Review: Dynasty Warriors Advance (Game Boy Advance)

Review: Dynasty Warriors Advance (GBA)
Developer: Koei
Distributor: Nintendo
Genre: Action
Release Date: 8/29/05

If you’ve ever played one of the entries in the Dynasty Warriors series, you know that the series has made a name for itself with its insane action and massive weapon choices, pitting a single soldier against legions upon legions of adversaries. The epic battles are one of the elements that separate it from its peers, and with each iteration in the series, there have been vast improvements.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before they f*cked it all up.

Now, I’ll give the developers a little bit of credit… obviously the GBA is vastly inferior to the Playstation and the X-Box. You can’t have hundreds of enemies on screen at once, and you certainly don’t have the number of buttons needed to pull off a lot of really cool moves and combos. However, even taking into account the technical limitations of the hardware, it’s difficult for me to look upon this game as anything other than a failure.

I’d just as soon tell you right now that Dynasty Warriors Advance is a waste of time and that you should avoid it at all costs. Hell, I’d sooner recommend Animaniacs over this dreck. Even Digimon World 4 has more going for it. But, I took the time to play it, so I might as well take the time to write out a full review.


1. STORY/MODES

Again, if you are familiar with Dynasty Warriors Advance, then you are familiar with the general story in each of the games. You lead a group of warriors through a number of epic battles in China at the tail end of the second century. There’s no real story, per say… just that you need to conquer your enemy and eventually rule over the land. It’s basically a tactical game, so let’s take a look at the various modes offered instead.

There are three main modes offered here: Musou, Free, and Challenge. For all intents and purposes, Musou and Free are identical, except that in Free mode you can play any map that you have previously defeated in Musou. Musou itself is the game’s “story” mode, which as stated isn’t much of a story at all.

Lastly you have Challenge mode, which gives you three different play options: Endurance, Time Attack, and Battle Luck. Endurance and Time Attack are exactly what they sound like… defeat as many enemies as you can before you are overwhelmed, and defeat 100 enemies as quickly as you can, respectively. Battle Luck is a little more interesting in that at the end of each fight you get to choose one of two boxes. Choose the right one, and you advance a level. Choose the wrong one, and you are sent back a level. The big problem here is that it’s a 50/50 shot, so chances are you will get stuck on the same two or three levels for quite a while.

In the end, there are enough modes here to give you something to do, but none of them have any real lasting appeal. And with Musou and Free being almost identical, there’s no real reason to even choose Free unless you really want to play on level over again. And I doubt you will.

Story/Modes Rating: 4/10


2. GRAPHICS

For a Game Boy Advance game, I was really hoping for a little bit more in the graphics department. Instead we get what looks like a Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis port. The graphics aren’t bad, but they are nowhere near what they could have been.

One the plus side colors are bright and vibrant, and you’ll have no trouble telling your characters apart from the enemies. Then again, there really aren’t that many enemies that show up on screen at once. At most, you’ll be encountering four or five enemies, which in a series known for epic battles is a bit of a disappointment. Graphically speaking, I see no reason why the game couldn’t toss eight to ten enemies at you, as the sprites aren’t nearly complex enough to cause any slowdown at their current level.

The number of different characters you encounter are also rather limited. Sure, the main characters you get to choose from are varied, but opponents pretty much all look the same. Battlefields and maps show a little variety, but not nearly in the amounts you would expect from this kind of title.

I guess you could say that the graphics are serviceable, but they aren’t anywhere near what the GBA is capable of, and the lack of unique enemy sprites and backgrounds is rather disappointing.

Graphics Rating: 3/10


3. SOUND

Ok, whoever decided that rock and roll was appropriate for a game set in ancient China needs to have their head examined. On another system, it might work… but coming out of the GBA’s limited speakers it sounds grainy and staticy. Not to mention repetitive… you’ll hear the same few songs over and over again as you progress.

Sound effects have the same problems. For all the variety of weapons and characters, you’d think there would be more variety in the sound. Sadly, that isn’t the case. Almost every weapon and character sounds the same. And the little game voices that pop up every now and then don’t sound very good at all, and are completely unnecessary.

Bland, repetitive, and noisy. And seriously disappointing considering some of the GBA games I’ve played recently.

Sound Rating: 1/10


4. CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY

Although the controls are limited on the GBA, the developers did at least a half decent job making them work. As expected, the control pad moves you around on the battlefield, while the A and B buttons perform various attacks. A is a slow but heavy attack while B is a quick but lighter attack. The L button blocks, and the R button uses the ability from a small dial in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Lastly, pressing L and A simultaneously performs a Musou attack, which is a strong and repetitive attack that can only be performed when you have a full Musou bar, which fills as you defeat more enemies.

When not fighting on the battlefield, you’ll see your characters and the enemies on an overhead battle map. Here the control pad cycles through possible movement options while A sets your destination and B cancels. L will toggle a minimap allowing you to see every enemy and ally while R allows you to access your armory.

In Musou and Free mode you will first choose which army of three solider you wish to use, then you will be placed on the map and the battle will begin. The paths you can take are predetermined, which takes away severely from any strategic element the game might have otherwise had in the overhead view. At most, you’ll get to a crossroads and have to choose from two or three possible destinations. If you choose not to move, you will occasionally have the option of searching the area for items to regain health and increase your power.

When you encounter an enemy on the map, you will immediately be placed on the battlefield, where you will be required to defeat them in waves. Now, this is where the game becomes really insipid… Enemies attack in waves of four or five at a time, and the next wave won’t start coming until the first is defeated. And defeating enemies is no more difficult than smashing the A and B buttons repeatedly, and maybe blocking a little bit if you are up against a particularly strong foe. Finish off all the waves, and you return to the overhead map where you get to do it all again.

