Review: Dynasty Warriors 6 (PS2)

Dynasty Warriors 6
Genre: Action
Publisher: KOEI
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: 11/18/08


Since the first game of the Dynasty Warriors series was ported to the US, I’ve been amazed at how the games have progressed and evolved in such a short period of time. The Dynasty Warriors series is, essentially, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, only retold (and retooled) for the action gamer generation. The series is based, plot-wise, in the third and fourth centuries of China and told with the twist that you can change the outcome of the wars with your general of choice. One king to rule them all is the basic plot line all of the games follow, where your leader is striving to be the ruler of a unified China. At the time, as with most all of the games in the series, the Emperor of China has recently died, leaving the throne up for grabs to three separate main factions, who are fighting one another for control of the country. The three main leaders are Cao Cao of the Wei forces, Liu Bei of the Shu forces, and Sun Jian of the Wu forces. They all have their own agendas and beliefs, which cause different outcomes in the overall story, depending on who you use.

There are also a few smaller factions aside from The Gang of Three, as I like to call them. They include the faction of the infamous Dong Zhuo, his adopted son Lu Bu, and Diao Chan who is caught in a love triangle thing with the both of them leading to quite a few interesting plot developments. There is also the ever feeble Zhang Jiao, who is the leader of the Yellow Turbans (who amount to the little more than a group of punching bags in the Dynasty Warriors series). I must say, this guy has been the series’ whipping boy/evangelist, which makes him a prime target for flame wars. “I got your Promised Land right here buddy!” one might say as they sliced their way through his army like a hot knife through butter.

Graphically, the series has improved significantly since the early days, and nowhere is this more apparent than in this game. The next gen games have been seriously changed for the better, but even the PS2 version has been seriously improved. Characters have been redone with greater detail than ever before, and animate fluidly, making the combat enjoyable to watch in action. But with greater graphics pushing an older system to its structural limits, it is clear to see there was a price to be paid, in the form of some immersion-destroying slowdown. One minute you’re killing the peons of Sun Jian, the next minute you’re watching what looks like a slide show on the history channel. Yes, it’s that bad. This problem has always plagued the series on the good old PS2, but now it is truly evident the system needs to be retired, as it simply can’t keep up any longer. 200 dollars is not that much money at this point, considering it’s like purchasing 3 games nowadays, especially when one sees the difference between the visuals here and in the next gen versions. It makes perfect sense to release a PS2 version of the game (considering the PS2 has a larger user base than the PS3 by leaps and bounds)

The music has always a wonderful thing in Dynasty Warriors; featuring instruments that were, at the time, a new treat to gamers who only used to electric guitars and electronic drums, it’s always managed to be moving in each of the games. This is no different in Dynasty Warriors 6. Wonderful pieces accompany most levels and change periodically depending on the turn of the tides of battle. The voice acting was pretty weak early in the series, but as the games have progressed, the voice work has changed quite a lot since then, for the better. The games even feature the correct pronunciations of character names now, which was always bothersome in the early games. Take Cao Cao for instance. His name looks like it would be said “Cow Cow” right? Wrong! It’s “Tsow Tsow”. That said, older games in the series pronounced his name “Cow Cow” which was incredibly annoying… and I’m not even Chinese! Anyway, it’s good to see they fixed that mess. The sound effects have taken a turn for the worse in this version, unfortunately, which was probably to accommodate the space needed for the updated graphics. Sword clangs sound like someone shooting off a musket rather than metal hitting metal. Taking a hit sounds like a geriatric with walking farts. Falling down sounds like a block of wood hitting a punching bag. It just doesn’t add up, and it doesn’t work well in comparison to the prior games. It’s nice to see the music and voice acting is solid, but it’s sad that there are still audio flaws, some six games into the series later.

