There’s something very special about the Dynasty Warriors series in that you never need to describe the core game to anybody, and at its heart the series has remained unchanged since the beginning. However each series has a few small tweaks and additions that change it from the rest and the biggest for Dynasty Warriors NEXT is the implementation of the PlayStation Vita’s unique functions to create what is a new yet somehow still familiar experience.
Read on to see how well NEXT lives up to creating a portable Dynasty Warriors experience that unfortunately falls just a tad short of being more memorable.
If you’re somehow unfamiliar the Dynasty Warriors series it can be summed up quite quickly: you take control of a character and run around a field slaughtering hundreds of warriors. There’s more to it than that, and the action is accompanied by a bevy of modes as well as a fairly well told story with this particular incarnation. It also comes with tons of extra goodies stacked on top, all to create a very compelling experience that feels like it was put together with care.
The obvious star of the show is the campaign mode, which is pretty straight-forward in its presentation. A mixture of full video and old school ‘talking portrait’ cut-scenes give the exposition between each chapter and mission, which tell what may not be the most engrossing story you’ve ever seen in a video game but a very well put together one that does an adequate job.
Some preparation is available to you before each mission which allows you to equip different weapons and items to your character for that level, as well as review what each area on the map is and the different forces available to you and the enemy. Most of the time you can ignore almost all of this if you wish as long as you equip the best weapon and items available to you at the time.
Of course, then things get to what everybody came here for: the action. Things are as solid as ever with all the mayhem on the map as you run from one objective to the next destroying everyone and everything that gets in your way. Controls are responsive with a simple “light / medium / special attack / jump” scheme for the face buttons with some well used touch controls for default actions.
As you fight, two separate bars are filled up along with your killcount that allow access to two unique abilities, both of which are activated by using the front touch screen. One unleashes a powerful attack which is then accompanied by a different touch screen effect, and the other instantly captures an area on the map.
The first ability requires touching two fingers on either side of the screen (left and right) while the other just requires a single touch. The system never had any issues detecting what I was wanting to do and both of these have come up for me on-command with 100% reliability. If only this use of the touchscreen had been as far as Dynasty Warriors NEXT went I feel like things would have been a lot smoother overall.
Throughout the game a variety of uses for the unique features of the Vita come up that range from unwieldy to downright awkward, ranging from tapping or slashing the front screen, shaking the system, tilting it side to side, or tapping the back touch area. While these all work very well and are an interesting use of the system’s mechanics, they become old very quick and simply feel out of place. Had they been added as a mini-game on the side (and some are) they wouldn’t be as bad, but as it stands the game interrupts the action to play what feels like a cheap mobile game.
Thankfully most of them have an alternate way to perform the action using a variety of buttons. There’s a driving mini-game in the campaign on horseback which asks you to tilt the Vita side to side to steer, or simply use the analog nub. It was a pretty easy choice deciding which one to go with.
The good news is that these bits are spread out enough that they’re little more than an annoyance when they pop up and none of them take very long. Another new mechanic which uses the touch-screen is a little more aggravating though: the duel system. Sometimes the game will interrupt the action as you approach a boss and force you into a duel with them, and there’s no way around this.
The duels use a couple of simple touchscreen mechanics and a basic parry/counter-attack system which is poorly explained at first, though not too hard to pick up on after a few of them. They usually aren’t very difficult though they can be extremely frustrating if you happen to have trouble with one, as it’s necessary to beat them to continue. Upon death you’re only given two options: retry or return to the title screen.
Dynasty Warriors NEXT takes advantage of the online capabilities of the system in a few ways, the first of which you may notice during the campaign. Occasionally you’ll be “challenged” to a duel by an online opponent while on the main map screen and unfortunately there’s no way to turn down a challenge. Your only choice is to acknowledge/accept and fight. It’s not made clear if you’re actually fighting the other person or if each of you is seeing an AI interpretation of their character at that moment, but it hardly matters in the long run.
In addition to this nice little touch the game also features a dedicated multiplayer co-op experience called Coalition Mode. This can be played via ad-hoc with up to four friends, or it can be done solo which the game advises as being possible but extremely difficult. In fact when I attempted to do them solo the in-game characters would comment on it saying they admire my courage or mocking that I have nobody to watch my back.
Attempting any of the missions is quite the difficult experience as they’re clearly designed with multiple players in mind. I’m sure to a good player they might be easily conquered, but most people will definitely want to grab a few buddies and gang up on these. Unfortunately, as stated, it’s only available in ad-hoc mode so you better find a few local buddies.
The amount of content present in Dynasty Warriors NEXT is overwhelming. The game features three main modes all of which are quite lengthy and there is plenty of extra content to unlock.
The game features the ability to create and edit your own officers and dress them up in a variety of outfits. Your pool to select from is small at first but as you level up you unlock more clothing options. This level is shared across all modes so getting more stuff won’t take too long.
In addition to the outfits you can equip your characters (in all modes) with different weapons and items as well as choosing from a variety of fighting styles, what troops they take with them and even the bonus they grant on entering the battlefield. The items and weapons are gained by finding them in the levels or as rewards for certain accomplishments or for winning battles. The rest seem to be unlocked by a combination of this, leveling up and progressing in the main campaign.
Dynasty Warriors NEXT isn’t a game-changer. It’s still essentially the same Dynasty Warriors experience we’ve all come to know and love (or hate), in a nice portable package. Suffice to say if you were already a fan of the series you’ll enjoy this game and there’s quite a bit here for you. It doesn’t do enough new to sway anybody already who already dislikes the series or has gone stale to it, but that’s to be expected.
With plenty of content available and very few gripes for the new introductions, Dynasty Warriors NEXT is a solid entry in a series known for nothing if not it’s reliability. It’s a portable Dynasty Warriors game, so you should know what you’re getting into right from the get go. It translates well to the short-form nature of being a portable game but still has plenty to offer for a long session.