I have long been a defender of the Dynasty Warrior series. There is just something simple and engrossing about murdering thousands of digital people. Does that make me a monster? Perhaps. But I am not alone, as evidenced by the more than twenty games under the Dynasty Warriors umbrella (the number varies if you include games like Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage, which are not technically Dynasty Warriors games but may as well be). For most franchises that would be a huge milestone, but for Koei and Omega Force’s series, it is shrugworthy.
It isn’t as if the series continues to push the boundaries of game play by creating fresh and exciting innovations that make it an event each time a new title is launched. No, it is typically a few new characters and a bunch of redesigned maps, and that’s it. And sometimes the characters are samurai instead of Chinese warriors, and sometimes they are even mechs taken from anime as they are in Gundam 3.
If you have played any of the 20+ games in the franchise, then you know exactly what to expect from the series. Attack countless generic enemies and the occasional officer or boss, mash buttons until your fingers hurt, then repeat. And repeat. And repeat. But hey, at least there are a lot of characters for you to do this with, over and over and over again.
Gundam 3: Gundam with a Vengeance
If you are a fan of Gundam, this game might appeal to you. There is a story of sorts, but it will only be decipherable to people that are already familiar with property. Non fans will be able to pick up little bits of it here and there, but without the proper context, the missions pretty much boil down to “sally forth and kill.” Even with the proper context the mission requirements are almost identical. You may occasionally need to take a location, but after the 20th time you do this, you may begin to suspect that it is filler. There are over 300 missions in this game, but after an hour or two of play you will have seen everything there is to see.
This game, like the previous Gundam games, is based on the anime Mobile Suit Gundam. If you don’t already know that, then this game isn’t for you. The anime is a sprawling epic that debuted in 1979, and has since spawned dozens of series and spin-offs. Its influence can be seen any time you see a mech suit in fiction.
The game offers a huge selection of Gundam suits to choose from, as well as four different factions in the story mode. The hardcore fans will probably find a lot to amuse themselves with here, but even they will have to bring their own imaginations to the table. It is sort of like when you were a kid playing with action figures—sure Hasbro (or whoever) provided the toys, but you needed to fill in the blanks when actually playing with them.
Game play redux
Attack attack attack attack attack attack attack attack—special attack!—attack attack attack attack, etc., etc. And there’s your game play in a nutshell.
There are a few minor tweaks, including the inclusion of a “partner strike,” which allows you to call in another pilot to help with the fighting. You can customize this before a battle and select your partner. Basically it is another special attack. Hooray. You also have the added benefit of having both your primary character and an AI-controlled partner repeat the same lines again and again and again…
There is also a new dash attack that is fun for roughly a minute or two, but doesn’t really add much. The chain explosions are fun for a bit too, but again, the lack of variety kills this game. Relationship building returns from Gundam 2, but unlike the previous game when friendships could decrease, you can only increase them. It is far less frustrating, but it also makes the relationship improvement a simple stat building exercise.
There is co-op, both online and off (the splitscreen co-op becomes available once you clear the second mission solo), and the online side has 15 unique — and somewhat painful — missions for up to four players. The one thing that the DW games have going for them is the thrill of diving into a sea of soon-to-be-butchered enemies and making them feel your great vengeance and furious anger. In the online mode, the technical limitations quickly become obvious, and the hundreds of enemies you can see offline is cut to around a dozen at a time. And that is assuming you can find three other players to join you, because these missions require multiple players to progress. The online side is an interesting idea that fails. Maybe it will find its footing in one of the next 18 identical DW games coming in the future. Koei and Omega Force have plenty of time to get it right.
There are a few saving graces to this game. First, it actually looks very good thanks to the cell-shading, which is the exact right move for this series. It is based on an anime, so making it look more like one is a good move. Unfortunately, a generic gray wall that has been cell-shaded still looks like a generic gray wall. The levels are repetitive and bland, and while some of them look ok, once you’ve seen one big empty room, you’ve seen ‘em all.
The gameplay is exactly the same as all the DW games. There are a few new tweaks, but there is only so much you can squeeze out of game play style that is nearly identical to the one that has been in use since Clinton was in office. It can be fun to wade through countless enemies, especially with a friend at your side (locally — the online is dull), but it is the same formula that Koei has used for nearly 15 years. Fifteen years! I have been a fan of the series for a long time, but there is only so much a guy can take.
Gundam fans will enjoy the options and have fun taking control of some of their favorite characters and mechs, but for anyone else — even fans of the other DW games — the series is stale. In fact, stale isn’t the right word — they were stale years ago. Now they are undead. This franchise refuses to die, no matter what.
There hasn’t been one significant advancement to the entire DW franchise in over a decade now. It is almost impressive in its own right to see the series continue to re-issue the same game with only a few changes, minor changes at that, and do it with a smile. It’s like a joke no one but Koei and Omega Force get.
But there is nothing wrong with the game. It isn’t broken and fans of Gundam will dig it. Plus, if you haven’t played the other games, or haven’t played them in a while, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 can offer a few moments of fun before the repetition sets in. Just like all the other DW games.
Score: 5 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 on a copy provided by Namco Bandai)
(Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3: is available for PS3 and Xbox 360)