’t do any of that, instead choosing to return to the massive, MASSIVE roots of the franchise.

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Noobs GTFO

As with most games in a franchise as prolific as the DW series, Koei cuts a lot of corners by simply reusing a lot of assets, so familiar characters, environments, music and animation have all appeared in previous games. This isn’t an Activision situation where Koei has three separate studios working on games to release a new one every year; the only way an outfit without access to those resources accomplishes the same task is by recycling. Of course, for fans of the franchise, none of this matters. What does matter is what’s actually new, which, in the case of any Dynasty Warriors game, is a relative term.

Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, is, like DW7 Empires, a rejiggering of the existing game to graft some new features onto it while preserving what the series is best known for; cutting a swathe through legions of nameless soldiers over and over again. What Empires does is take a few a notes from hybrid games like the Total War or Civilization series, adding a management/turn-based strategy component outside of battles. Players choose a character at the beginning of the game, and then have three conditions for concluding the game; either 50 game years pass, at which point the game automatically ends, you conquer China, or one your rivals conquers China.

During these strategic sections, players can ally themselves with other territories, conduct negotiations to buy or sell goods and services, or even undertake tasks and missions to upgrade character stats. There’s a fair amount of depth to this section, though it still doesn’t live up to the complexity of something like Civilization. However, as a break from marauding through legions of flunkies, it’s pretty substantial.

Unfortunately, it is also not explained very well. Koei doesn’t seem very interested in appealing to new customers, because DW8 Empires assumes that you’re thoroughly familiar with not just the DW franchise, but the Empires spin-off. Tutorials are almost non-existent, so people new to the franchise will have to make do with reading up online, for how to properly play both the strategic and combat portions of the game.
dynastyempiresinsert5If you’re a fan, none of this really matters, this is Dynasty Warriors, you know EXACTLY what you’re getting into, and can jump into it with like a duck to water. In the same way that no one is going to change the rules of soccer or baseball, Koei haven’t messed with DW, and its core mechanic of annihilating hordes of flunkies to claim territory. Dynasty Warriors is comfort food, like potato chips or hamburgers, not very nourishing, but for people with the taste for it, that familiarity is what keeps bringing them back. If you’re a DW fan, then it’s a forgone conclusion that you’re going to buy, play and enjoy this game. If you’re new to the franchise, this is one of the worst places to start, as Koei assumes you already know how to play. Strictly for fans, but what those fans get is exactly what they crave; more of the same.

Hyrule Warriors (WII U) Review

Hyrule Warriors (WII U) Review

It goes without saying that when any new system from Nintendo hits stores, there will be Zelda title to follow. Bolstering up a slow roll out of new Wii U titles is the Hyrule Warriors, which serves up heaping piles of familiar Zelda characters, images, items, sound effects, worlds, and music to the franchise faithful. However, it’s not in any way a traditional Zelda game. That’s still coming. We’ll get there. Hyrule Warriors is something quite different and while it’s by no means as satisfying as a new entry in what just might be Nintendo’s finest franchise, it is a wonderful place holder offering hours of instant gratification and familiarity. This is not a half-assed endeavor, it’s just different. It’s a little bit of an experiment to see if the beloved series can flavor another genre. The game is a place holder until the real epic arrives and thankfully it should satiate hungry fans and at least give everyone who owns a Wii U something worthy to play in a surprisingly slow fall release season.

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What type of game is it? Well, there’s a very specific formula being followed here. It’s a Dynasty Warriors clone, an epic hack n’ slash with a sandbox battlefield populated by entire armies knocking heads against each other and the player dropped right in the middle of the action. All of that slow world building and careful storytelling of the Zelda franchise is gone. This is not an RPG by any stretch of the imagination and yet the folks at Tecmo Koei Games have proven that’s not the same thing as saying that this isn’t a Zelda game. All of the familiar sights and sounds are there, just repurposed into a vastly different package. You’re no longer a young Link unsure of his abilities who must slowly battle through an epic quest to prove himself as a warrior. Nope, you’re a butt-kicking superstar from the start able to hack your way through swarms of enemies while barely breaking a sweat. Purists will complain that ain’t the Link they know, but everyone else will have too much fun to care.

Thankfully, the designers have come up with ways to keep the game feeling fresh as you plow through the roughly ten hour main story. Every level comes with its own new items, enemies, and challenges. Meanwhile, you’ll slowly start to unlock 13 playable characters who are instantly familiar to fans of the franchise. Characters pop up from seemingly every game in Zelda’s almost 30 year history. Obviously that’ll have folks who memorized the ever-changing mythology scratching their heads. It’s explained away in a story that leans on some sort of inter-dimensional ballyhoo. The plot doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense when you lay it all out, but it’s delivered to players in absolutely gorgeously realized cut scenes that punctuate the endless streams of combat. This isn’t a resonant emotional story, it’s an action epic and one that follows its own stream of logic head first into a series of grand-scale, bone-crushing battles. Take it as Nintendo sanctioned fan fiction and you’ll have yourself a good old time. Think about it too hard and you’ll raise questions that simply shouldn’t be asked. It’s best not to get too heady about it. There are armies to be thwarted, son! Get out of your head!

