A while ago, I remarked to a fellow reviewer that it was merely going to be a matter of time before we started seeing expansion packs on consoles. After all, they’ve been around on PCs for years, but with the advent of the Xbox, Xbox Live system and the upcoming PS2 hard drive, the time is ripe for additional content. Seizing upon this opportunity, Koei has delivered two expansion packs to its popular Dynasty Warriors series. The latest one, Dynasty Warriors 4: Xtreme Legends, builds upon the game with a number of improvements to the now well-known story.
Based on the historical novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Dynasty Warriors series introduces gamers to a turbulent political era shortly after the fall of the Han Dynasty. Along with plenty of civil wars and economic strife, three kingdoms fought each other to restore peace to their shattered nation. The series has always been a fun piece of revisionist history on consoles, as players were able to take their favorite general, warrior or warlord to glory. This also includes the possibility of not choosing the Wei Kingdom, who actually reunified China.
Headlining the Xtreme Legends expansion pack are three new modes: Legend, Xtreme and Challenge mode. One of the constantly appealing factors with Dynasty Warriors is the sheer number of characters available that can be played with. Easily surpassing 40 legendary heroes, Dynasty Warriors hosts one of the largest lineups of hidden and accessible characters in gaming. Legend mode builds solidly on this feature, providing a unique mission specific for each hero found within the game. Xtreme mode takes a character and runs them through a number of randomly generated scenarios, forcing your character to succeed through a varying difficulty range of missions. The difficulty will also dictate the amount of money received after completion of the exercise, which can be used to purchase weapons, items or mercenaries from a shopkeeper.
Finally, Challenge mode places a chosen warrior against one of five scenarios. Time Attack, where you attempt to kill 100 fighters as fast as you can, Endurance, where you try to kill as many opponents as possible before dying yourself, and Bridge Melee, where you try to knock as many opponents as you can off a bridge within a time limit. There’s also Demolition mode, where you try to break as many boxes and weapons around you within the time allotted, and the new Arena mode, which pits you against randomly selected characters in a duel to the death (easily a nod to the original Dynasty Warriors title).
Aside from these additions, Xtreme Legends allows players to “remix” their saved games from Dynasty Warriors 4, adding new characters, items and bodyguards to their games. This boosts the typical Musou/Free modes considerably, because there are plenty of new weapons and items never before seen in a Dynasty Warrior game. It also gives players the option to create their own heroes and body guards in the Edit mode as well as check on descriptions and other information with the Encyclopedia mode. Finally, Xtreme Legends gives Multiplayer a go with cooperative play in Legend mode or competitive play within Versus mode.
There’s one issue that I’d have to raise with both the graphics and the sound, which is that it’s virtually been the same from game to game since Dynasty Warriors 2. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, simply because Dynasty Warriors has always been a good looking game, but there isn’t anything spectacular about this expansion that you haven’t seen before. Character models are still large and nicely detailed with realistic animation and fluid movements. The same can be said about the sound, since practically every sound effect has been taken from previous Dynasty Warrior games. Most music within the game is still overwhelmingly Japanese synth-pop/rock, largely comprised of large guitar solos. Similarly, the voiceover work is still “passable”, yet overdramatic.
Similarly, that’s the largest issue to be found within Xtreme Legends: the simple fact that you’ve seen this action before. How many times can players put down the Yellow Turban revolt or other issues from the same period before they get bored? The recent announcement by Koei that they’re going to produce Samurai Warriors, a Dynasty Warriors-like title set in Japan possibly illustrates just how limited this series has become. Now, don’t get me wrong, because I’ve been a staunch fan of the series since its inception. I don’t mind the additional modes; in fact, I think they work nicely within the context of the previous title and provides a solid boost to the game. However, I’m making a slight plea to the designers: Let’s keep the well-known name of Dynasty Warriors, but possibly choose other dynasties from other cultures or even other periods in Chinese history.
Xtreme Legends isn’t going to be a title for everyone; hell, it might not even be for fans of the series. What we’re looking at is for those diehard soldiers of the Dynasty Warriors. I mean those vets of the Wei, Wu and Shu conflicts that must have every bit of warfare in the Three Kingdom time period they can stand. Considering that you have to have Dynasty Warriors 4 to enjoy this one, it might not be for newbies to the series, but for those who’ve stuck with it, it’s a worthy addition to the stale series.