Dynasty Warriors 5 Preview
By: Alex D.

Back in 1997, the Playstation saw the release of the original Dynasty Warriors, a fast-paced hack-and-slash action game that dazzled fans with its simplistic gameplay, hordes of enemies and crazy combos. Fast-forward to 2005, the series has seen five iterations on Sony’s consoles and two on Microsoft’s Xbox with a third taking the form of Dynasty Warriors 5, which is approaching swiftly. On September 3rd, the installment on the Xbox will see the light of day with a few minor additions separating it from its PlayStation 2 counterpart.

The Xbox version of Dynasty Warriors 5 looks and plays almost identically to the PlayStation 2 version but with a few new additions. Notably, the original Japanese voice-overs along with a new 5.1 Surround Sound audio track among other things, although this is hardly worth checking out if you already have the game for the PS2.

On top of the new additions to the Xbox version, Koei has also incorporated a few interesting ideas since the previous iteration. Players now have the option of choosing a bodyguard, an NPC character who can be issued commands and will follow the main character around and help him in combat. Additionally, weapons can now be collected and have supplementary characteristics, meaning that players will notice a difference on the battlefield depending on the weight and affinity of the item. A new battlefield base system also adds a small amount of depth to the brainless button mashing. Various bases and checkpoints are now placed on the maps and capturing them will help raise your troops’ morale and allow you to call for reinforcements.

Each title in the Dynasty Warriors series has always allowed players to control a legendary warrior with the ability to take on an unbelievable amount of enemies at once, thanks to the use of combos and magic spells, and DW5 is no exception. Generally speaking, each mission encompasses the decimation of the opposing army by any means necessary. This translates into a lot of running and button mashing while you defeat hordes of adversaries. To try to avoid the repetition, there are also a few new modes such as “challenge” and “musou,” which include a few objectives related to, once again, the obliteration of your rivals.

This time around, Dynasty Warriors 5 is able to handle twice as many characters on-screen at once than DW4. To accommodate the immense amount of NPCs that will be present, the maps are now up to 30% bigger than in the previous iteration, and the load times are surprisingly rapid. The draw distance has been improved upon as well, although on occasion, characters and buildings seem to materialize in front of players a little too late.

As far as controls go, nothing has changed in that you still have a guard, normal and charge attacks and jump and musou buttons. While the control scheme is simplistic and easy to become accustomed too, players will find themselves essentially mashing the normal attack repeatedly as dozens of enemies encircle you. The white button issues commands to your bodyguard and the black one toggles a map of the battlefield in the upper-right corner of the screen. At times, the camera can feel cumbersome when battling groups of enemies, but pressing the left trigger will re-center it behind the player. The game does an excellent job at using all of the controller’s buttons.

Graphically, Dynasty Warriors 5 hasn’t evolved much from its predecessor. All of the 48 characters in the game are well detailed and have a unique feel to them, and the effects created from the special moves and combos are equally appealing. The environments are nothing to tout about, however, as they’re rather bland and uninspiring, but the non-stop action that develops on-screen will usually keep players too occupied to notice. The Xbox version also seems to be a lot smoother and free of jaggies present in the PS2 version. The frame rate is always constant and there were no noticeable slowdowns, which is very impressive and surprising when considering everything that is going on.

To wrap things up, Dynasty Warriors 5 shows a lot of promise for hack-and-slash action fans who are in need of something after the drought of games that we’ve just been through. While it’s practically identical to the PS2 version that has been available since March, it’s definitely a title that gamers should try if they haven’t already experienced it. For veterans of the game on Sony’s system, the minor additions to the Xbox version simply do not provide much of a reason to rent or purchase it again, but newcomers should keep an eye out come September.