Dynasty Warriors Updated Hands-On

Koei's portable version of its hack-and-slash hit will change the formula to make it a more pick-up-and-play-style experience.

LAS VEGAS--Dynasty Warriors, the series, needs no introduction. Anyone who's played one of Koei's consistently popular historical hack-and-slash games knows what to expect from the long-lived franchise. But Dynasty Warriors, the PSP game, does merit some description, because the developer has changed certain elements of the gameplay to provide a quicker experience that still conveys the epic feeling of battle that's integral to the series. The result is a game that bears enough resemblance to the main series to please hardcore fans while also providing an experience that anyone can enjoy with a commitment of only a few minutes.

The core action of Dynasty Warriors on the PSP remains unchanged from the console versions--you're still a hero of ancient Chinese history who must turn the tide of battle by single-handedly slaughtering scores of enemy soldiers. Actually, you're one of 42 of these characters, all of whom return from Dynasty Warriors 4 with their special moves and personalities intact. At face value, Dynasty Warriors on the PSP looks and plays just like the many games you've seen on the PS2 and Xbox, with dozens of foes assaulting you and your character unleashing massive, flashy attacks to fight them off.

You'll have to spend a few minutes with the game to get an understanding of what's new, since it's not immediately obvious. Koei has used the extra width of the PSP's screen to accomodate a permanent sidebar on the right that contains a tactical map, information on troop morale, and other handy info. The expansive battlefields of the console Dynasty Warriors games have been chopped up in this handheld version into bite-size chunks that you can complete in just five or 10 minutes. Taking a cue from Dynasty Warriors 4: Empires, the new game will place these maps in a tactical arrangement, allowing you some degree of control over which battle you tackle next.

Each node indicates how many enemy officers are stationed at that position, giving you some idea of the challenge you'll face, and once you're in the battle you can watch graphical and numerical representations of the enemy force's morale on the sidebar to discern how well you're faring in the battle. Once the other side's morale reaches zero, you've won that particular battle and can move on to the next. Victory in one place can lead to positive benefits, such as increased morale for your own troops, in other areas. These battles are short enough that you'll be able to fight through two or three in the space of a short bus ride, for instance, and then save your progress and come back to the game later on.

The console Dynasty Warriors games provide a lot of items to empower your characters, in the form of long-lasting new weapons and accessories that you can equip between battles, and temporary power-up items that you can find scattered around the battlefield. Dynasty Warriors on the PSP does away with both of these features. Instead, you'll increase the strength and abilities of your characters through a new "second in command" officer system that lets you ally yourself with up to four bodyguards, each of whom has a special ability, per mission. Some officers will be able to rejuvenate your health, for instance, while others may be able to help more efficiently move your basic troops from area to area. There will be a whopping 200 of these bodyguards to unlock throughout the game, and you'll even be able to link up with friends to trade officers so you can complete your set.

Koei seems to have done a good job of adapting Dynasty Warriors' chaotic battles to the relatively small screen of the PSP. The game seems to be roughly on par with its older siblings in graphical terms, though the envioronments aren't quite as detailed and there are fewer characters on the screen at once. Still, the specific style of the series is intact and should be quite satisfactory to fans of the series. Dynasty Warriors is currently slated for release alongside the PSP, and we'll bring you more on the game soon.

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