IGN Review of Dynasty Warriors DS: Fighter's Battle
The Dynasty Warriors series has always been a bit of an odd one to us. Since its premiere on the PSX about a decade ago the franchise has consistently managed to be "just good," but never great. Version after version has players dropping cash to again beat the ever-loving tar out of a never-ending mass of baddies, all the while dealing with classic DW gameplay issues such as fade-in character spawning and a lack of depth of field. Still, like many of you out there we've had our moments of pure entertainment with the franchise, grabbing a few friends and ripping through the co-op modes of the Xbox/PS2 versions. ''''On the handheld front, things have been a bit less impressive though, as the GBA effort of Dynasty Warriors brought a far less-entertaining experience for Nintendo pocket patrons, and the PSP versions both scoring horribly in kind. Now that the series has landed on DS we're finding that, while Dynasty Warriors still isn't a must-have brawler on Nintendo's handheld, it's at least a competent fighter, and actually has a pretty entertaining concept to it. In the end though, Dynasty Warriors: Fighter's Battle is still plagued not only by classic franchise shortcomings, but by inconsistencies of the new game design.''''''''Dynasty Warriors: Fighter's Battle is still a true Dynasty Warriors title at heart. Players select a character, drop into a land filled with beat-able battalions, and tear through them by use of a light attack, heavy attack, super-combos, and a few magic spells that can take out gigantic packs of enemy soldiers. This time around, however the design has changed in a big way. After selecting one of three available heroes you'll need to customize your army by adding captains in a number of accompanying slots. ''''The world is divided into 11 regions which you'll be battling for, and each region is made up of a playfield that consists of one "Main Camp" per team, and a group of bases each guarded by said captains. Once in battle, you'll progress from screen to screen, allowing you to get out of the self-contained fighting arena by satisfying a quota shown in the upper right, and eventually take over each base and finally your opponent's Main Camp. It sounds daunting, but in reality it's a pretty entertaining concept, and not a bad fit for the Dynasty Warriors DS experience. ''''Keeping the levels essentially "room-based" allows for a large mass of players on-screen, and you don't deal with fade-in or odd depth-of-field issues as much, since you're essentially in one chunk of the world at a time. As you fight you'll power up your Musou Gauge which is used to pull off gigantic attacks, and also gain coins that are automatically cashed in for items to fill your "Obstacle Attack Slot." As long as you beat up on enemies you'll gain coins, and new attacks will be added in for you to use when needed. It's a simple concept, but it works.''''Where things go a bit awry, however, is in the general flow of battles and all-around reliability of the game's engine. Since you're traversing a huge stage against another army leader you'll both be seen on the included mini-map. As you battle on, so does your opponent, and text prompts come up to let you know when he has successfully destroyed a base or is nearing your Main Camp to deliver the final blow. At any time you're free to battle your way to the same space as him and engage in a direct one-on-one fight. ''''The intended result is that the loser is taken off course and banished to a far corner of the map where he'll need to again fight his way back to the front lines, but in reality losing this one-on-one duel is a total toss up. We've hoofed it all the way back to our final base to defend it from the enemy leader only to beat him and send him even deeper into our ranks. What? Shouldn't a defeated foe go back to his main camp?''''On the flipside, we've lost battles to our rival and been lucky enough to have the game send us right next to the computer's main camp, allowing us to pull off a narrow victory after being amazingly far behind or even on the wrong side of the map entirely. If losing a duel is supposed to hurt you, why send the player to a random location on the map? Ultimately this hurts the flow of the game considerably, as players will learn that it's just as easy to rip through enemy baddies as it is to try and play strategically and thwart the other team's leader. The result: A one-on-one "who can kill A.I. drones faster" competition.''''''''And when it comes to the general combat controls Dynasty Warriors: Fighter's Battle won't satisfy by solid gameplay alone. The limited controls divide all attacks into either light or heavy button presses, having the heavy attacks result in different "combos" when inserted after a given number of lights. This means that each character has a heavy attack, and light-heavy, a light-light-heavy, and a light-light-light-heavy; not too deep. On the battlefield enemy A.I. slides around the screen in bunched up groups of five or six, often managing to have up to 15 or 20 characters on screen with the sacrifice of any real animation or A.I. motivation. Even the three main heroes in the game have only three or four frames of animation for running or attacking animations, so the entire game looks like a beefed up version of a Dynasty Warriors flash game; none too impressive.''''In addition to the graphical presentation this limiting of the AI makes general combat more of a chore than anything else, as enemies rarely even attack, and instead act like mannequins that are eagerly awaiting a beat-down. Granted there are a few technically impressive attacks players can pull off, including gigantic jumping slams and whirlwind magic that sucks up piles of enemies and tosses them to every inch of the screen, but in general the combat is simple, repetitive, and without a solid core gameplay mechanic, as the base-capturing system is a bit flawed. ''''As a final note, the game includes 120 collectable "cards" that can be used in game, and these cards determine which captains you can slot for base guarding. The incorporation of these cards is a solid idea, but a bit on the basic side, as many of them use repeating art or add simple stat boosts like dozens of other selections before it. There isn't a ton of diversity to the system, and while it's a neat addition to the general hack-n-slash it needs to be improved upon greatly.
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