Up till now, I’ve been pretty darn lenient with the DYNASTY WARRIORS series. It’s a charming, addictive, simple franchise. All the main entries I can think of are strong in their own way. There’s not a single numbered entry in the franchise that I can think of that really stands out as extremely weak (with the exception of…maybe…#2). The portable entries in the series are a lesser success. The PSP entry was a snooze fest and the GBA one had some issues. But still I’d tolerate them just to get more out of the franchise. Then you’ve got the XTREME LEGENDS/EMPIRES spinoffs, which are decent. But one thing I haven’t discussed, I haven’t even considered, throughout the course of my reviews are the PORTS of the main numbered series. I’ve been playing DW5 for the Xbox and it’s a nice polished version of its PS2 counterpart with the ability to switch to original Japanese voices, progressive scan visuals, and even more enemies onscreen at once. However in the strange case of DYNASTY WARRIORS 6, porting the game was a bad idea.
DYNASTY WARRIORS 6 was the first fully fledged next gen entry for the franchise built for the ground up to take full advantage of the PS3, Xbox360 hardware. For a grandpa like me, this makes it quite an ambitious step forward in the series. What’s not so special however was its PS2 cousin. The producers at Koei must have felt the transition to big next gen hardware was too quick for it’s fanbase. After all, the franchise was born on the PS2 and every console based entry in it’s library has at least had one version for the PS2. So the developers in all their wisdom quickly pulled their resources and slapped together a hackneyed port of DW6. Ugly, slow, technically incompetent…DYNASTY WARRIORS 6 for the PS2 is the first time I’ve really had to question “WHY??” when playing a DYNASTY WARRIORS game. It’s not even a matter of lost potential like with DW ADVANCE. No…the problem is simply that this is an ugly half assed port with feels even more primitive than DW2, the pioneering entry for the franchise. The only saving grace of this hackjob is that it features more content than its PS3/360 predecessors…approximately 6 more Musou mode campaigns…adding up to about 18 more hours of entertainment. The extra content is welcome and basically makes this version feel like the XTREME LEGENDS expansion pack that DW6 never had. However why you would develop such a significant amount of new content for such a lackluster port is beyond me. Bottom line…DW6 for the PS2 is the worst entry in the franchise I’ve ever played. Worst of the ports…worst of the main entries…worst of the spinoffs…and YES…even worse than the portable entries.
Where exactly do I begin with dissecting this mess of a port? Well…let’s start with the most obvious component: the gameplay. DW6 was renowned, and I would say, quite infamous for dumbing down the already simplistic 2 attack button chain combo based gameplay into a one button affair. With the Renbu system, all you had to worry about was whacking enough enemies with your normal attack button in order to keep your combo meter high enough so that your Renbu gauge would charge. Once it was full you would go up a Renbu and the length of your combo attacks would automatically increase. In DW6 for the 360, this combination worked because of the unprecedented number of enemies each map held. It didn’t matter if you were in a base or out in the open, tons of enemies would swarm the screen at a single in far greater numbers than they ever did on the PS2 games. Thus, the 360 version was a beautiful whirlwind of destruction as you were knocking down enemies like ants left and right with hardly a pause. The PS2 version though is handicapped by its technical limitations. Only a fraction of the number of enemies in the 360 version can be onscreen at a given time, meaning there’s far less soldiers to carve into to refill your Renbu system. This makes an already too simple combat system…just boring…as you spend more time looking for opponents to fight than you do fending off hordes.
And when I talk about technical limitations, I really mean limited. It’s shocking that the initial DW games for the PS2 helped establish the technological bar for 128 bit gen action games by featuring huge open environments where you could go anywhere, huge numbers of opponents to defeat…all with nary a hitch in the framerate! The PS2 DW6 has big environments…but that’s about it. The number of enemies onscreen don’t seem to be near as many as DW3+4 boasted. Furthermore, they’re all subject to incredibly blinding pop in…sometimes enemies will appear out of thin air three feet away from you. This makes battles extremely frustrating and tedious as you’ll have enemies disappear in front of you only to magically pop up behind you and vice versa, etc. until you have no clue of your bearings and just start slashing the first soldier in sight in the hope that his friends will materialize as well. But all these faults are simply supplements to the biggest crippling point of the presentation…the framerate. DW games have always been renowned for their excellent ability to handle lots of character models onscreen at once with a near perfect frame rate. DW6 fails this test from the outset. Everytime you encounter more than 10 enemies, the game slows down. Every time you enter a base…the game slows down. I estimate that roughly 30% of every level is fought in pseudo slow motion as the processor desperately tries to juggle all the action onscreen (of which there’s not much). The problem is exacerbated in 2 player mode where slowdown is so unbearably frequent as to render the game practically unplayable. It’s simply not fun to play what is supposed to be a fast paced action game when all of your characters move like they are under water.
The presentation problems go beyond just the slowdown and bad pop in issues. I don’t know why…but this is really an ugly effort for a DYNASTY WARRIORS game. All the previous DW games for the PS2 were renowned for featuring highly detailed character models, somewhat detailed enemy models; minimally detailed, but large, environments; and lots of flashy pyrotechnics and special effects. In PS2 DW6, the character models are aliased and blurry…at times they look like rejects from a late gen PSX effort. The enemy character models are similarly unattractive and all too similar looking (as tends to be a problem in these games). However what really seems crippled are the pyrotechnics…there’s practically no satisfying special effect to see when you take down an enemy soldier like in DW4. Just a very low res flash and they’re done for. Musou attacks are similarly unimpressive; the ring of light that billows up from beneath your hero whenever he pulls off a special attack doesn’t even look half as colorful, interesting, or attractive to the efforts from the previous games. What shocked me was that the environment seems to have a much better draw distance than the previous games, implying that everything else was sacrificed to give you a better view of the battlefield. However even this is ineffective as the camera sticks so closely to your character’s back during the course of battle that you’ll only be able to see what’s immediately in front of you. It’s just amazing that this game was released in this form seeing as how the early predecessors were considered technical milestones for the time. The only good thing I can say about the visuals is that the FMV’s are quite slick, boasting the same high quality CGI, motion capture and production values that mainstream Koei games have featured for quite a while now. However we’re not here to watch a movie; we’re here to play a game…and the game itself is just not pretty.
Yes…DW6 for the PS2 is an ugly boring affair and is just not that fun to play. However given that it does provide six new campaigns over its next gen counterpart, this is the basically the closest thing Koei ever produced to an XTREME LEGENDS expansion pack for that numbered entry. For that alone, it might be worth pursuing for hardcore fans. However for the newcomer who just started to experience DYNASTY WARRIORS and has a choice between this and the next gen versions, there is no conceivable reason that he should settle for this mess.