By the time Dynasty Warriors 9 was announced a little over a year ago, it had been nearly four years since Dynasty Warriors 8 released. It originally arrived on PlayStation 3 in February 2013, months before the PlayStation 4 launched. It’s been the longest gap between mainline installments in the series’ history.
This also meant Koei Tecmo and developer Omega Force had big plans for the game, beyond merely creating another installment that reuses the same ideas. While it will retain most characters from previous games, they’ll fight within the confines of an open world, which both companies involved are hoping will help maintain interest in the franchise from longtime fans and attract new ones.
But in adding those features, it appeared they were sacrificing the polish for variety, and a lengthy gameplay video from August indicated that wasn’t a worthwhile idea. While the player could have the opportunity to partake in non-combat side activities, what point would those serve when the core combat looked like a mess? The video’s combat encounters featured several groups of enemies appearing out of thin air and poor collision detection issues while fighting and exploring, both of which would make for a frustrating experience. There was a chance Koei Tecmo would delay it, but most signs suggested they weren’t budging from releasing it in the first quarter of 2018.
Upon seeing the newest videos of the game in action, of which there are several short clips showcasing nearly every character with more being added as the release date nears, I wondered if I should have ever been concerned about it. Its performance still isn’t flawless, but it’s far more polished in action now. This also isn’t the first time this happened with a Warriors game from these same companies, as Hyrule Warriors also made serious strides in terms of polish within a quick timeframe. It shows that Omega Force is as efficient as ever.
Throughout the last few months, Koei Tecmo has revealed the massive amount of returning characters, though new faces like Zhou Cang (who actually debuted in Warriors All-Stars earlier this year) and Xin Xianying have been featured. Early details claimed the outfits would be more realistic this time, though the actual results show that “more” and “entirely” aren’t synonyms — especially in the case of the female characters. As mentioned above, videos featuring every character are being posted on the official Japanese YouTube account.
The character reveals themselves raised another issue, one which brought back repressed memories for longtime fans. Those who’ve played each installment extensively enough to know all the characters despite the massive amount of them realized some didn’t return with their trademark weapons. Instead, they’re using equipment from other characters. It made them think of Dynasty Warriors 6, whose biggest issue was how characters who were previously distinct returned with move sets similar to other more popular faces, essentially making them clones. It was a compromise the developers made thanks to it being the first one created for then-current consoles, and DW9 is notably in the same boat, despite several cross-generation titles and expansions hitting the systems.
For instance, Sun Ce used Dual Tonfas in most of the previous DW games, but is instead using the Longtou Dazhadao blade this time, the same weapon the aforementioned Zhou Cang is using. The same applies to Zhenji, who’s using a Chain Whip like Diaochan instead of her trademark Flute — just like DW6, as if they wanted to dredge up unfortunate memories. There are several others, and this had fans worried.
Note the use of “had,” as the character videos have shown how it’s not quite as bad as expected. Though those characters are using similar weapons, their techniques with them are different. They’re still losing unique features, though, so not all is rosy.
The team dedicated a significant level of resources to features besides fighting, their way of combatting franchise fatigue and accusations that the titles haven’t changed since the PS2 days. The game’s open world will allow players to visit cities and villages within Chinese landmarks and discover materials through exploration or hunting animals, and it will include a weather system. There will also be a “Hideaway” that players can purchase in various districts, where they can place furniture and invite other officers in their informal outfits for conversations.
If those features sound familiar: Some were introduced in Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada, which served as somewhat of a testing ground for features in future mainline installments. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that the Warriors games have been struggling in sales for a while, and this is their opportunity to shake things up.
The sales and critical reception will show if that’s enough when it releases on February 8th in Japan and China, almost exactly five years after DW8. Since Koei Tecmo wants to rope in the western audience more these days, this will be the first DW title to release worldwide nigh-simultaneously when it hits America and Europe on February 13th. The western departments are lagging behind Japan when it comes to promotional materials, so hopefully they step it up soon.