Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: November 15, 2005
The Dynasty Warriors series has been known for great beat-'em-up action, where you go it (almost) alone against troops en masse with a combination of martial arts, weapon proficiency, magical powers and enhanced stamina. It's a heck of a rush, and it's begun to spawn loads of "me-too" games as of late. Still, DW is the original and the best.
Unfortunately, lately it's also been known for another thing – a set of rehashes a la Capcom back in its Street Fighter II heyday. Dynasty Warriors 5, while a perfectly serviceable refinement of what we've come to know about the series, didn't really add or change enough to avoid scrutiny by most critics. Why? Simply put, it was like DW4 or Samurai Warriors all over again… which in turn seemed like slightly graphically upgraded versions of DW3 with different dressing.
However, fear not, DW faithfuls: Koei seems to have listened to these cries, and is poised to bring you Dynasty Warriors 5 Xtreme Legends. Going with the earlier Capcom analogy, it's set to pull a Super Street Fighter II Turbo all over again, and make audiences once more raise their heads and take notice.
How, you ask? Well, for once, it'll be more than just a disc with a few extra characters and mission modes. This time, it won't just be more of the same. After all, why just add a few new characters and call it a day when you can players to create hundreds more to their liking?
That's right. The biggest addition is something that probably should have been debuted long ago. Destiny Mode brings create-a-character to the Dynasty Warriors series, allowing players to fashion their very own Warrior from scratch. Once they do so, they can choose their affiliation, and help them rise through the ranks from lowly foot soldier to leader of an arm through rudimentary role-playing and stat-boosting.
The character editing, while certainly not as deep as your average wrestling game, still sports over 20,000 combinations stretching from face maps (along with hair, clothing, and headpieces) to choice of weaponry. All the weaponry is lifted from the actual generals featured in the DW5 games, for a total of 48, and variables such as height, weight, and voices can be modified as well.
As you progress through this mode, you'll be able to serve under different generals (I don't know about you, but being able to create my own female apprentice to Sun Shang Xiang is quite the appealing idea to me), and gain the notice of others, for the chance to be promoted or switch armies and allegiances.
While it is the biggie, Destiny Mode isn't the only addition to this pack. Xtreme Mode is basically a survival mode where you're forced to fend for yourself. You don't regain health after battles; you're forced to survive using what food and power-ups you manage to find on your own, plus buying items between battles. The things you find, however, can be used to power-up and accessorize any characters in your overall possession to be used in other modes, so there's reason to spend lots of time here. This mode also supports two-player cooperative play.
Two Challenge Mode courses are added to DW5's four, including Gatekeeper, which is an all-out defense mission: you against continuous oncoming hordes as you attempt to defend your army's base. Finally, you've got Legend Mode, which consists of the additional missions you've come to expect from these expansion packs. Some are based on historical events, others are entirely original (in other words, made-up and fictional).
Your created characters can be used in the above modes as well, for a bit of a personal touch.
Don't expect any huge graphical improvements from the earlier DW games — the thing's been running on the same essential engine for years, improved as it may be. The build I received was Japanese, so I can't comment on the English dubbing, but it's steadily gotten better with the progression of the series, so hopefully, this won't be any different.
When Xtreme Legends is combined with your copy of Dynasty Warriors 5, you get what should probably have been DW5 in the first place. Still, it's no less welcome — better late than never. The expansion pack will be out in mid-November, and coming along with it is an experience that even the most jaded should try out one last time.