Dynasty Warriors titles seem incomprehensible to people who don't play many of them. They're similar to Madden NFL games in that they all look basically identical, with the only difference being the roster. You'd think that new games would be inherently superior to the old games, but sometimes, new features are added that make the game less fun. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 had more content than the original, but it came at the cost of making the game tedious, grindy and less enjoyable. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is a great sequel because it takes the best parts of prior games and meshes them into something better. It's still a Dynasty Warrior title, so don't expect any dramatic gameplay changes, but the devil is in the details.
The Dynasty Warriors: Gundam franchise is slightly different from the other titles in the franchise due to the focus on giant robots. Instead of picking a single character, you pick a character and his/her robot. Both have stats, and the combined abilities of your character and his robot determine your power in combat. A high-level robot can do a lot of damage or be fairly durable, but it can't reach its full potential without a high-level pilot. A lot of the pilots are somewhat interchangeable because at high levels, the difference in stats is relatively minor, but there is enough variation, so die-hard players will want to min-max to make sure that they've got the best possible pilots. It's still a Dynasty Warriors title, and you know what to expect from it.
Like the previous game, DW:G3 has a huge cast, and the units are divided into tiers. The weaker "grunt" units, like the GINN, have fewer moves and abilities and are generally pretty pathetic, but the main hero and villain units are more viable. Fortunately, this is better balanced than in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2, where iconic units, like the Turn-X or the Guncannon, were regulated to second-tier status despite being piloted by main characters. In DW:G3, if it's a protagonist's unit, you can expect it to be a viable robot.
The biggest and best change from Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 is that the amount of grinding has been dramatically reduced. Although the previous game turned even the simplest task into a tedious grindfest that almost soured the entire game, DW:G3 makes it a breeze to level up your characters and equipment. For example, the friendship system returns from DW:G2. Battling alongside allies makes them like you more, and that in turn unlocks new features. In the previous title, this was horrible and tedious because fighting against characters caused their friendship to go down, so trying to level your character's friendships was a horrible and joyless task. In DW:G3, it couldn't be simpler. Fight alongside a character, and he'll eventually warm up to you. The friendship can't decrease, so you'll probably max out a few friendships entirely by accident.
The game has some other nice features to dramatically cut down on grinding. Once you use a unit five times, you can buy a license that allows any character in the game to use the unit. The licenses are surprisingly cheap, so it isn't difficult to transfer your fully upgraded Unicorn Gundam to a new character, so you won't need to start over again.
The new training function is also pretty neat. By spending gold that you've earned in stages, you can put your characters through one of four training regimens to instantly boost their level. The most expensive one instantly levels a character to Level 33, which means you never have to worry about being underleveled with that character. Likewise, upgrading your robot is as simple as using it in a fight. After every level, you'll get plans for the robot you're using and any robots you shot down. There's a slight element of randomness here, but it's nowhere near as bad as it was in the last game.
DW:G3 requires you to use most of the characters in the game at some point. Characters from each of the Gundam universes are teleported to a mysterious new world after tracking down a strange signal. They end up divided into various factions and battling one another, all the while being watched by a mysterious knight-like Gundam. If you're a die-hard fan of various Gundam shows, including many which have never been released in English, like "Gundam X" or "Turn-A Gundam," you can probably puzzle out the story. If you don't know Amuro from Ribbons, prepare to be baffled. The plot requires you to use certain characters, so you can't just pick your favorite and be done. This is a good way to convince players to try other units, but it's annoying when you have to switch from your fully upgraded Unicorn Gundam to a level 1 Wing Gundam to advance the plot. The translation seems slightly improved; it still has flaws, but it's nowhere near as egregious as before.
The gameplay in DW:G3 is almost unchanged from previous titles, though there's the addition of different bases to different fields. In prior games, fields were basically interchangeable and had little influence over the battle. When you took over a field, it changed colors. In this title, you'll occasionally find fields with bases, and capturing those fields provides your team with different effects. Capture a lab, for example, and your army gets a stat boost. Capture a repair base, and you'll regenerate health. Capture a fortress, and your field will be harder to take. The catapult instantly transports your unit to another field on the map. Controlling various bases can severely impact the flow of battle. If you leave them in enemy control, the enemy will be a lot more powerful and dangerous, but if you take them, you can turn the tide heavily in your own favor.
