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Developer KOEI Options
Distributer Ocean 1-8 Player
Game Type Beat-em-up Memory Card
Review Date December 1997 Standard Joypad
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Setting the Scene
I'm 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 maracas!!!

Repackaged and retitled, Dynasty Warriors has just been unleashed on the Western world as producers Koei throw down the gauntlet. Let battle commence.

Dynasty 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.

The 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 mode.

Sounds and Effects
Although 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!

As 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 taking.

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 opponents life-span.

Value for Money
Considering 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.

GRAPHICS: 16/20 Many 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.
SOUND: 7/10
VALUE: 15/20

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