Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires Preview
Most of us are well aware of the biggest franchises currently in the video game industry, but they often change when crossing regional boundaries. For example, while we here in the U.S. don't consider it a "mega-series," they don't get much bigger than Dynasty Warriors over in Japan. This is why Koei continues to produce entry after entry in the long-running franchise, which began as a launch title back in 2000 on the PS2. They continued to milk this sucker for all its worth, developing more titles and even crossover titles - Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, for one - and the Japanese continue to eat ‘em up. We're decidedly less impressed over here in the States, but then again, we haven't had the privilege of playing a true next-gen installment (we won't count Gundam). Perhaps with the advent of Dynasty Warriors 6, North American gamers will once again fall in love with the strategy/action series that really made an impact over 7 years ago.
Sony recognized the popularity of the DW series in Japan by releasing DW6 with the 40GB PS3 a couple weeks ago, and that turned out very well. The game is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. on February 19, so let's see if this could be one of the early must-have titles of 2008. We're definitely hoping that developer Omega Force manages to upgrade and enhance the tried-and-true formula, because as good as it is, we have to admit the system is in dire need of an overhaul. We can always expect a serious amount of depth, which does continue to grow with almost every successive installment, but that's a given. We also expect better graphics, but again, how can we not expect better visuals if it's on the PS3 and Xbox 360? It's not too difficult to guess at the gameplay, either, because Omega Force has been very, very consistent over the years...but please, please could we have something a bit different? Yeah, it's great we can choose our horses before heading out to the battlefield this time around, and it's even better that we'll be able to brave the waves and take on enemies advancing in boats. But that's just added depth; what about actual gameplay changes?
Well, here's one- the Renbu system. Basically, the more hits you string together, the higher your Renbu gauge gets, and the higher the gauge gets, the more devastating your combos will be. If you get hit or fail to continue your attacks on a timely basis, the gauge will fall, and you'll have to start over from scratch. Even more interesting is the fact that this will involve both attacks and evasions, which means we should be able to dodge incoming attacks without sacrificing the Renbu gauge. Your Renbu rank will continue to build over time, and the better the rank, the more you can fill up and prepare to unleash wicked, non-stop combination attacks. What we'd really like to see, though, is the ability to switch weapons in mid-combo, like we can do with certain action games (Devil May Cry, for instance). This would serve to open up the combat and add some much-needed dimension to that straightforward battle premise. Even so, the Renbu gauge appears to be a nice addition to the series, and one that might slightly alter how we approach the game. We still need to learn more about the characters and weaponry, but at least there's one significant change.
And don't worry, DW fans. The Renbu system won't change the fact that there'll be a bazillion enemies and countless hours of hacking and slashing fun. A lot of familiar game modes are returning, too; everything from the now-traditional Musou Mode and Challenge Mode to Free Mode, Camp, and Encyclopedia. As for multiplayer, you and a friend can team up in split-screen play or you can wait to see if Omega Force gets around to preparing online play. It's one feature the developer is evidently working on, and it should be ready to go by the time DW6 releases in North America. We're not sure which modes will be available when playing online, or if there will be all-new modes, but either way, we want to hear more about it. With so many characters and such massive battles, this is one franchise that's almost begging for crazy Internet multiplayer fun. Can you imagine teaming up with about a dozen other people, all connected with a headset and planning advance and defense strategies? It'd be a dream come true for strat/action fans, that's for damn sure.
Based on early feedback we've seen on the Japanese version of the game, it seems our old friend, Mr. 60 Frames-Per-Second, has returned once again to provide us with a smooth and seamless battle experience. Some of the reviews have complained about all those enemies getting cluttered up, thereby causing some serious pop-in here and there, but that shouldn't be too terrible. After all, provided the frame rate remains solid throughout and doesn't hinder our ass-kicking, we won't really complain. There's nothing wrong with keeping the same style intact, especially if that style is outrageously entertaining, right? On the other hand, we really don't want to see another Warriors Orochi, because that thing was just plain mediocre from top to bottom; it's what happens when they rehash an idea one too many times on dated hardware. Here's hoping they take advantage of the hardware they're working on, because we'll officially run out of patience with this franchise if we have to suffer through another Orochi. Good news? Most critics are saying DW6 is a worthy entry.
Obviously, this might change when North American reviewers get their hands on the game, but we're definitely crossing our fingers for a resurrection of this once-great franchise. We still remember being very happy with the original title, and many entries after it really were quite good. Therefore, Omega Force and Koei know exactly what needs to be done; all they have to do is achieve their original goal with a wee bit of next-gen flash and panache. Dynasty Warriors 6 seems to have a lot going for it, and remember, over one million gamers have purchased a DW title in the past, so there's no doubt DW6 will be at least a moderate sales success. The question is; will it be a hit amongst non-DW fans? Can it appeal to regular ol' avid gamers who aren't necessarily in love with Dynasty Warriors? If they can manage to bring this one to a wider audience by coming through on the gameplay, than Koei might have a big-time winner with the next Dynasty Warriors.
11/21/2007 Ben Dutka