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Dynasty Warriors 3 (PlayStation 2) artwork

Dynasty Warriors 3 (PlayStation 2) review


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INTRODUCTION
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Aside from the RPG-esque Destiny of an Emperor and the slightly more popular Romance of the 3 Kingdoms, Dynasty Warriors is the third series that was created based on the mega-hit novel. The Romance of the 3 Kingdoms series, and hence any game based on it, takes place in China and sees three different forces clashing swords, spears and pikes in the futile attempt of overthrowing the opposite army. Of course, there are various generals, commanders and each clan has its leader who almost always turns out to be an over-powerful bastard in any game.

Dynasty Warriors 3 is in fact a weapon-based brawler which simply lets you control any of the 41 main characters of the plot and sees you go on to face around 2,000 adversaries. While some may argue that the term ''Brawler'' is derogatory, DW3 is indeed a mindless brawler. Its main difference however, other than the obvious fact that everybody uses weapons, is that it uses more complex game mechanics and goes as far as integrating other elements you would normally find in other genres.

The genre to which this title belongs is something of trivial importance though. What really matters is that Dynasty Warriors 3 is an astounding game in every department and easily ranks as one of the best PS2 games thus far. I personally like it more than all the other PS2 titles combined. Call me mad, but that's the simple truth.

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GAMEPLAY
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DW3's game play is an incredible experience that screams for domination over its peers. Firstly, the cast itself will tell you you're in for something huge. While the game starts with 20 characters or so, you will end up with no less than 41 selectable fighters if you unlock everybody. More characters are unlocked by beating the game, achieving certain conditions or, more easily, by using a Dynasty Warriors 2 save file to access those that were already in the prequel (but I consider this cheating).

Now, some people's thoughts may automatically wander to certain companies like Capcom who did not hesitate to have a bunch of characters be strikingly similar (with one of them being totally dumb and useless). Thankfully, Dynasty Warriors 3 does not join the ranks of such lousy games. Instead, each character fights differently, making it a huge task to master everybody. And what is even more amazing is that, although Koei could easily have done like Capcom and just have four characters fight alike, they didn't. It would have been very simple since some characters obviously use the same weapons, but there is none of this.

Instead, you will have to adopt new strategies should you suddenly decide to move on to another character whom you never even looked at before. Bulk, speed and recovery are more important than they seem. The varied cast alone certainly gives the game more replay value than any fighting games (which are models of the category) I have ever played. Some characters, specially the females, need a lot of chance to stand up against a crowd of 20 sidekicks, but they have the advantage of being very swift and of being able to deal quick, albeit weak, blows. On the other hand, badass characters like Lu Bu, the ultimate wrecking machine, or Cao Cao, one of the three Generals, are very capable of facing a mini-army alone.

You see; Dynasty Warriors 3 is extremely diversified in both its cast and stages. 23 levels await you in this game, some with distinct features that will make you come back more often such as the Nanman Campaign with its elephants. The main core of the game is the Musou Mode which allows you to control a character along given campaigns. Depending on that character's side, the campaign is different and the opponents you face obviously change too. It's a pity some characters, specifically the awesome and arrogant Lu Bu, cannot be accessed in Musou mode, but I guess that's for the sake of the storyline.

If it surprisingly turns out that Musou Mode is not enough for you, you may then play any mission with any character in Free Mode, on any side. Indeed, you can play with whom you want in whatever setting you want against whoever you want in the fast and furious Free Mode. I would have never imagined such a thing would be possible (in comparison to the prequel), but Koei, to put it bluntly, ''let all hell loose'' while they worked on this title. Needless to say, Free Mode remains the pinnacle of replay ability and should you still be skeptic, just do the math.

Finally, 2 players can slaughter each other in the Versus Mode or they may help each other in another mode, but both are hampered by the small screen view and should instead be left alone. The Challenge Mode will also allow you to test your skills by either killing a given number of enemies in a limited amount of time or just going alone against a full enemy. This mode can be quite painful if you haven't played the main ones first, so refrain from going there too quickly because the computer would be more than happy to show you what it can do.