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Make no mistake, Hyrule Warriors is not really the latest game in the beloved Legend Of Zelda franchise. This is a spin-off and act of fan service, pure and simple. None of the dungeons and puzzles that fans love are present, and even with difficulty settings cranked, it’s a very easy gaming experience. However, Hyrule Warriors is all of two tons of fun with more than enough geeky references to make longtime Nintendo nerds like myself giggle with delight and that’s all it had to be. Granted, I’m not someone who committed enough time or energy to the Dynasty Warriors series to be tired of the format as I’m certain many other gamers already are. If the thought of another Dynasty Warriors clone is enough to make you scream out in disgust even with the Zelda facelift, then you should probably stay away. The game is exactly what you’d expect. However, if you’re a hungry Zelda fan excited by the possibility of epic action fun with your favorite characters, then grab it immediately because the game is also exactly what you’d expect. Hyrule Warriors is no masterpiece, but it’s a blast that shows off just what the Wii U can do. There really aren’t enough titles in the tiny Wii U library that do that yet, so this sucker is more than welcome for starved Nintendo fans. It would be nice if this were merely a secondary title in Nintendo’s Wii U holiday rush, but it’s not. This is one of their big boys and at least it’s not a disappointment.

To read Phil’s extended review of Hyrule Warriors, check out the Oct 2014 issue of CGM. 

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn (PS3) Review

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn (PS3) Review

Hop On Board The Dynasty Warriors Carousel

There’s comfort in familiarity. As much as some people, particularly a loud, internet minority, complain that they want novelty and are tired of the same old thing, the cold hard numbers of sales figures paint a different picture. In the west, Call of Duty regularly lures in millions of people with the same shooting experience it has peddled for years. In the east, Dynasty Warriors is even more unapologetic, letting players replay the same story—that of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms—game after game. Then, Koei Tecmo and Bandai Namco teamed up and brought this same sensibility to the various worlds of Gundam, which brings us to Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn. It’s really just Dynasty Warriors: Gundam IV, and why they don’t come out and say so is beyond me. But, being the fourth in a DW series, it leaves little to the imagination about what this game is about; killing thousands and thousands of things with robots.

 

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Relive The Gundam Saga… Again.

As with past games in the DWG series, Reborn is broken up into two segments. The first, or “Official Node,” takes players through a condensed version of the story arcs for a few of the Gundam series. From the original “universal century” series, Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeta Gundam, Char’s Counterattack and Gundam Unicorn are all included. For the first time, the “Cosmic era” series with Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny are also getting the condensed summary treatment. Arguments can made about the wisdom of including the Seed series alongside the original universal century series, since it was essentially a 21

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century update of that storyline for a new generation of anime fans that may have missed it in the 70s and 80s, but hey, that’s Koei’s call, and they made it. There’s also the usual new Ultimate Mode that throws all notion of continuity and franchise distinction out the window. It creates a storyline in which various characters and mobile suits from differing series can all get together, mix and match, and even fight different villains for the kind of franchise mash-up that fans—of a certain sort—will probably enjoy. Anybody that ever wanted to see Athrun Zala pilot the Zeta Gundam will get a kick out of this mode, but it’s a completely nonsensical story, so don’t expect much in the way of advancing the characters you know and love. It’s fan service but not well written service.

 

The Unstoppable Force

At the heart of Gundam Reborn lies the same old mechanic central to every Dynasty Warriors game; controlling a giant robot that is a literal killing machine. In the course of the average mission, it’s not unusual to rack up over 1000 kills single-handedly. Regardless of which scenario you pick, the basic gameplay is “Kill enough enemies that you eventually gain control of a territory, then move on to the next. Fight a boss sometimes. Repeat.” There’s a meter which builds up with kills that, when activated, allows the mecha go into “overdrive mode” and even partner up with another character for over-the-top super attacks. Players have the option of using a local or online co-op mode, but it still doesn’t change the fact that this is a Dynasty Warriors game. This is one of those cases where if you’ve played one, you’ve practically played them all.

On a positive note, for those that are curious about the Gundam universe but lack the patience to read through plot summaries, or watch the original series, the official mode is a great crash course in the Universal Century and Cosmic Era storylines. Despite the ridiculous scale of missions conducted, Gundam Reborn does at least respectfully summarize the stories the different game scenarios are based on. There’s also a database, and, as to be expected with a product that has the Bandai blessing, all the information is true to the franchise. There’s also a new feature in the campaign mode that lets players take the massive mobile armors out for a spin. However, the DW control scheme being what it is, this doesn’t feel like massive difference in agility or power from the regular Gundam mechs.

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn Review

None of this changes the fact that this is a Dynasty Warriors game through and through, however. Fans of the DW series know exactly what they’re getting into. Other gamers that are aware of the series reputation—and are cautious about that reputation—will find nothing here to change their minds. You either like instantly killing dozens upon hundreds of thousands of enemies in large, minimal maps, or you don’t. This is a game made for fans, and although those fans are largely in Japan—which is why the DW series has such a Call of Duty-esque legacy there—there are still a few Westerners here and there that enjoy what the series offers. Bandai Namco probably made the right call in keeping the localization budget to a minimum and foregoing the expense of distributing a physical, retail release of the game. Fans can still enjoy it, especially at a cost of only $40, and while this isn’t the most original or fun game in the world to play, it meets the expectations of DW fans and doesn’t embarrass the Gundam legacy.