Dynasty Warriors 3

While the first Dynasty Warriors game released in North America was a fighter, the second was a tactical action game, although it was the first of a new series in Japan, its Japanese title being Shin Sangokumusou, leading to a discrepancy in title numbering, and thus, the second Shin Sangokumusou game became Dynasty Warriors 3, which provides an experience largely on par with its predecessor, along with some improvements.

Two of the main gameplay modes, as in the second game, are Musou Mode, which features individual storylines for the large cast of playable characters, and Free Mode, where the player can participate in a number of different battles mostly to build up characters by obtaining powerups dropped by enemy generals and gate captains, although as with before, the player must actually fulfill the conditions of the fight and win in order to retain powerups, the same going for fights in Musou Mode. This can lead to the typical tactical game flaw of spending a long time in battle only to lose it, which can account to a large waste in time, and a mistake typically made by developers in mainstream tactical role-playing games.

There are, however, some improvements in both Musou and Free Mode such as the ability to retrieve different weapons and accessories for killing enemy generals and gate captains in either mode (the player only able to manage equipment in between battles), with each character able to equip one weapon and five accessories. Another step forward is the ability to quicksave in the middle of battle instead of relying on randomly-appearing memory cards from breaking pots and boxes. The only big flaw in the game mechanisms aside from the aforementioned potential waste of time is the randomized appearance of healing items with regards to breaking pots and killing enemies, which can make the title intimidating to play on higher difficulty levels.

Control is near perfect, with easy character management outside battle and a linear structure for each character’s storyline that always keeps player moving in the same direction, the only real flaw being that while cutscenes are skippable, they aren’t pausable.

Like the previous Dynasty Warriors game, the third has its roots in Chinese history and mythos, with decent story scenes for each character and a good deal of text that concludes each, providing incentive to play as different characters. The translation is also fairly solid in spite of the oddity of some lines such as “I eat guys like you for breakfast!” that account for some minor anachronism with regards to the plotline. Fortunately, the localization doesn’t detract too greatly from the solid game narrative.

The soundtrack, however, is one of the third installment’s weak points, with the rocky themes feeling out of place in a game that takes place in ancient China, and a bunch of WASPs voice the clearly-Chinese cast, accounting for further oddity with regards to the storyline.

The visuals could have been better as well, particularly with regards to the foggy scenery and fade-in at times, although the character models mostly like good, and the graphics don’t detract too much from the gameplay experience.

Finally, each character’s story, combining both the time spent in Musou and Free Modes, takes a little less than five hours to complete. Ultimately, Dynasty Warriors 3 for the most part is a solid sequel that does many things right, particularly with regards to its game mechanics, control with in-battle saving, and storylines, although it does leave room for improvement in areas such as the random appearance of healing items, the music, voice acting, and graphics. Luckily, these flaws don’t detract too greatly from a mostly solid experience.

The Good:
+Solid action tactical battle system with a variety of characters.
+Good control with in-battle saving.
+Nice storylines for each character and translation.

The Bad:
-Some randomization with regards to healing items.
-Weak music and voice acting.
-Graphics could have used more polish.

The Bottom Line:
A solid sequel in spite of its flaws.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 9/10
Music/Sound: 6/10
Graphics: 7/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: Less than 5 Hours per Character

Overall: 8.5/10

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