In spite of all this, Dynasty Warriors 3 still focuses a lot on minor features. Each character has 4 basic weapons but you can make these stronger by extensively playing the game and obtaining items. The fourth unique weapons may be too tedious to gain for the unskilled, but is worth it. Combos and juggles also occupy a preponderant place in the game. Using the proper rhythm and correctly placing your energy attacks can forever juggle your opponent. While you may think this is cheap, just play the game once on the hardest difficulty and you'll see for yourself how each officer can be extremely juggle-happy (specially that fiend of a Liu Bei who never seems to tire).

Items too are used in the game. At the beginning of each mission, you can equip yourself with items, some of which can be nauseatingly useless while a few others will be a necessity every time. Choosing the right item is more important than you would think as it may determine how long you last on a certain mission. Each character also has his personal bodyguards who can either just attack or defend your back and their number and effectiveness increase as you attain higher ranks (done by getting good scores and placing well in the records).

Dynasty Warriors 3 is that sweet! 10/10

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GRAPHICS
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Dynasty Warriors 3 is a huge improvement over the prequel in the visual representation. Characters are as realistic as can be and even facial expressions are accurately represented although you may be busy stabbing a poor peasant in the back after charging your Musou gauge to notice them. Outfits are beautifully recreated and each officer has that distinct detail that suffices to distinguish him from the rest, such as Xiahou Dun's eye-patch or Lu Bu's extravagant headgear.

The game abounds with details. A little flaw concerns some of the character movements as they run around and perform some of the more complex actions, but you will more likely marvel at the beautiful landscapes instead. Dynasty Warriors 3 isn't made up of generic backgrounds that have only a bunch of differences. No. Dynasty Warriors 3 sports unique landscapes with some of the action actually taking place at night. Rain and snow also exist and characters will leave footprints that gradually disappear as more snow falls and covers the sacrilege.

Other details such as grass, the horses and the elephants look similarly realistic. While you would strive to think that there are no structures to be found in this game, think again. Tents and castles are just two examples of structures you will have the opportunity to behold throughout your crusade. The tents will even be on fire as a group of elitist bow-men will shoot fire arrows at them during certain missions, thus allowing you to take in some superb (to say the least) sound effects.

What truly shines though, should we forget about the lifelike characters and the backgrounds for a moment, is any cut-scene that smoothly rolls in. FMV's tend to be short in DW3, but they get to the point and, in any case, are not there just to take up some space that would otherwise have been wasted on something silly. Each cut-scene perfectly recreates the mood of the game. Again, some character movements are of dubious quality, but that's a flaw I have noticed in almost every game, the single exception being Metal Gear Solid 2 (which isn't very surprising once we think about it).

Slow-downs are also observed in those situations where opponents flock in like sheep, but you have to expect something like this in such a huge game. Actually, it is surprising that the whole game doesn't entirely consist of slow-downs and in any case, these don't last very long. The only stage where you will actually be annoyed by these and start to curse aloud is the He Fei campaign which is really too much for your system to handle. 8/10

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AUDIO
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Surprisingly, the soundtrack consists essentially of techno themes. Some purists may regard this idea with disdain and I would too, but…

''Oppression''

But the fact remains that, when a soundtrack is so entertaining, the genre to which it belongs can quickly be brushed aside so one can enjoy it. Now, there is still some of that Chinese feel in some of the tracks that will appease the aforementioned purists. As an example, Arena, which disconcertingly surpasses anything I've heard prior to this, starts in a quite melancholic way before rapidly erupting into a gigantic rock fiesta.

In the same way, every other track is charming and perfectly suits the game's atmosphere. Of course, there's no mistake to be made in the audio when one considers how a single campaign can last for ninety minutes. Still, credit must go to Koei for coming up with such classy tracks that so stunningly accompany the frantic slashing and hacking you are asked to perform.

