I’ve mentioned Koei Tecmo’s troublesome predicament regarding their video game sales in Japan in many posts, almost as many times as I’ve discussed Nippon Ichi’s Software’s similar one. These days, it’s hard to remember how prominent many of their franchises were a decade ago, especially their Warriors/Musou games. But over the years and across various console generations, they’ve been steadily declining in popularity, though they were still selling well enough to pull in a profit. But sales in the last few years have been worrying for the Warriors games, outside spinoffs of franchises like Dragon Quest and The Legend of Zelda.
But they’re hoping Dynasty Warriors 9 can reverse their fortunes. It was originally announced in late-December, and early details suggested how it will be a significant leap for the franchise, but will keep elements longtime fans enjoy. It will also follow the all-too-common gaming trend of going open world, as players will be able to explore landmarks of ancient China. At the time, the omnipresent Zhao Yun was confirmed to be part of the cast along with Zhou Cang, the latter of which debuted in the recently released Musou Stars.
Musou Stars, by the way, is coming west as Warriors All-Stars in late-August. It also joined other Warriors games in not selling too well when it released in Japan at the end of March, which only provides Koei Tecmo more incentive to make some innovations to their formula.
DW9 was fully revealed this week, where they reconfirmed that players will be able to explore China as it existed in the Three Kingdoms period, albeit with necessary liberties taken with some locations. For instance, major locations like Luoyang and Hulao Gate will be smaller than they were reality, but will still feel large enough for players to appreciate their scale. They also estimate that it will take players around five minutes to swim across the Yangtze River and Yellow River, which is understandable. The developers don’t want players to feel its open world is too overwhelming, which could ruin the pacing. It would also be too costly for Omega Force to render locations too large, since they’re not a AAA game developer.
In addition to those locations, it will have over ten smaller cities and villages. Perhaps they’ll be similar to those from the recent (and upcoming for western markets) Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, where items can be purchased and side missions can be accepted. Given the bevy of locations, players will also be able to travel between them quickly by horseback, or though using the quick-travel feature to revisit previously-discovered locations.
In addition to Zhao Yun and Zhou Cang being confirmed, Guan Yu and Xiahou Dun are shown in the first screenshots. They’ll be joined by newcomer Cheng Pu, an older man armed with a double-sided spear. All 83 officers across multiple time periods from previous installments will be included here, though current info says nothing about whether they’ll be playable. Each one will receive new outfits more practical for the era, an unexpected switch considering those in previous games were only becoming flashier as the franchise continued. That’s not to say they won’t match previous DW games in being flashier than their real-life counterparts might have been, but it’s nice that they’re reversing the trend. The female characters were especially on the receiving end of the gaudy outfit trend, but we’ll see how theirs have been modified when some are shown in this installment.
DW9 will keep the simple gameplay from previous installments while adding some…interesting modifications. It will have a new gameplay system called the “State Combo System,” which lets players perform different techniques depending on the gameplay situations. The “Trigger Attack” will start the combo, which will continue with consecutive “Flow Attacks,” and culminate with a “Finish Attack.” This sounds a like a normal combo string, so they’ll have to actually show what changes they’ve made. The characters will also be able to climb up walls of castles and swim across rivers, both of which will be necessary for an open world game.
It’s nice that the development team is pursuing new features to freshen up the formula, but I hope they’ve studied how to create a good open world. Too many titles fall into the trap of being open world for the sake of it, which can make them a slog in terms of pacing. Also, the last time developer Omega Force experimented with the franchise, we received Dynasty Warriors 6, where their innovations rubbed fans in such a wrong way that they returned to their usual formula with Dynasty Warriors 7. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen here.
DW9 is planned as a PlayStation 4-exclusive title, but could also release on PC and maybe Xbox One outside Japan. No release date was confirmed, but Koei Tecmo said they want to release this when the weather is cold, which implies a fall or winter release. Expect the first trailer to arrive around E3 time, if not earlier.