Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Developer: Omega Force
Medium: Vita card / Digital Download
It’s not a huge secret that I generally like the Dynasty Warriors series more than most reviewers and I suppose Dynasty Warriors NEXT is no different. Again, I get the arguments that the gameplay is incredibly repetitive, and simple to a certain degree, but I really love their carrot on a stick approach to unlocks and content. This isn’t quite as extreme as Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3, but there’s still a lot of stuff in Next if you enjoy the series.
Dynasty Warriors NEXT comes with a few modes, the most substantial of which are Campaign and Conquest. Campaign is the same campaign you’ve been playing in the series for years, starting with the Yellow Turban Rebellion and advancing through different historical moments using dozens of characters based off of real world figures. They’re still hyper-stylized renditions, with bits of magic tossed in and crazy Musou super attacks that can be pulled off after killing hundreds of no-name grunts.
Conquest is certainly the stand out mode here, which takes on a somewhat RISK like approach. You’re given a map layout, and the option to choose from two to five groups to fight against. Once your opponents have been chosen, you’re given a map to look at that divides up territory amongst the groups. Each location is also given a number, which dictates what neighboring location you can invade. If you’re a 6 and everyone surrounding you is a 7, you’re kind of screwed, but that rarely occurs.
The actual invading is what causes the game to turn into standard Dynasty Warriors action. You’ll be able to choose a crew for each fight that’ll accompany you on the battlefield, and as you take over more locations, the more characters you’ll add to your group. Every character in the game comes in the form of a card, which ends up being your primary collect-a-thon thing. They are useful outside of battle though, and come with a skill that can be bought into at the beginning of the fight, like upping your speed, defense, attack and so on. You can have multiple card abilities active, so in general they’re worth seeking out.
In battle the game runs butter smooth, and fans of the series will be happy about the games transition to the Vita. The small screen doesn’t cramp the camera, and having the second analog stick to also control the camera is a huge plus. There is a lot of forced touch screen interaction that gets a little tedious over time, duels are certainly the worst, but all the other Vita specific stuff the game tosses at you can thankfully be turned off.
The only major drawback is the lack of online play, there’s some limited network interaction that pits you against user created characters in random duels that occur outside of battles, but again I didn’t care for the monotonous and non-challenging duel system so it’s not a feature I found to be worth a damn. There is room for ad-hoc 4 player co-op, which would probably be fun if you have other like-minded fans around you, but unfortunately I don’t.
One feature specific to the Vita that does work, is the touchscreen map controls. In battle you’ve got a mini-map in the top right screen that shows the layout of the stage, useful for displaying where enemy generals are in addition to your teammates. You can swipe the map to make it bigger, and then command your teammates to either attack bases or defend with a simple press of your finger, which I found to be incredibly useful on the higher difficulties. You don’t need to bother with it if you’re playing on Normal or below, but if you ratchet it up to Chaos you definitely need to micromanage your army a bit.
I found myself enjoying Dynasty Warriors NEXT, and it managed to get its hooks in me more than part 7 did on home consoles. In the DW series it still doesn’t command my interest in the way Gundam 3 did, but it’s definitely the best portable DW game I’ve come across. It won’t be the game to draw in non-Dynasty Warriors fans, but if you’re riding the fence on picking this up, I don’t think it’s a bad way to drop $40.