Sound effects too are nice. There is nothing outlandishly special here and common effects such as a crowd roaring in anticipation or two swords clashing are realistic. Some other effects are a bit exaggerated, such as a sword fending away air, but nothing that will hamper your game. They do punctuate the action well and that is what really matters.

What I don't like here is the voice-acting. Well, not necessarily the voice-acting since it's well-done and not in itself a flaw. I've seen worse dubbing and Dynasty Warriors 3 is nowhere close to the plethora of pathetic efforts other companies have gotten us accustomed to, but something is still amiss.

What you should understand is that Dynasty Warriors 3 tries to get rid of all the text that is often a nuisance in such game. Actually, the mumbo-jumbo is still here, but each sentence is voiced over so you don't have to get away from the action to read the text. However, although this may have been a good idea, the text is most often devoid of interest and thus gets a truly pathetic voice-over. Some sentences are also downright laughable such as the infamous ''Cao Cao's excuse is merely an excuse to attack us''.

Common exclamations such as ''You're an even greater General than I have heard'' quickly irritate and eventually become totally frustrating. And this is a pity because the dubbing is of decent quality in the cut-scenes and characters like Cao Cao, Lui Bei and the Xiahou brothers would have been unbeatable without this miss-step.

Eat your heart out, Guilty Gear. 7/10

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REPLAY VALUE
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With its totally unbelievable cast and the different modes it offers, Dynasty Warriors 3 is without doubt a superb example of replay ability. Getting to master five different characters alone requires time and practice; just imagine how it is when you are dealing with 41 characters with all of them being entirely different. Other than this, customizing the weapons and having every character at maximum level is a huge entertaining task. Beating Musou mode with every officer is yet another option that will have you remain seated for days in front of your television set.

Dynasty Warriors 3 is an ever-lasting experience that never gets tiresome, nor does it suddenly become totally annoying or unbearable, like most other games tend to do. Free Mode alone is more than enough to entertain you and is more fulfilling than any other series. And Dynasty Warriors 3 is so easy to comprehend, yet so hard to master.

That is where its beauty lies. Play it over and over, you'll still want to play it. However hours you may have put into it, stones still remain untouched and you find yourself almost compelled to put an end to this. For example, how about killing more than 3,000 soldiers in a campaign? Or, even tougher, how about getting rid of all the officers while still taking as less time as humanly possible?

You choose. 10/10

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OVERALL
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Dynasty Warriors 3 easily ranks as the best hack-and-slash brawlers ever created. With such an astounding replay value and beautiful graphics, it remains an entirely fulfilling game that never gets boring. The surprising, but totally welcome, soundtrack adds to the long list of innovations scattered throughout this huge adventure. But, most of all, the game is fun. Simple mindless, fun that will have you coming back for more however long you may have played the game earlier.

It is also no surprise that the best weapons are obtained on the hardest difficulty only. Consequently, it takes even more time to claim these since you first need to become pretty good at the game before you eventually head towards that setting. In any case, Koei knew what they were doing.

Finally, a lot of companies unfortunately seem to forget that games should be above all be fun, but, instead, just concentrate on graphics or music (but never both at the same time). Koei hasn't forgotten. Because that's what makes Dynasty Warriors 3 such a fine title. It remains fun all the time and never loses its charm. The fun of just running around and killing thousands of people alone is unbeatable. Now, just imagine this coupled with all the subtle ideas thrown in and you will have an idea of what Dynasty Warriors 3 is like.

Of course, Dynasty Warriors 3 is far from being the best game ever. A lot of so-called classics technically utterly trash it. Dynasty Warriors however retains something awe-inspiring that no other game has: endless replay value. However great a title may be, it will at one point lose its appeal and become redundant.

But not Dynasty Warriors 3, where only true warriors may apply.

Rating: 10/10

siegfried's avatar
Community review by siegfried (February 07, 2003)

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