As launch titles go, the PlayStation Vita has had one of the largest in gaming’s short history and for the most part the games have been a very strong lot. Tecmo’s next entry into the famed Dynasty Warriors series continues to prove that the line-up is a strong one. To say that the game has rejuvenated the series wouldn’t be far off, as the new additions of features and controls of the Vita have certainly added a new depth to the game.
While I do say that the series has benefited from the new features that the PS Vita has to offer, to say that the actual gameplay has changed to any degree would be a lie. The game is essentially the same one that you have played for the last 15 years. You still have to hack ‘n’ slash your way through thousands of identa-kit soldiers with just a small difference of base capturing added to make the massacring a little less boring.
Dynasty Warriors Next is loosely based on the classic novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, I say loosely as while the game does follow the events of the story, its gameplay revolves around you taking on the role of one of the generals from the titular Three Kingdoms and going on a one man killing spree. It isn’t really fair to criticise this particular title about how the overall series plays out as we doubt that it will ever change as the series is insanely popular in Japan. However, it would have been nice to have some more variety in this portable version of the game. Especially, as the portability of the Vita could open up new options, akin to the KingMaker app that ran as a promotion for Fable 3.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Dynasty Warriors Next takes advantage of all of the control inputs that the PS Vita offers. While it is nice to see the different uses of the inputs, it feels very much like the approach that developers took towards the development of titles for the original DS’ launch. They added everything that they could, making the experience a mash of ideas that didn’t necessarily work within the game’s concept.
To be fair to Dynasty Warriors Next, some of the control features that have been added to the game work really well and actually improve the game remarkably. One instance of this is the touch screen mini-map, while this can be a bit fiddly to access as you need to pinch and draw the map out to access it and in the heat of battle it isn’t the easiest thing, however once you open it a new level of strategy is revealed. You see, as you start each battle you have the option to select up to three other officers (generals) to take into battle with you. These sub-officers are then under your command – they can be told what to do in a limited capacity, via the mini map. Dragging one of the diamond shaped icons over to, say an enemy base, will present two options; a defence option or an attack option. Now, obviously you don’t want to defend an enemy base, but the ability works in an interesting way, as hitting the defence option seems to let the officer attack and capture the base and then defend it once it is captured. The drag and drop feature of the officer orders is the gem of the Vita based input functions, with the other options offering a limited and sometimes annoying interruption to the gameplay.
Taking the form of an ‘Ambush’ one of these ‘annoying interruptions’ is the cutscene-like mini-games where you need to either repeatedly tap on a group of enemies to kill them or move the Vita around to target a group of enemies with a lock-on projectile. Thankfully these ‘Ambushes’ are rare and for the most part you can see them coming, allowing you to prepare for them. The most annoying interruption is the boss duels, these only happen once in a while, but they seem to take their cues from the iOS game Infinity Blade. Here you need to attack and defeat yourself against a single enemy; this takes place in a pitch black environment with just you and your opponent in a pool of light. You then need to either swipe the front touch screen in a indicated direction to break their defence and open them up to an attack. This is handled by you doing ape-crazy on the screen swiping across the screen to build up a power bar that then allows you to unleash a super-attack. While, initially this can be fun to do especially if you liked the Chair iOS game, it gets boring fast.
The biggest change to the game format is that the health bar has been removed from your character and replaced with a Call of Duty like fading colour-from-screen indicator. These works well, but it seems strange that all other characters have a health bar over their heads and you have nothing. Another new addition is the Break Bar, this bar builds up as you fight your way through the opposing soldiers gaining a combo level as you go. As the combo level increases the rate of the Break Bar increases too, once it has reached the top you can then select a base on the map to conquer straight away.
It should be noted that the game’s stages have not been cut down to suit an on-the-go gaming experience, so most stages take around 15 to 20 minutes to complete with no option to save during this time.
Dynasty Warriors is a series that is very much comes down to personal taste, some love it, and some hate it. However, as a launch title for the Vita, Dynasty Warriors Next is one of the stronger games in the series. It does have some annoying additions which feel like they are there fore the sake of it, but those are few and to be fair, the integration of the front touch screen works really well. Whether it is an essential buy for your new console is a question of how much you like the series.
Rating: GoodReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360)
Dynasty Warriors Next is out now on PlayStation Vita. You can order your copy here.