Perhaps most importantly, both sides now have a home base. You don't lose if your home base is captured, but it plays into another new gameplay mechanic. Both sides have a morale gauge, and when a field is lost or an enemy ace is shot down, some morale is lost. For enemies, this means that their leader won't show up until you drain the morale low enough to force them onto the field. Their defeated ace pilots continue to respawn until you either drain their morale or capture their home base — and the latter is harder than it sounds. Until their morale is at a certain level, the base is guarded by powerful beam cannons that tear apart anyone who goes inside, making it very difficult to capture their home base until you've sufficiently reduced their morale. Your own morale functions somewhat similarly. Friendly aces and your character respawn as long as there is morale left in your gauge. Usually, this is only enough for one or two respawns per level, but it can make a big difference.
On top of that, DW:G3 features regenerating life. When you take damage, you take some permanent damage and some temporary damage. The latter is shown by your health bar turning purple, as opposed to simply vanishing. Both permanent and temporary damage can kill your character if you run out of HP, but temporary damage regenerates after a short time. Once again, this applies to both friend and foe. This helps prevent the abuse of some of the game's mechanics. When you're low on health, your Musou bar begins to refill, and your special Musou attack gets more powerful. In previous games, you could abuse this by running away until the bar fills, using your attack, and then running away again. Here, your health regenerates to the point that you stop regaining Musou energy.
DW:G3 features higher damage numbers than previous games to compensate for the fact that you and enemies have extra lives and regenerating health. Even at lower levels, it's easier to die if you are swarmed by foes. The enemies also seem more aggressive, especially the generic army grunts that attack from time to time. Both enemies and allies die faster, and it makes the stages feel a lot faster and the pace of battle a lot more hectic. In some cases, it almost made them feel a bit too short. I could run through levels in a few minutes, even with a lower-leveled robot.
One big exception to this is the Mobile Armor enemies, who have been toned down a bit from DW:G2. Each enemy has a gauge that fills up as you attack, and if you perform long combos or use multihit attacks, it fills up faster. Once it is full, you have a chance to stun the enemy with an attack, which knocks him down and drains his temporary health. You can whale on them until they stand up, and you later, rinse and repeat until they fall again. It's still tedious, but you no longer have to worry about breaking limbs in the same fashion, and that keep things from becoming too annoying.
You can't actually pilot these giant Mobile Armors, but you can now call upon them for help. Most of the primary units in the game, including those inaccessible Mobile Armors and monsters like the Dark Gundam, can be turned into partner units, which can be summoned during battle to perform a special attack — if you have a full partner gauge. The gauge fills up when you've captured certain field bases or find certain items. Some partner special attacks are extremely useful, and others are pretty worthless.
One frustrating complaint about DW:G3 is that it retains a fair amount of the series' distinct repetitiveness. Recent Dynasty Warriors games have gone out of their way to make each mission feel unique, but here, you're still playing one of a canned series of levels, and you'll see the same few stages over and over again. The field system and more involved plot keep things a little fresh, but it feels a lot like a paint-by-numbers stage. This can get tiresome later in the story mode, where you're going through another nearly identical stage. It would've been nice to see some custom-crafted stages for some of the bigger events.
DW:G3 offers online multiplayer. In theory, up to four players are thrust into a predefined mission and tasked with winning it together. What makes this disappointing is that the synchronization between the various players is terrible. Aside from the early parts of the game, there seems to be no relationship between what your friends are doing and what their counterparts in the game are doing. I've seen characters kill enemy aces from halfway across the map with no clear indication of how. Sometimes the synchronization matches up, but that seems to be the exception more than the rule, and the result is that it feels like four unconnected people just happen to be in the same mission instead of an actual cooperative experience. With that said, four players in ridiculous units, like the 00 Raiser or Double X Gundam, and tearing through levels can provide a fun power trip. The multiplayer is also the fastest way in the game to earn money, and a few levels can leave you rolling in dough.
DW:G3 is a big visual step up from the previous game. While the backgrounds haven't changed much, the robots have been redone with a cel-shaded look that makes them more visually distinctive. They look somewhat animated, and it helps them to better resemble their cartoon counterparts. There are also some pretty nice cut scenes that allow you to see interactions between characters that you normally wouldn't. The voice acting is passable, but there are some pretty ridiculous choices. A lot of characters share voice actors, so it's silly when you have the same actor talking to himself in cut scenes when it's clear the actor doesn't have enough range to do a different voice. Fortunately, the game offers the ability to switch over to the Japanese vocal track, which features more voice actors and a better overall effort.
In the end, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is the best of the series. It makes solid improvements on the previous titles and, more importantly, solves almost all of the big complaints about Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2. The gameplay is solid, and it's an improvement over the previous game in every way. The game has more characters and robots, and there are more things to do. It's a shorter game mostly because the tedious grinding has been omitted. If you're a fan of Dynasty Warriors or enjoy the "Gundam" television shows, there's a lot to like here. If you enjoyed the previous games and are looking for more, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is the way to go.
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