sure that we all agree when it comes down to console beat-em-ups
Namco's Soul Blade and Tekken 2 are the dogs bollocks (left and
right respectively). There has raged many a debate over which is the
better but surely it is for each individual to decide their
preference - speed of hand or thrust of steel.
Several months ago we heard whispers that a new fighting game was
stirring up more than a little interest in Japan. Sangoku Musou
included many similar features to Soul Blade including a selection
of weapons that ranged from spears and swords to batons and
Repackaged and retitled, Dynasty Warriors has just been unleashed on
the Western world as producers Koei throw down the gauntlet. Let
Warriors is a one on one beat-em-up that includes multiple modes of
play including an up to eight player Tournament. Select your
character from ten heavily armed fighters who originate from one of
the three dynasties in 3rd century China.
game opens up with a rather splendid intro where each fighter in
turn takes centre stage to display an impressive selection of moves.
This provides a first glimpse of the types of weapons that will be
thrust in your general direction once the game is underway. Swords,
spears and axes seem like childsplay compared to the vicious piked
club that the pot bellied pig, Xu Zhu is wielding. With so much
violence on view you could hardly say that the intro was tastefully
presented but it certainly wets the appetite.
Once the first battle is loaded up you will become momentarily
stunned. Not because your opponent has immediately thrust the point
of his spear into your rib cage and hoisted you aloft, but by the
stunning quality of the high resolution graphics. Each fighters
facial features are clearly defined giving you the impression that
you are controlling a character rather than a blob of colored
polygons, even their hair bobs around with every movement made. Each
character dressed for action and it is amazing how elaborately
detailed their garments appear, although quite tasteless in some
cases. The characters are incredibly well animated and fluid in
their movements but this leads to a slight drawback in that they
appear a little slow reacting to your commands.
The fighting arena is one of those never ending affairs with a
selection of flat 2D rendered backdrops. This allows you to to use
the 'chicken-shit' method whereby you strike the first blow and then
back off until time runs out. This tactic can lead to success in a
one player game but will quickly lose mates if applied in the versus
the music is a collection of instantly forgettable background tunes,
the sound effects are fantastic and as over the top as we have come
to expect from games of this genre. The clang of metal hitting metal
as your weapons clash with your opponents is awesome, so crisp and
clear. A whoosh of wind accompanies every leap, a thunderous wallop
for every blow, while the sound of crunching bones makes you shudder
when the fighters perform some of their special moves.
There is also an announcer that introduces the fight and comments
at the end of a battle. It's a nice touch, but gets rather redundant
after a few hours. All in all though, a very good sound experience!
with most fighting games, Dynasty Warriors includes an adequate
selection of game options. Difficulty can be set from Very Easy to
Very Hard with a further option to select the number of rounds
required for a win and an adjustable time limit for each bout. There
is also a handicap system which is useful when mismatched
competitors square up in a two player battle.
On the control pad the face buttons offer two attack and two
defensive moves while combos and special moves may be programmed
into the four shoulder buttons.
There are ten playable characters (and six secret fighters to
unveil) of which nine originate from the 3rd century dynasties. Zhao
Yun is a well balanced warrior skilled in all types of arms. He is
smart, brave and cautious with the Spear of the Shadow as his chosen
weapon. He belongs to the Shu Kingdom, as does Guan Yu the master of
the Cresent Glaive, while his younger brother Zhang Fei is a fierce
fighter on the battlefield when wielding his lethal Cobra Spear.
The Wei Kingdom is ruled by Cao Cao whose right hand officer is his
trusted cousin Xiahou Dun. Rumor has it that when an arrow pierced
his eye during a raging battle he promptly gouged out the eyeball
and swallowed it. Best beware of this nutter who holds the Sword of
the Spectrum. Nicknamed 'Evil Comes', Dian Wei is a bald headed
alcoholic who holds a rather tasty looking axe and throws a mean
left hook. If it takes his fancy he will sometimes discard his
weapon and use another solid object to attack you - his head. 'Telly
Tubby' Xu Zhu looks as though he eats all of his victims, but only
after pounding them into the ground with his Club of Mortal Thorns.
Zhou Yu is a gallant warrior from the Kingdom of Wu. An
exceptionally wise man with an imposing fighting style that makes
full use of his Ancient Sword. Lu Yun is the ambidextrous fighter
who holds a Phantom Sword in either hand while the final member of
the Wu clan is Taishi Ci, the hot blooded warrior whose intense
fighting style is well suited to the legendary Steel Tusks. Diao
Chan is a beautiful court dancer who wears the most remarkable bell
bottomed flared trousers that I have ever set eyes on and rattles
her opponents with a couple of enchanting Maces.
The inclusion of practice mode, time trial, endurance and team
battle does seem to have been inspired from the Namco beat-em-ups
but there is an added bonus of tournament mode where up to eight
players can select their favorite character and then take part in an
elimination contest to discover the supreme champion. The arcade
mode is your pretty standard one player vs. the computer ordeal or
you against a friend (loads of fun!).
Dynasty Warriors plays fairly similar to Soul Blade in that two
buttons are allocated for attack slash and attack stab but the
defensive moves seem more advanced. Blocking is essential and it is
in this department where the time spent in the practice room reaps
rewards. If your fighting style is to constantly charge forward
hoping to connect more blows than your opponent then you will
probably struggle to beat this game. However if you parry one or two
attacks and then time your lunges then victory will be there for the
To further enhance the gameplay you must keep a watchful eye on the
two power bars at the top of the screen. One highlights the present
state of health which reduces on each hit taken while the other
gradually grows with each successful strike on your opponent. One
this second bar turns yellow you may perform one of the two special
attacks and it's these that have a devastating effect on your
that most of you will have played your copies of Tekken 2 and Soul
Blade to death then why not give Dynasty Warriors a try. It offers a
pleasant stop-gap until the arrival of Tekken 3.
players will write off Dynasty Warriors after half an hours gameplay
but if you spend a little time in the practice room and learn a few
of those defensive techniques you will be justly rewarded.
It may not have the reactionary speed of Tekken but it plays a lot
better than most other games of this genre.