Dynasty Warriors vol. 2
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-11-17 PSP Action/Adventure T (Teen) Koei / Omega Force

Dynasty Warriors is known for offering large-scale hack'n'slash battles, which is something I really enjoy for the pure mindless fun factor, so I was curious to see how the franchise would fare on the PSP. No, I haven't played Vol. 1 before. Yes, it's a weird habit of playing games starting with their sequels...

Dynasty Warriors vol. 2, as previous titles, takes place in Ancient China, where several clans are trying to gain control of the country. You pick one of the generals available and the storyline will tell you about the role of this character in the war. Of course, the story is presented with gorgeous artwork representing the characters and a text box with, well, text. I would have really liked some voice acting in these scenes.

The primary gameplay is the Musou Mode, which is like a campaign. There are no large areas with massive battles, unlike the console versions. Instead, an area is laid out as a grid composed of several squares, where you and the enemy move around in turns. Blue squares are yours, red squares aren't occupied, red markers mean the square is under enemy control. Every time you move to a red square, the battlefield loads and the conquering begins.

The stages are fairly small in size and some are pretty quick to clear while others take longer depending on the level of the general and officers in them. The enemy AI is fairly good, and the troops will often surround you or appear when you least expect it. They will have arbalests shooting infinite rows of arrows or something with spikes that will try to run you over, or sometimes there will be just a single officer brave enough to run straight at you.

You aren't limited to pressing a single attack button, since there are three of them that you can use in those sticky situations when you're surrounded: normal attack, dash attack and charge attack. Using all the buttons results in neat combos that greatly increase your odds against those though generals.

There are also special Musou Rage attacks. When your Musou meter is full (it gradually fills by dealing and taking damage) you can press the right trigger to activate it. During the time the Musou Rage is active, you are stronger, attack faster and are immune to enemy attacks.

A stage will be clear when the enemy morale (red meter) reaches zero or when you defeat the general controlling it. If your supplies (blue meter) deplete before you take over the area, the game is over.

In between Musou stages you can have a look at the new officers that have just joined you, items you have found, distribute growth points (experience), change equipment and mounts, and add officers to your roster. Officers can increase your main character's stats or help with a special ability during combat (defense or attack boosters, for example). You can have up to four officers at your command, as long as the sum of their levels is lower than your command points. Pick well, since quantity isn't always better than quality.

An innovation in this game allows the mounts to gain experience, so by starting a stage mounted on a horse or elephant, that mount will gain experience points. There are different kinds of mounts with different abilities (general can't be knocked off, mount recovers health faster and many more) but you can only have eight in your inventory. Officers can mount them as well.

Aside from Musou, there is a Free Mode where you can create your own scenario by putting 8 stages together, picking a character and a difficulty level. There is also a multiplayer element that allows up to four people to play together in one of four game modes: Bombs Away, Time Attack, Sudden Death and Battle Royal.

In Bombs Away you play a sort of hot potato/tag game where you must kill enemy officers to get rid of the time bomb. If the bomb goes off, your K.O. count decreases. Whoever has the higher number of K.O.'s at end of the 3-minute time period, wins.

Time Attack is a timed race to the finish line, first one to reach the gate wins. Battle Royal makes you earn as many points as possible within 3 minutes by knocking enemies off of structures. Sudden Death is a killing fest, since everyone is defeated with a single hit. Every time you are defeated, you lose points. Whoever has the most points (kills) at the end of the round wins.

The addition of a co-op Musou mode would have made the multiplayer just perfect. Maybe something for the next title...

As far as the sound goes, this handheld version has the same kind of 80's reminiscent rock/metal soundtrack as the rest of the Dynasty Warriors series. The sound effects are appropriate, with weapons clashing, battle cries and the like, but unfortunately there was no voice acting to be heard.

Graphically, the game looks very good. Although the troops look like clones of each other, there is a good level of detail on the generals and officers. The animations are fluid and well done, to the point where Liu Bei (my main character) reminds me of how Kilik and Seung Mina move in Soul Calibur, many of the attacks with the spear have the same motion.

Although the game is composed of small stages instead of massive crowded battles, this is still Dynasty Warriors as we know it. If you are looking to conquer Ancient China and rid it of thousands of bad guys, you will find hours of portable enjoyment in Dynasty Warriors vol. 2.

Special thanks to Jarik Sikat and Koei for providing a copy of this title.