Koei's Dynasty Warriors series has been one of the company's most dynamic franchises to date. Originally a standard one on one 3D fighter on the PlayStation the series has since evolved into a solid 3D brawler on the PlayStation 2. The latest entry in the series, Dynasty Warriors 3 is now headed for the Xbox, following its release on the PlayStation 2 last year. We managed to get hold of a build of the game and have been poking around to see how it's coming.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Dynasty Warriors 3 offers a spiced representation of the Wu, Wei and Shu kingdoms' epic battles for dominance in ancient China. You'll be able to select warriors from any of the dynasties and make your way through huge battlefields and take on hundreds of enemies. While you'll have a bit of assistance from bodyguards that travel with you and the people you liberate, you'll basically be making like an ancient Chinese version of "Rambo" and whupping butt solo. Each of the battles you fight in will revolve around gaining control of chokepoints, supply lines, fortifications, and other key locations. Along the way you'll interact with characters in the game, making allies and enemies that can hinder or help your progress.
You'll find four modes in the game musou, free, versus and challenge. Musou is the game's story mode where you'll play as one of the Wu, Wei, or Shu forces. You'll initially have ten to choose from but will be able to unlock more as you go through the game. Free mode will let you hop into any level you've opened in the game and play through that battle. Versus let you take on a friend on a variety of small maps made up of smaller chunks of the larger levels in the game. Challenge mode will offer you two game options, endurance or time attack. Endurance is a test to see how many enemies you can defeat before being taken down. Time attack challenges you to defeat 100 enemies as quickly as possible. In addition to gameplay modes you'll also find a database option that will give you information on officers, items and weapons you encounter in the game. Finally a gallery option will let you view the various cinemas in the game and the endings for the various characters.
If you're familiar with the original game, or beat 'em ups in general, you should have no trouble wading into battle with Dynasty Warriors 3. You'll have three main attacks, a basic strike using the button X that you can chain together with timed button presses, the Y button offers a more powerful attack that stuns your enemies, and a super attack that is basically an auto combo that you trigger with the B button. The super attack is limited by the status of your musou meter, which drains as you perform the attack. You'll be able to charge the meter every time you successfully hit an enemy with a basic strike so charging it up doesn't take too long. In addition to physical attacks you'll be able to switch to a first person view and shoot arrows at your enemies as well. Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume and speed of most foes, using arrows just isn't that practical.
In terms of its structure, Dynasty Warriors 3 offers a linear experience. Each level will start at a status screen that will give you information on troop movements in the area and your goal for that level, which is usually along the lines of "destroy the enemies troops". As you progress further in the game you'll also be able to equip any status enhancing items you've previously collected in during battle on your character for an extra edge in combat. When you're in the actual game you'll follow and onscreen radar that shows you the position of enemy forces
Graphically the game hasn't seen a tremendous improvement over the PlayStation 2 game. The characters are still extremely detailed and the environments are still pretty barren. However the game does throw a sizeable horde of enemies at you so you won't have too much time to take in the sites. On the downside, the game looks as though it could use a bit more optimization. Generally speaking, while most everything in the game looks at least as good as the PlayStation 2 game, we were hoping the graphics would be bumped up a bit more for the Xbox given the system's raw power. You'll still find some spooky textures in places and fog to hide draw in. The framerate, while fairly smooth most of the time, takes some hits during gameplay much like the PlayStation 2 version of the game.
Xbox owners will be treated to a few extras from Koei. Each character will now have two color variations for their costume. The bodyguard system has been tweaked so your pals are a bit swifter on the uptake. Behind the scenes you'll also notice quicker loading, and more save slots.
From what we've seen so far Dynasty Warriors 3 is shaping up fairly well on the Xbox. The console's software library is a bit lacking for brawlers so Dynasty Warriors 3 should fit the bill pretty well. Hopefully Koei will have the chance to polish the game up a bit more before it ships. Dynasty Warriors 3 ships this September for the Xbox.