As mentioned earlier, I really don’t understand why more enemies don’t crowd the screen at once. I mean, I’ve faced worse odds playing Battletoads on the original Nintendo Entertainment System! And as far as tactics go, there aren’t any. The gameplay is entirely devoted to button smashing and occasionally using a special power or launching a Musou attack. The variety of enemies you encounter is severely limited and the only real challenge comes from the occasional boss fight.

The other game modes basically follow this exact same formula, except that you don’t get to move around on the map before hand. Instead you are thrust into the middle of the fight until you die or complete your objective. Repetition is the rule here, and it’s a boring one.

The only potential saving grace in the game is the number of weapons you can potentially wield, but even this is done half assed. Sure, you can equip plenty of weapons, but your choices are basically limited by the character you chose and whichever weapon gives him the highest stats. Some weapons grant an elemental spell power as well, but these aren’t necessarily more effective than normal weapons in many cases. There is also no real variety as far as usefulness of the weapons go. When it comes to combat, a sword acts the same as a polearm which acts the same as a mace. In the end, pick whatever gives you the highest damage and get back into the fight.

There are also options for leveling up your character and their weapon skills, but these really don’t affect gameplay very much. Sure, a level three character has a better chance at surviving and doing damage then a level one character, but the impact to the game is negligible. Regardless of your level or weapon skill, the gameplay stays exactly the same. Hack and slash, hack and slash, hack and slash.

Dynasty Warriors Advance has the potential to be a good game, but the repetitive nature of the gameplay is truly terrible. None of the other aspects of the game mean a thing, just your skill at mashing down the buttons and maybe timing a block properly. With a little more attention and care though, things could have been different.

Control and Gameplay Score: 2/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

Potentially? Well, you’ve got your multiple modes and four hidden characters to unlock. Beat Musou mode with each of the three provinces and you’ll unlock the three lord characters. Then complete Musou again with one of the lords, and you get the final character.

So yes, potentially you need to play the game four times to unlock everything. However, the Musou mode isn’t really that long, consisting of only 6 battles which take roughly 30 minutes to an hour each to complete.

As for the rest of the game? Well, you can keep playing the Challenge modes in order to beat your scores or times, but otherwise there’s no real reason to keep coming back to them.

Replayability Score: 3/10


6. BALANCE

As I have said before, this game is all about button mashing. And as such, it’s also incredibly easy. The waves of enemies take very little effort to beat, and even at the end of the game they aren’t difficult at all due to your level scaling more or less as much as theirs does. The only real challenge comes from fighting boss characters, but this mainly involves blocking a bunch and timing your attacks properly. Most of the bosses will have a number of guards with them, but these are defeated as easily as the normal enemy waves leaving you one on one with your main opponent.

This is another case where with a little more care things could have been better. But as it stands, just keep on smashing those buttons, and you shouldn’t have much trouble at all.

Balance Score: 1/10


7. ORIGINALITY

The Dynasty Warriors series has been around for quite a while now, so there really isn’t much new about the game. Sure, there hasn’t been a GBA title for the series until now, but when you boil it down to its core, Dynasty Warriors Advance is just a beat-’em-up with tactical aspirations.

Every element of the game has been done better elsewhere, from the combat system to the level up process to the equipment and gear. If you want a real tactical experience, go pick up Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon, or Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. And if you happen to like the beat-’em-up style of gameplay more? Hell, I’d sooner point you to Dragon Ball GT: Transformation than this.

Originality Score: 1/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

Sure, it’s fun to smack around your enemies at first, but pretty soon the repetitive nature of the game sets in and boredom quickly follows. Unless you are really die hard about beating your games, I doubt you’ll have any desire to play this more than once or twice.

The game tries to be so much more, but falls flat on its face, and any chance of a fun and addictive game falls with it.

Addictiveness: 1/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

I suppose that those who enjoy the Dynasty Warriors series on the Playstation or the X-Box might be tempted to pick this up so they can play the it on the road. It’s a pity that they’ll be wasting their time and money. Anyone hoping for a deep and engaging tactical action experience will be sorely disappointed.

As for anyone else, the game might appeal to those who like historically based action or beat-’em-ups, but these folks are sure to be disappointed as well. I can’t see this game appealing to anyone once they have had a chance to play it, even if the initial interest is there.

Appeal Factor Score: 2/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

I will give the developers credit for one thing… they did include a rather good tutorial and a nifty little encyclopedia.

The tutorial is exactly what you might think… a series of exercises that shows you how to play the game, from combat on the field to swapping weapons and understanding the information displayed on screen. It’s a pity that the game is just a glorified beat-’em-up, because they really did put together a pretty nice tutorial here.

The encyclopedia is also a nice little addition, giving you some good information on the officers you will encounter, the weapons you can use, the items you might find, and the history of the three provinces you can choose to play as.

Otherwise there is really nothing going for this game. As I’ve said several times, it is a terrible translation of the series and a failed attempt at a tactical action game. I recommend neither a rental nor a purchase. Just let this one sit on the shelves and go find something better to occupy your time.

Miscellaneous Score: 3/10


THE SCORES

Story: 4
Graphics: 3
Sound: 1
Gameplay/Control: 2
Replayability: 3
Balance: 1
Originality: 1
Addictiveness: 1
Appeal Factor: 1
Miscellaneous: 3
Overall: 20
Final Score: 2.0 (Dreadful)