TGS 2005: Dynasty Warriors 5 Special Hands-On

Koei's popular ancient Chinese brawler is coming to the Xbox 360, and we busted a few heads to find out how it's shaping up.


TGS 2005--If you're aiming to capture a significant portion of the Japanese gaming pie, as Microsoft is with the upcoming Xbox 360, a series as popular as Dynasty Warriors would be a nice feather in your cap. Then again, it wouldn't exactly hurt in America, either. Luckily for Microsoft, then, Koei is bringing a version of Dynasty Warriors 5, subtitled Special, to the 360, and we got to try a work-in-progress version of the game at the Tokyo Game Show today.

Unsurprisingly, Dynasty Warriors 5 hasn't changed a whole lot in terms of content in its transition to the 360. In fact, the action was exactly as we remembered, having played several iterations of the series on both the PS2 and Xbox. The controls mapped well to the 360's controller, especially since it now has four shoulder buttons like the PS2 and thus can essentially re-create the game's original control scheme unchanged. We took control of one of the heroes of ancient China and mowed down hundreds of enemy soldiers with massive swings of our polearm, all the while picking up strength and speed power-ups and targeting the opposition's officers to decrease the general morale of the enemy force. Yep, sounds a lot like Dynasty Warriors.

The biggest changes to the Special version of Dynasty Warriors 5 are clearly graphical, though the game hasn't had a complete makeover as you might hope. Imagine instead a new coat of paint overlaid on the same framework, since the backgrounds are still fairly simplistic, and the character models don't seem to have gotten too much more detailed--though we did note what appeared to be flowing, physically modeled clothing on our own fighter. Obviously, the game itself is running in a higher resolution, and it seemed like the textures have been boosted in a similar manner. We also thought the musou special-attack effects looked more lavish and impressive than in past games. Perhaps most importantly, the draw distance has been visibly increased; you can definitely see farther toward the horizon than on lesser platforms, which makes the game look better but also gives you the advantage of seeing more of the enemy's forces at once. Along with this increase in view distance, we noticed some fairly subtle, tasteful light bloom used to indicate sunlight, which helped with the overall presentation.

It's doubtful that Koei will ever reinvent the Dynasty Warriors series from the ground up, and why would it when the series continues to attract so many eager visitors with each new iteration? From what we played of Special, it seems like a straightforward port with clearly improved graphics but with the same gameplay fans know and love. We'll have to wait for a true next-generation version of the series, though Dynasty Warriors 5 Special looks like it ought to please the devotees of the series seeking a better-looking version of one of their favorites.

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