If you’ve never played a Dynasty Warriors game, well first, how’s cave life treated you for the past decade? Second, you would still be fine as long as you can find the square button. I swear, Sony sure knows how to make a sturdy controller, because if I haven’t worn out that button by now, I never will. You can, of course, mix up your attacks with the hard attack for occasionally needed crowd control, but for the most part, you won’t need to… unless you’re playing on the harder difficulties, where this becomes essential if one values life. The Dynasty Warriors series is well known for its insane higher difficulty levels, and this game doesn’t disappoint in this respect. Personally, I could never consistently play on anything more difficult than Hard setting without having to chuck my controller across a room; at that point, between the minimal damage you deal and the insane damage coming from your enemies, its really not worth bothering with unless you’re insanely tolerant. Insane mode (the worst of the lot) is the polar opposite of the typical Easy difficulty, complete with nobody peons killing you in a few hits, all the bosses are just about impossible (with the exception of a few lower generals that can still kill you in two hits) and then there’s Lu Bu! Oh god, never in a game has a boss been so utterly destructive. On the other hand, though. I also can’t recommend playing the game on anything less than normal mode once you’ve learned the basics, because in any difficulty below that, the officers just walk up to you and stand there for a good five seconds waiting to be sliced up. In other words, the game is actually surprisingly well-balanced, in that the easiest difficulty can be won with virtually no effort, the hardest difficulty murders you constantly, and everything in the middle is challenging to various degrees.

Dynasty Warriors 6 also offers a wide range of game modes that allow you to exercise your blood lust. Musuo mode is the traditional storyline, which features a new total of 55 story arcs. That’s 10 more than the next gen console games are getting for this release. Why did they do that? One would think they did this to increase the potential value of the PS2 release of the game, but hey, who cares? The more the merrier, I say. In Musuo mode you can play single player or 2 player co-op to gain experience, items and weapons for your characters. I really wanted this version to have online co-op, but alas, they failed to offer this option in the PS2 version. Maybe they will in Dynasty Warriors 7, though it’s doubtful. There is also Free mode, where you can play any of the scenarios you’ve already beaten to gain more experience and items/weapons for your characters. There is also a new Challenge mode, where you are offered different activities such as Rampage, where you need to defeat the most enemies before time runs out, or Speed Run, where the object is to run to each base as quickly as you can. Even with the new game modes and options, however, the game is basically the exact same game as the five games (and numerous expansions before it), and while it’s still lots of fun, if you’re bored with the games, this is going to be just as boring.

Dynasty Warriors 6 is as good as the previous hundred or so games, but it’s also as bad as the previous hundred or so games. It looks good, sounds mostly good, plays good, and is lots of fun for as long as you enjoy leveling up characters, collecting gear, and spamming the square button. The slowdown problems and sound effect issues aren’t game-breaking, and if you can get past those issues you’ll have as much fun with the game as ever, but it’s exactly like the games before it. Spamming a button for hours isn’t going to keep everyone interested (though it’s kept me coming back), and if you’re bored with the games, there’s nothing new to see here. Still, if you’ve managed to miss the other games, or you haven’t gotten tired of the series yet, Dynasty Warriors 6 is still lots of fun and worth the investment; even if you own the next gen games, there’s a lot of extra content in the PS2 version that makes it worth a look all the same.

THE SCORES
STORY: INCREDIBLE
GRAPHICS: VERY GOOD
SOUND: BELOW AVERAGE
CONTROL/GAMEPLAY: CLASSIC
REPLAYABILITY: CLASSIC
BALANCE: AMAZING
ORIGINALITY: WORTHLESS
ADDICTIVENESS: GREAT
APPEAL: GREAT
MISCELLANEOUS: DECENT
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME

SHORT ATTENTION SPAN SUMMARY:

The same great story has been told again and again… in each game in the series… so often that it’s no longer original. The story is still great, but KOEI really needs to retire the franchise for a while and start anew. How about the crusades, or the mythical legends of King Arthur? Just a thought. Anyway, the sound effects are atrocious, but the music is beautiful and the voice acting is solid. The graphics are greats but it’s clear that slowdown is becoming an issue, so it seems like it’s time to retire the PS2 as a viable console to release this series on. Online Co-op or head to head would be a nice addition, but as it is it isn’t bad. For all its faults, 20 bucks for Dynasty Warriors 6 more than makes it worth every penny, simply because as a budget price game, all of the potential flaws are VERY easy to overlook for as much fun as the game is. This game is out, and it’s lots of good, cheap fun, so hey, have fun storming the castle!

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