This little titbit of info is going to come as a bit of a shock to some of you out there, so hold on to your hats folks! Okay so; there exists somewhere on this planet, in this reality, in this very time period, video games baring the Gundam franchise name that are NOT kinda awful. Right, you back on your feet yet? Well this next one’s a bit less of a surprise if you’re familiar with Koei’s previous masterpieces. Ready? Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 is kinda awful. But before I get onto that, I just want to say a few almost nice things as a mark of respect to whatever poor souls had to work on this damn thing.
Games in the Dynasty Warriors franchise, which as of writing there are currently 40+ of, aren’t exactly well known for making much in the way of innovations from title to title. In fact, it would not be beyond the realm of decency to suggest it has somewhat of a reputation for doing quite the opposite. So with that in mind, you can imagine my total shock when I discovered there has actually been a pretty major shakeup since the last instalment of this little sub-series.
The most immediately noticeable difference is that the crude and ugly graphical style of the previous iterations has been replaced with a far more appropriate, and sometimes visually stunning, cel-shaded render that perfectly captures the look and feel of the Gundam TV shows it’s try to represent. This level authenticity is further enhanced by the presence of many signature Gundam sound effects and voice actors (or believable facsimiles thereof), as well as the much appreciated return of a Japanese audio dub option for those.. .uh… “purists” out there. Sadly the licenced Japanese music tracks are still MIA as is the norm for these types of games, but at least they substituted it for a pretty crazy new soundtrack that seems to consist entirely of endless bad-ass guitar riffs.
I’m not sure which is worse, the fact that it’s taken 3 games for Koei to model each robot to their “official” scale, or the fact that I can even tell that they’ve done it.
However the biggest shocker of them all is that there seems to have been a very real attempt to make the Dynasty Warriors formula just a little bit less monotonous than usual, which is a herculean feat that Koei has previously shied away from at every opportunity. It’s nothing revolutionary mind you, just little touches here and there; AI grunts are now quite aggressive rather than simply waiting around patiently for you to rip them a new one, a very basic level of strategy has been implement by giving you and your allies buffs for dominating certain areas of the battlefield, wingmen can be summoned in battle to perform a special attacks, and now gaining a sufficient number of relationship points to unlock new characters and missions can be done in a matter of minutes rather than hours.
But I think my favourite little addition is that you can finally just straight up BUY experience points with in-game money, which makes switching to newly unlocked Lv1 characters every now feel less like a further decent into hell. Like I said, they’re all small changes, but together they amount to an earnest step in the right direction for a franchise that’s done nothing but stagnate for nearly an entire console generation. But you know what? It just isn’t enough. Not even close. And that’s because all the worst parts of Dynasty Warriors, the Gundam side of it especially, are all still present and accounted for.
One of the worst offenders is the truly laughable “story” mode that delivers narrative via a bunch of crude almost nonsensical cut scenes that plays out like z-grade fan fiction as it clumsily mashes together 10 or so different continuities without so much as a hint of subtly or finesse. Don’t think for a moment actually knowing the Gundam storylines will help you understand what’s going on either, if anything that knowledge just makes the whole thing MORE confounding that it already is! When the protagonists aren’t busy hamming out uncharacteristic non sequiturs to no one in particular, they instead occupy themselves by forging bewilderingly cooperative alliances with other characters that they have every reason hate/fear/kill or avoid.
But I’m sure many fans of the franchise would consider it “unfair” to judge a Dynasty Warriors game too closely in regards to narrative; instead arguing that the shear spectacle of the combat is more or less the core compelling feature of these kinds of games. Well yes, there is some logic to that. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter if you can’t tell the difference between a Zaku II and a Z’gok or even figure out why they’re fighting each other in the first place; watching a bunch of robots explode is just plain awesome! The first time. And the second time. And the third time. etc. But eventually you’re going to reach that threshold where it just isn’t enough, and you’re going to want to mix it up, get a little hint of depth and most importantly unlock some cool new moves to blow more stuff up with, but the game just doesn’t offer anything like that.
Each of the (admittedly huge selection) of characters/robots only have a small handful of moves at their disposal, almost all of which are exceptionally boring variations of “shoot at dudes” ”swing sword at dudes” or on very special occasions “swing sword at dude THEN shoot ‘em”.
And it’s not that as though you’re even going to see most of those moves more than once anyway, as most characters only possess one or perhaps even TWO attacks in their limited repertoire that are useful in any meaningful way. Worse still, even those are more or less irrelevant once you realise that the rather mundane dash cancel move that every character possesses will keep all but the most tenacious opponents stun locked for as long as you can mash out a gargantuanly complex combo consisting of 3 button presses.
Man, that’s a lot of negativity I’m throwing at this game isn’t it? Quite frankly I’m exhausted just writing it! But then again I saved the best for last, the crème de la crème, the unforgivable sin. Ready? Weeellllll, someone at Koei’s game development think-tank decided that “you know what? Dynasty Warriors just isn’t nearly repetitive enough!” So to that end, instead of having several unique preset maps based on iconic Gundam franchise environments, it was instead decided that every stage should be randomly generated using an EXTREMELY limited tile-set of assets that cycles between 5 or so different generic graphical themes.
Joking aside, I’m sure the real intention behind this initiative was noble: give players infinite replayability by providing them with a “new” environment every time they play, plus save a huge amount on development cost! (Ok, so maybe that last bit wasn’t quite so noble). But in practice the lack of variation just makes every level feel identical, thus undoing all the seemingly genuine effort that went into making this game a bit less of a grind fest. Instead they’ve perhaps created one of the most grindy games ever conceived, one where for all intents and purposes there is just ONE stage that you play over and over and over again with minuscule alterations each time.
I suppose I could be lazy and just say this game is “for the fans” but that would be a massive understatement. To put it bluntly, I think “the fans” are possibly the only beings in existence who would be able to squeeze even a minutiae of enjoyment out of this game once the initial “robots vs robots” buzz wares off, i.e. after about 30 seconds.
So if you happen to fall under the highly specific category of “incredibly forgiving Dynasty Warriors fan who is able to overlook the franchise’s total failure to improve on, or even fully embrace, what made it popular and who ALSO happens to REALLY love several major Gundam characters” then god dammit son, this game is going to blow your f***ing mind! The rest of you though? Rent it, play it for a few minutes, cry a little, then move on with your life. I heard it builds character or something.
Impressive cel-shaded graphics
Multitude of minor improvements.
Gameplay is still extremely limited
Nearly identical maps for every mission
Recommended similar games:
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes (PS3/Wii)
Mobile Suit Gundam: “Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam” & “Federation Vs Zeon” (PS2)
The rest of the “Gundam Vs” Franchise (PS2/PSP/Arcade) *Import only*
Another Century’s Episode 1, 2, 3 (PS2) & Portable (PSP) *Import only*