Alongside the launch of the PSP early last year came the debut of Koei's venerable hack-and-slash franchise in Dynasty Warriors. As a stripped-down, bite-sized version of the typical battles found in one of the console games, Dynasty Warriors was serviceable but not exactly impressive. Though Koei has since released a Samurai Warriors game that tweaked a couple of the problems found in that first title, Dynasty Warriors Vol. 2 is the first proper DW sequel for the PSP. As Samurai Warriors: State of War did, DW Vol. 2 touches up the experience a bit by adding additional multiplayer modes, a couple of items, and all 48 of the playable warriors found in the console titles. Although these additions don't hurt one bit, the core issues of the gameplay and graphics remain as problematic as ever.
With new multiplayer modes, items, and 48 playable characters, there's plenty Dynasty Warriors to go around.
For the uninitiated, the Dynasty Warriors games take place in ancient China, when several clans were vying for control of the nation. The game's primary mode, the musou mode, lets you choose from one of the unlocked warriors and begins a storyline that explains that warrior's role within the history of this ancient warfare. Of course, things have been dramatized a good bit, with the warriors themselves being dolled up in a fairly anime-like fashion, and the battles themselves mostly involve you running around and beating up hundreds of enemy fighters like a hot knife through butter. Also, the stories here aren't told through the same hyperstylized cutscenes as the console game, but rather through decidedly duller text-based menus prior to each battle.
As was the case in Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors: State of War, Vol. 2 chunks up each of the individual battles into a grid-based map. Whereas on consoles you could simply run around an open battlefield with no restrictions, each individual section of a field here is sectioned off. Using a turn-based structure, you simply move from square to square, engaging in battles each time you come into contact with the enemy. Time is a resource here, and each time you move from square to square, a chunk of time comes off the clock. Generally, it's not tough to get through battles without running out of time, though periodically you will find yourself crisscrossing the field to complete some side missions. These extra endeavors, such as rescuing a village from a crowd of raiders, net you some upgrade bonuses.
Though the system hasn't changed much, it's still a neat way to make the generally time-consuming battles of the Dynasty Warriors console games palatable for handheld players. However, the action itself still isn't much fun. Like always, you'll find yourself mashing the attack buttons against hordes of dim-witted soldiers who might occasionally swing a sword or spear at you, but who are mostly content to die a bloodless death. The only enemies that really put up a fight are the CPU-controlled versions of the playable warriors, as well as a few officers and captains that hang around. But in most cases, it's still pretty easy to cut through those guys as well. Also, the few combo moves that the game offers are exceedingly easy to pull off and extremely repetitive.
Another problem with the game is that there just isn't much to the battles beyond the middling combat. While the console Dynasty Warriors games at least threw some occasional objectives at you, there's rarely much to do here except battle the enemy until you've won. Each time you engage in battle, you'll find a meter on the heads-up display that depicts the morale of your force and that of your enemy. Defeating soldiers drops the meter a bit, whereas defeating higher-ranking officers and generals drops it significantly faster. You drop an enemy's morale meter to zero, and voila, you take the territory. Though it's fine for a handheld format not to throw long-winded objectives and missions at you, with the game already so broken up into pieces for the sake of keeping things brief, a little bit more to do wouldn't have killed anyone.