It’s the year 2000. Your friend invites you over to show you his new Playstation 2. You plop down in front of his enormous CRT television, barely unable to contain your excitement and jealousy. He fires up Dynasty Warriors 2. A horde fully-3D enemies swarm his Chinese general onscreen. You pick your jaw up off the ground.
Flash forward to 2009. Dynasty Warriors: Strike Force and Samurai Warriors 3 are on the horizon, jumping up and down and waving their arms, clamoring for attention. The gaming world pays no mind; it’s too busy Prestiging in Call of Duty: Michael Bayfare 2 (thanks, Andrew).
Why did we care about these Chinese generals? And why don’t we anymore?
I remember marveling at DW2’s scope and subsequently logging days in DW3. The gameplay demanded only that I mash on the X button repeatedly, and I was rewarded with piles of dead rebels at my feet. Unfortunately, the shallow mechanics only held up for a few weeks, and newer iterations failed to impress because of their adherence to the simple formula.
Meanwhile, the rest of the industry was harnessing the PS2’s processing power to create deeper experiences, even if they weren’t bothering to render hundreds of Yellow Turban troops with awful AI at a coma-inducing 8 frames per second.
If Dynasty Warriors retains any sort of legacy, it will be one of technical achievement early in a beloved console’s lifespan. It also marked a shift in Koei’s approach to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, moving from its strategy origins to button-mashing nonsense. Oh yeah, and Lu Bu is still an absolute beast.