Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 Review
One of these days, Koei and Omega Force will surprise us all with a solid, innovative, and entertaining action title that crosses boundaries and appeals to all fans of the genre. But you know, we’re not holding our breath. For whatever reason, they continually pump out more of the same, and while we assume that hardcore fans of the Dynasty Warriors series always enjoy a new installment in the long-running series, shouldn’t we be concerned about the overall quality? Head on over to GameRankings or Metacritic and type in “Dynasty Warriors.” Go ahead; we’ll wait. …see that? A huge number of games and sadly, a huge amount of corresponding mediocrity. When we first heard about Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, we naively believed that Omega Force might have found a way to rejuvenate both ailing franchises at the same time; simply combine the huge, lumbering mechs of Gundam and the epic, faster encounters of Dynasty Warriors, and you got yourself a winner. Unfortunately, while the first effort wasn’t bad, it still lacked in several areas and it’s no surprise that the sequel suffers from similar issues.
It makes sense for Koei to release Gundam 2 on the PS2 as well as the PS3, but unless you don’t yet own Sony’s latest console or you simply don’t want to spend the extra cash, there’s no reason to purchase the inferior PS2 version. Obviously, the biggest difference centers on the graphics, which are greatly reduced here; they’re both blurry and jaggy (a commonality from last generation, but hurtful to the eye these days), and only some of that patented DW flash serves as a saving grace. It’s a fairly consistent presentation thankfully devoid of any critical drawbacks, and we attribute that to the developers’ extended familiarity with the aging – yet still popular – console in question. The cut-scenes are okay and some of the more intense aspects of battle are pleasant to behold, simply because the special effects are both prevalent and entertaining. But there’s no significant visual upgrade from the original and again, only the die-hard fans won’t notice the failure to progress. Oh, and let’s not forget the bevy of minor technical glitches (pop-in, clipping, etc.); they’re almost expected at this point, but still…
The sound isn’t much better, as we only get some passable voice acting, a generic soundtrack that does little to enhance the experience, and sound effects that don’t match the game’s over-the-top quality. For a concept deeply entrenched in the concepts of fantasy and science-fiction, and considering the machines we’re utilizing, one would assume something like Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 would be a feast for the ears; a massive soundfest bordering on a cacophony. Instead, everything sounds very dull and even muted in some circumstances, and we really get the feeling that we’re playing an out-of-date production (even when we compare it to other PS2 titles from the past few years). Really, the voice acting isn’t that bad and there are some highlights to the combat, but we have difficulty finding anything to get excited about. What this series really needs, besides a definite gameplay upgrade, is a music overhaul. There just isn’t any one track that resonates in our minds from our experience with this game, and that’s most unfortunate. If the fans are satisfied, they must have very low expectations at this point.
The gameplay is of the standard, futuristic hack ‘n slash pick-up-and-play style, which makes it both familiar and accessible. Unfortunately, despite all the inherent depth involved with building character levels, earning skills, trying new suits, and embarking on a variety of different missions in multiple modes, it really all boils down to the same functions on the battlefield. Boost, dodge, block, and attack with normal and special abilities, ranging from slashing with a sword to firing with a large cannon. You can string together a variety of combos if you wish, and half the fun of such games is experimentation. Sadly, Omega Force doesn’t give you much incentive to do this, primarily because the gameplay mechanic and controls themselves are flawed. Sure, you can pick up and play almost immediately, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be frustrated by the surprising lack of responsiveness and mobility. Aren’t these things supposed to be the pinnacle of technology in the distant future? Shouldn’t we be able to do all sorts of crazy stuff? Well, we can, but the way it’s presented on the screen, and how we “feel” the movement grows tiresome and even annoying after an extended period of time.
Here’s the crux of the matter: there’s a slight delay when you input a command. In other words, when you go to perform a melee attack by pressing the Square button, there’s a slight hesitation that grows steadily irksome as time goes on. Furthermore, when you’re trying to create new combos with your heavier ranged attacks (the Triangle button), it’s almost as if you’ve pressed the appropriate buttons but are still waiting for something to happen. For some odd reason, this seems more of a problem in certain Mobile Suits than others; perhaps it’s more related to the particular attack animation than the control set itself. But either way, it’s a definite problem and one that just kept popping up at all the wrong times. It also seems as if your enemies have the edge in terms of speed, although we may have to attribute that to early learning woes; we really had to get our bearings when flying around in our capable suits. Sometimes, you don’t have the benefit of land to give you a point of contact with the horizon, and thus, your eyes are easily fooled in terms of distance. You will often fly right by an enemy, not realizing how close he actually was.
As for the available Modes, there’s Official, Mission and Versus, along with a Gallery, which is self-explanatory. The only interesting part about this setup is that you can choose from a variety of branching Gundam anime storylines if you choose the Official mode, and the Mission Mode lets you tackle any number of missions in any order and manner you please. But again, it all comes back to the same gameplay, which typically has you beating on comatose enemies with the occasional stiff challenge of an officer tossing a wrench into the works. Maybe you’ll get a kick out of beating on a bunch of faceless drones whose AI is borderline non-existent – and if you’re a fan of the series in question, you will – but how long can this remain fun? Seriously? It’s always the same scenario whenever we pick up a new Dynasty Warriors game: we play it for a while, reveling in the simplicity that sits just above an ocean of depth, tearing into enemies and getting the palms all sweaty when facing a particularly tough challenger. Then, after an hour or two, we find ourselves doing the exact same thing; the environment and character(s) may have changed, but that’s about it.
Having varying objectives that may change at a moment’s notice add a little flavor to this very bland dish, but it’s not enough to save it. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 just reeks of the “played-out” rather than the “tried-and-true.” The gameplay is basically identical to that of the original (and it never really alters in this sequel), the graphics and sound are both disappointing, the depth will only matter to those with enough patience to experience it, the storylines are inane and even adolescent in nature (but perhaps that’s par for the course considering its anime background), and the end result is something quite boring. The worst part is that it doesn’t get better with time; it gets worse. Unlocking a few skills and then taking on a friend in the Versus Mode may be good fun for a little while but beyond that, there’s really nothing of any value here. It’s what we had before and what I’m assuming we’ll have again, just ‘cuz these developers absolutely refuse to take the next step. ‘sigh’
6/15/2009 Ben Dutka