Review: Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3
Genre: Action
Developer: Tecmo Koei
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 06/28//11

So the Dynasty Warriors series has essentially become a franchise that only reaches out to a select few people, largely because the franchise has been pushing the same general concepts and mechanics out to fans for the better part of its lifespan. The market doesn’t seem to like this, on the whole, and while one could make the argument that the franchise is essentially no worse off in concept than the Madden franchise, people like football over running around slaying hundreds of dudes, so we can see where this might break down a bit. Personally, I’m not a fan of the core games, and only the oddball releases like the Empires games or the games based on franchises other than, well, Dynasty Warriors, interest me. Dynasty Warriors Gundam is such a franchise, as while the games are essentially the same house with a new coat of paint, playing as giant robots who blow up other giant robots is more exciting than the alternative, even if I don’t follow the Gundam franchise in the least. Well, Tecmo Koei seems to be revamping the Dynasty Warriors franchise somewhat at this point, as we’ve seen with Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage and Dynasty Warriors 7, with both presentation and mechanical additions and changes incorporated into the core experience all around. Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 looks like it’s continuing that trend, at first glance, as it features a massive visual update and new cel-shaded visuals, but does it actually do anything to improve the gameplay experience? Let’s take a look.

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 features a story similar to that of the prior games, though the story is handled in a noticeably different fashion. The gist is that different characters from the series have been transported to a strange, alien world, so that characters who couldn’t possibly meet due to their existence in different time periods or realities can get together and thrash one another. The first game put the characters against one another and allowed you to play through each character’s story to see the different possible scenarios, while the second game basically just presented parts of a story that never seemed to resolve itself, but this time around, the storyline is a lot more cohesive and uniform. The different characters are all a part of one of a few starting plotlines that begin to converge as you go down the path, and as you meet different characters in the storyline, you start fleshing out the plot on all sides more and more and begin seeing the different plot points converge. The plot here is somewhat of a departure from the prior games in that it’s a lot more consistent across the board, so that instead of everything basically being something of a “What If?” storyline for each character/group, it’s a fairly uniform plot that allows the player to fill in different pieces of the puzzle as they go through the plotlines. Various characters get a chance to be in the spotlight through the storyline, so it’s not all about one or two characters, but you also aren’t stuck playing through the story with every single character like you were in the previous games. If you want to just jump in with a character you want to play as on that plot path, except in a few cases where the story forces you to play as a specific pilot, you’ll be able to play as who you want, so, hey, bonus.

Visually, Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 is a MAJOR improvement over its predecessors. The Gundams themselves are significantly improved, thanks to some really swank cel-shading of the suits that fits conceptually (this being based on an anime and all) and is very attractive technically. The game environments are also cleaned up a bit from prior games, and while they’re still not pushing the technical limits of the system or anything, they look pretty good and are generally nice to run around in. The game also makes good use of the system’s processing power for handling the massive amount of enemies that are often running around, and you won’t see too much slowdown except in a few cases here and there when explosions are going off, mostly. That said, as one might expect, a lot of the animation frames and such are repeated from the prior games, and while there are some new animations here and there for older Gundams, many of the suits retain their same movements from Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2. Aurally, the game music is the standard mix of quality dramatic score, as the standard guitar-heavy rock fare of most Dynasty Warriors games is mostly eschewed for something more suited to the franchise in question (but also full of guitars). The voice acting is all in English, and it’s all solid enough, though some of the voice actors have changed from one game to the next (most noticeably Kamille Bidan), and a lot of the voice clips from the last game pop up here as well, though they’re often balanced with new ones. The sound effects sound like what you’d expect from a game where giant robots blow up other giant robots, and while they’re not anything exceptional, they’re just fine all in all.

If you’ve played a Dynasty Warriors game since the point where the franchise turned into the third person action series it is today, congratulations! You mostly know how Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 works. If not, the left stick moves you around, the right stick looks around the area, X is your light attack, Y is your heavy attack, A allows you to dash around the battlefield, and B unleashes your Musou Attack, a heavy damage super move that you charge up by taking and dealing damage. The left bumper is set for blocking, the right bumper lets you jump, the left trigger changes the map on the screen from far to close views, and the right trigger summons your partner, which we’ll discuss shortly. Attacking enemies is a simple matter of pressing X a few times to build a combo and either finishing said combo with an X or Y attack, with the X attack most commonly being targeted against one enemy and the Y attack being some kind of area of effect or special attack. Most of the above should be familiar to fans of the franchise, and nearly all should be familiar to those who like the Dynasty Warriors Gundam games specifically, as these controls have mostly been staples since the first game. Most of the modifications from the second game remain intact as well, meaning that if you are piloting a Gundam that transforms, a double-tap of the A button allows you to do so, for example. As such, if you’ve played any of those games you’ll have no difficulty jumping into this one, as many of the concepts and mechanics are similar across the board.

