The Dynasty Warriors series has become something of a surprise cash cow for publisher Koei. The first game in the series, a little-remembered PlayStation fighting game, didn't really grab that much attention, but the subsequent Dynasty Warriors games have found success by throwing out the one-on-one fighting model and replacing it with all-out brawling on a grand scale. While series fans are eagerly awaiting the fourth installment, Koei has released an updated version of Dynasty Warriors 3, called Xtreme Legends, to tide over the more fanatical among them. The game doesn't make any major revisions to the Dynasty Warriors formula, but for hard-core fans of the previous games, it'll serve as a decent holdover until Dynasty Warriors 4 comes out.
For the uninitiated, the Dynasty Warriors games draw on the same early Chinese mythos as Koei's other big series, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The game takes actual historical figures from the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history, gives them superhuman combat abilities, and puts them in command of huge armies taking part in epic historical battles. The core missions often last 30 to 45 minutes, and you and your comrades lead hundreds of troops against a similar number of enemies and their commanders on massive battlefields. Victory usually results from the annihilation of the enemy's commanding officers and leader. Along the way, you can power up your character's attack and defense stats, gain new weapons for him or her, and increase your overall effectiveness in battle.
Xtreme Legends takes Dynasty Warriors 3 as a base and simply adds new content to it. If not for the title screen, you might think you were playing Dynasty Warriors 3 when starting a game, because the menu and options are basically identical in Xtreme Legends. The big differences in this update come in the form of newly unlocked characters, extra weapons, new challenge modes, and other fairly minor additions. There are several new missions included, and the old missions on the disc can be played with the new game settings. You can also load up Xtreme Legends and then insert the Dynasty Warriors 3 disc to play the original game with the updated characters and items. Although Xtreme Legends is definitely more of the same, it's nice that this new edition extends the replay value of the older game as well.
Probably the biggest change in Xtreme Legends is an overhaul of the bodyguard system. You can now assemble your own platoon of troops to fight alongside you in battle, and the orders you can give them are more effective and more varied. Further, the bodyguards now level up more independently of your main character, and you can emphasize specific attributes for them to improve. With a little extra work and strategizing, you can exploit this new feature to considerably improve your chances in battle.
As expected, Xtreme Legends' audio and video presentation is identical to the original game. The same menu artwork, character models, backgrounds, soundtrack, and voice actors are utilized throughout, so if you know what DW3 looks and sounds like, you know likewise for Xtreme Legends. If you haven't played the original, Xtreme Legends is fairly nice looking. The backgrounds are a little low on the polygon count, but the highly detailed character models make up for this fact, especially considering how many fighters can be on-screen at once--it's not uncommon to face a mass of 20 or 30 opponents, with no slowdown to speak of. The game's weapon clashes and other sound effects are nicely rendered, but the voice acting is, for the most part, pretty bad. Fortunately, you can switch to the original Japanese voice acting with subtitles if you'd prefer more drama and less cheese. Finally, Dynasty Warriors 3's hair metal-like soundtrack is reproduced here fully intact, so you can bang your head a little while you're thrashing the hordes.
The expansion pack, so commonly found among PC games, is a concept that doesn't really exist on the console side of the industry. That's really what Xtreme Legends is, however. Though it can be played as a stand-alone game, it mainly serves to update Dynasty Warriors 3 without making any major changes in graphics, sound, or gameplay. Anyone not familiar with the series and considering checking out Xtreme Legends should become acquainted with Dynasty Warriors 3 before doing so. Whether Xtreme Legends is worth picking up or not comes down to one simple question: Did you like Dynasty Warriors 3 and find yourself wanting more when the game was over? If you answered yes, you should most definitely seek out Xtreme Legends. If you're not a fan of the series, however, the game brings nothing to the table, and it won't do anything to win you over that previous games didn't. Fortunately, the game is being offered for a fairly budget-minded price, so if you do decide to pick it up, you won't feel like you're paying full cost for the same game you bought last year. Xtreme Legends is a perfect example of a game with a built-in audience, and the members of that audience should be pretty happy with the additions the game makes to the series.