Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition isn’t really a new game. It’s more of an expansion pack that builds upon the original games release. If you follow the Three Kingdoms hack ‘n’ slash franchise, you’ll know well that each numbered instalment tends to bring with it one or two standalone expansions in the few months after it gets released. Those who haven’t played the original won’t have as much trouble getting used to playing this on the Vita platform. If you did, you might want to think twice before buying it.
I want to start by saying Dynasty Warriors 8 and its predecessors are all amazing games. Read the original Dynasty Warriors 8 review if you’re looking for extended thoughts, but you’ll find they are beautifully crafted storylines set in button-mashing environments. This extension however, draws your attention to how much is actually happening on screen and how the Vita struggles to cope with screen space. If you’ve never had a hand at Dynasty Warriors, you should know it’s a game that’s already too cluttered on the console, but that’s what makes the game so intense to play. On the consoles, with a large TV screen - it works. Here it’s as though the developers took the console version and squeezed it down to a smaller size, without even bothering to optimise anything.
You start off by choosing a legendary Chinese hero who actually existed during a period known as the Seven Kingdoms in China. The game loosely plays through actual events that occurred through history, but obviously a little altered for gameplay. It’s not true that Zhuge Liang from Dynasty Warriors 8 could actually shoot lasers from his crotch, so don’t ask. Once you’re in battle, the buttons are pretty simple so there’s no tutorial. After a short clip, you’re straight into battle and, before you know it, slaying hundreds upon thousands of foes as you take over regions on the map and cull back enemy forces. There’s a great smorgasbord of characters to choose from, each with their own variety of attacks and special “mosou” maneuvers, and each able to equip numerous types of weapons. There’s also a great weapon affinity system and an interesting strategy-type mode called Ambition, but it’s difficult to appreciate these as you would on the consoles, once again, because of the restricted screen space. The upper-right map takes up about an eighth of the screen, which doesn’t seem like much, but is enough to create enemy blindspots and caused me to frequently crash into walls.
The map itself is almost unusable as it resembles enemies with small red dots, but because of the amount of peons around you, the corridors become solid red snakes. And don’t try moving the camera around with the shoulder buttons either; you’ll have to take your thumb off the controls and on to the right stick to see anything that’s not in front of you. What’s more annoying is that the controls don’t directly translate from the console version. None of the controls are touch-screen friendly and all the menu options need to be scrolled using the left stick. It boggles my mind to wonder why they didn’t use more features available on the Vita to help free up space and make the game easier to play on the portable device. It also took me about 20 minutes and a whole lot of button bashing to realise that you need to touch the side power bar to activate your character’s special ability, as opposed to activating their other special ability by simply pressing circle. Nothing else is available as a touch option by the way. Oh, and the back touchpad has been completely forgotten about. It would’ve been awesome to see this incorporated into the weaponry, rather than the usual button mashing that goes on in and out of battle. But oh well.
The main single player mode starts you off playing a semi-villain / all around badass Lu Bu. His hair is so massive that it eats away even more of the precious screen space... along with his ridiculously long spear. It’s interesting to see Lu Bu taking the front lead in the expansion, as his role in Dynasty Warriors 8 was less important. The main story will take you several hours to complete and there’s nothing overly new in the plotline. Lu Bu’s story is incredibly convoluted, and his missions feel exactly the same as every other mission you would have already paced through in Dynasty Warriors 8’s campaign mode. But hey, who cares? It’s Lu Bu! He’s easy to play and grossly overpowered, slaughtering everyone in his wake without putting a single strand of his epic hair out of place. What’s not to love?
If Lu Bu isn’t your thing, then there are also a number of new “What If?” scenarios to keep you busy too. Unfortunately, these too suffer from the same repetitive gameplay as the rest of the single-player modes. The only real differences are in the characters you play, the enemies you fight and the cut scenes. If that’s what you’re playing for, then you won’t be disappointed.
If you already own a PS3 copy of Dynasty Warriors 8, this might be a hard sell, as there’s nothing too new to offer except for a fuller package. The Complete Edition throws in a few new extras like Ambition Mode and an expanded Story Mode, but lacks in playability. Dynasty Warriors fits perfectly on the console and I personally feel that’s where it should stay.