For those who have somehow never played a Dynasty Warriors game, the concept is that you take control of one general, or Gundam in this case, on one side of battle, and your goal is to take control of all of the fields on the battlefield and wipe out all opposition. You’ll often have the support of other Gundams in this task, but your enemies will also be fielding top-tier Gundams to oppose your efforts and take battlefields for their own use. The main battlegrounds are comprised of several smaller battlefields linked by small pathways you’ll use to travel from one to the next, and when you get into a battlefield, chances are good it’ll be full of tons of weaker grunt Gundams. At this point, the objective is to slaughter everything you see until you take the field, at which point you’ll want to mop up the remnants, then move on to the next battlefield and repeat the process. Fighting other named Gundams, dubbed Aces, is trickier, as they have access to the same tactics and abilities you do, so you’ll have a bit more work to do to take them out. On easier difficulties, you’ll most likely just be able to spam X with the occasional presses of Y and B as needed, but on harder difficulties you’ll have to dodge around and block attacks a lot more if you want to survive. Fortunately, you also have a lot of tactics to help out on higher difficulties, such as Emergency Dashing, which can be done with a press of the A button before an attack lands to get you out of harm’s way, or the aforementioned Musou Attacks, which burn power from the Musou bar in exchange for a high-damage solo or team attack if you’re near an ally who can assist. Unfortunately, your opponents can use these techniques as well, and will absolutely do so on higher difficulty levels, making for some serious challenge as you progress.

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 adds some new elements to the formula, however, so fans of the franchise won’t feel like this is just another retread of the prior game. For one thing, various locations on the battlefield now are marked with icons indicating what sort of bonuses they offer, and by taking those locations, you also take on those bonuses for your team. You’ll see fields that can do things like repair the armor of pilots, replenish your allied forces, shoot missiles at enemy owned locations to take them for yourself, power up Partner Attacks, and other such things, so you’ll want to take them over as quickly as possible to get the best possible advantage in battle. The Partner Attack system is also a new addition to the game, and as you might guess, it allows you to summon an allied Gundam into battle to assist you at the press of a button. You’ll lose one level of your Partner Charge symbols as your partner drops in and does something, whether it be supplying you with funnels to do added damage, deal mass damage to one enemy, deal area of effect damage to a group of enemies, dash around the field smacking anything they see, and so on. You’ll also occasionally find yourself facing down Mobile Armors, which are giant versions of Gundam robots that are significantly harder to beat in battle, and fighting them has changed a bit from the prior game. This time around, you can beat on them to build up the Chance Gauge on their damage bar; hitting the enemy deals some damage, but by building up the bar, you can cripple the enemy with an attack once it’s full, depleting a massive amount of health in the process. In a couple of other useful touches, your Gundams can also regenerate a certain amount of lost health, allowing them to escape from battle if they’re badly damaged until they can recover, and even if you get taken out, you can respawn so long as your Base is still standing and morale is decent, meaning that your death doesn’t instantly end the mission. Finally, when you land Charge Attacks and Musou Attacks that kill an enemy, the enemy will likely fly backwards and explode, damaging other enemies around them, which, aside from being more believable, is also a good way to clear out battlefields once you’ve taken them, which makes life a lot easier all around.

In-between missions, you’ll spend time out in the various different menus doing a number of different things, depending on what you’re looking to do at the moment. Once you pick a character, you’re dumped to the main Story Mode menu, and from there is where you’ll be making your various choices for the character you’re playing as. The Mission option allows you to choose whatever mission you want to go on, of which there are several different types, whether it be one tied into the main storyline, one tied into the storylines of the different Gundam universes, one that lets you collect different Gundam plans or build friendships, and so on. You can also go to the Mobile Suit Lab, where you can spend money earned from completing missions to build upgraded Gundams from plans found during missions, or to upgrade said Gundams even further with stat boosts and special abilities. There’s also a Shop where you can buy skills for your pilots and dump money into general training of said pilots, allowing you to earn them a bunch of levels in a hurry if you want to bring a weak pilot up to a better level. You can also check the Terminal to read new messages that come in, check your Friendship level with the other pilots, change partners and operators (allies who just comment on battle but otherwise provide no bonuses), change up pilot skills, and more.

Most of the above is similar to the previous game, but there are some changes to be noted. For one thing, there wasn’t any sort of currency system in the previous game; everything you earned, be they parts or attachments, was essentially offered up somewhat randomly, which was a colossal annoyance when you were looking to just get that ONE LAST PART SO I CAN GO TO BED RRRRAAAAHHHH~, whereas this time you can buy the skills you want to use from whatever is available with no randomization involved, and unlocking skills is just a matter of clearing certain missions. For another, instead of simply finding new parts for your Gundams, you simply find plans for whole Gundams that you can use to build them, again, at a cost. You can also sell old Gundams to add cash back into your account if you’ve built up a brand new death machine, so you’re not stuck with older models if you don’t want them. Friendships also convey actual benefits this time around, as pilots will gain new options as their appreciation of you grows. At Level Two, most pilots become usable as partners; at Level Three, pilots become playable characters; at Level Four, pilots unlock the special skills they can use on their Gundams; at Level Five they often earn new skills, become Newtypes (and thus eligible to pilot Newtype specific Gundams) and can often be used as operators. More than likely because of this, Friendships aren’t associated to the character in question, but the player directly, so, in essence, the characters are all developing their friendships with you, not who you play as, which is… interesting, if nothing else. Also, you can no longer tank a friendship by shooting someone down a bunch of times, so hey, go nuts.

The storylines can pretty much be plowed through in around twenty hours, give or take, but if you want to get everything you can out of the game, as with other Dynasty Warriors games, you’ll be at it for over a hundred hours, easy. There are a lot of characters, Gundams, missions, skills, and more to unlock, and if you want to prove yourself the true Dynasty Warriors Gundam, you’ll have a lot of work to do to get there. The game also offers local and online co-op play, with the offline play allowing two players to take on the various missions in the Story Mode, while online play allows four players to take on various online specific missions that are fairly challenging, but pay out nice cash and Mobile Suit rewards. There are also a ton of Achievements to unlock that will take you a really long time to get, but most of them can be earned through simply playing through the game (save the online ones), so they’re not unnaturally obscene to earn or anything. Put simply, Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3, as with all of its predecessors, offers plenty of reasons to come back if you enjoy the game, as it’s chock full of content that’s bursting from every part of the disc, and fans of the genre and the franchise will love that.

Now, obviously, this being a Dynasty Warriors game with a more conventional bent to it than Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage or something from the Empires series, there’s not a lot of originality here, but it’s basically the Madden of third person action games and people don’t complain about that, so let’s not dwell on it too much. What does bear noting, however, is that the online play is somewhat lackluster, and this is something Tecmo Koei really needs to fix if they’re going to get the series somewhere. Yes, fine, four player missions are fun and all, but I cleared them all out in a day. Now what? Oh, and don’t tell me “DLC online missions” because that’s crap. This isn’t rocket science: let players play the game online with their friends in the normal storyline missions. Period. You can stick whatever other missions in there that you want, but give us that. Also, give us an online component that doesn’t kick the other player out as soon as the mission is over, because that’s bad design if the player has to invite their friends, AGAIN, to play another mission. Also, Missile Stations on the map are annoying when they immediately target and take over your main base (especially of this depletes your Morale in the beginning of battle and leaves you unable to respawn), and the morale system in general still seems like it could use some work since it seems to deplete too soon and makes the ability to respawn somewhat useless when you’d actually need it. Finally, Mobile Armor battles, while somewhat better than before, are still annoying, especially when you get something like Psycho Gundam spamming area of effect attacks constantly just to make your life difficult, and there’s still more work to be done in this area before the battles actually get to a point where they can be called fun.

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 is a noticeable improvement over its predecessor to be sure, and while it’s not going to sell someone who isn’t on board with the franchise in the first place, it’s a great game if you’re up for it that’s going to keep you busy for weeks. The story is a good bit better than that of its predecessors, the game looks better than ever and sounds great, and the game is as easy to play as any other game in the series. Some added depth in and out of battle combined with some tuning of some battle and customization mechanics also help to improve the experience, making for a game that’s generally an improvement all around that fans will love. Mind you, it’s still very much similar to its predecessors mechanically, the online play leaves a lot to be desired and is very limited, there are some balancing issues with elements of the combat, and Mobile Armor battles still aren’t as fun and engaging as they could be and often feel like a chore more than anything else. Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 can mostly be considered a win for the franchise in a series of them, after Dynasty Warriors 7 and Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage, as it’s one of the better releases in the series in general, and while it still does nothing to draw in outsiders, it’s a great game that fans will undeniably enjoy.

The Scores:
Story: GOOD
Graphics: GOOD
Sound: GREAT
Control/Gameplay: GOOD
Replayability: GREAT
Balance: GREAT
Originality: BAD
Addictiveness: GOOD
Miscellaneous: ABOVE AVERAGE


Short Attention Span Summary:
Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 is, as one would expect, another game where your super warriors rips through scads of dudes for hours and hours, but as these sorts of games go, it’s one of the better ones to come out in a while, and fans should have fun with it. The storyline is a lot more coherent and developed than in prior efforts, the visuals are rather nice (if not without flaw) and the audio is pretty solid all around. The game is as easy to play as its predecessors and offers some solid depth and challenge from start to finish, and there’s some nice added depth and tuning in the game, both in and out of combat, that makes the game feel more solid than its predecessor. There’s also a lot of content for fans to enjoy, online and off, so players will have plenty of reasons to come back. The game treads a lot of the same ground as its predecessors, mind you, and the online component feels lackluster and underdeveloped for the most part. Further, some of the combat elements could use some additional balancing and polish, and Mobile Armor battles still aren’t quite at the point where one can look forward to fighting them just yet. Still, the good outweighs the bad in Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3, and while the game is by no means going to sell itself to those who aren’t into the franchise, for fans of all sorts, this is an easy game to recommend.



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