Pros: Awesome graphics new moves and characters history based story tons of replay value
Cons: This one is going to be hard to top for KOEI
Geez ... there is so much to tell about this game it is hard to begin.
A long, long, long, really long time ago in China, there were Three Kingdoms. ( Do some web research and you will find this is a factual based game ). The Kingdom's were named : Wei, Shu, and Wu. Now I am sure there were other kingdoms at the time, but this game focuses on these main three.
The leader of the Wei Kingdom was Cao Cao. The leader of the Shu Kingdom was Liu Bei, and the leader of the Shu Kingdom was Sun Quan. These three men and their followers were constantly battling each other for supremacy and control of the land and people.
The story behind The Romance of the Three Kingdoms was written by a man named Luo Guanzhong. And the book is still available today. I suggest checking it out, it is fascinating.
KOEI has taken this historical era and turned it into a video game wonderland. There are currently more than six versions of this era, titled respectivly : Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Kessen, and Dynasty Warriors.
Now, I have not played the strategy games of Kessen and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. My experience began with Dynasty Warriors 2. This type of game is commonly referred to as " hack and slash " gaming, meaning it is pretty much taking your character and dumping them into a mob of enemy characters that you have to " hack and slash " your way through till you reach a predetermined goal. For those of faint heart, you do not " kill " other characters, ( there is no blood shed on the screen ) rather you have a K.O. count.
You start out with your character having low level stats. And you gradually build your power by beating different leaders of opposing armies in different levels. You have a basic weapon, but unlike the Dynasty Warriors 2 game, you can find weapon upgrades and other items to enhance the weapon power. Such as an item that extends your damage field by increasing it's reach. With the basic weapon before the item upgrade, you might hit three enemy soldiers, with the upgrade item you can now reach five who are in your close proximity.
Weapon upgrades and items are hidden all over the game. Some are rewards for beating enemy generals, others are hidden in jars and boxes in different areas of the game.
For those familiar with the previous Dynasty Warriors games, a new feature is the two player mode. This is a lot of fun compared to the previous versions. The screen on the T.V. is split upper and lower so you can see both characters and their opponents at the same time. This is a great feature for assisting characters who are just starting out building up levels. You can choose to play with a character who is already leveled up and double team the other side. But be careful .... the game is over for both of you if one of you dies.
There is also a Challenge mode added into Dynasty Warriors 3. There are two different games in this mode. One is endurance. This mode has only enemies and generals. Fighting the regular soldiers adds up your K.O. count and the only assist items you can get come from defeating the unit general. You try and defeat as many enemies as you can before you run out of life and are defeated. The other game in Challenge mode is Time Attack. I have not played this game yet, but I think it is defeat as many enemies as you can in a set period of time. ( When I play it I will come back and edit this if I can tear myself away from the game long enough ).
Another new mode I have not explored is the Vs. mode. ( More on this mode after I have played it. ) You and a friend are pitted against each other in a set stage.
Now I could cheat and just give you the game instruction book info on these modes. But I would rather let you know what a great game this is right now, and edit the Modes later as I play them. Regrettably there are other things I must do in life than play this game. )
In Dynasty Warriors 3, you have 40 playable characters. Some of them you can play from the start. Others you have to get by playing through the story mode, ( Musou mode ) or as in the case of the legendary Lu Bu, completing a set task. To get Lu Bu, you have to defeat 1,000 people in his story level. This level is Hu Lao Gate in the game. Not all characters can be played in the story mode. Lu Bu for example can only be played in the Free Mode or the new added modes of Vs. and Challenge. In the Free Mode you can choose different levels to play, and it ends after that level.
The Free Mode is a great way to level your character up and find new items and upgrades.
You have different attacks also. Your regular attack of hitting and causing damage, and a Musou attack which releases a powerful combination of hits for maximum damage to your opponent.
When you first begin, you have two bodyguards. As your character raises in status and power, you earn more bodyguards. In Dynasty Warriors 3, you can assign your bodyguards different weapons and give them orders. Either attack or defend. The bodyguards in Dynasty Warriors 2 were a bit of a pain. When trying to unlock the Lu Bu character, my bodyguards in some cases were leveled up more than the character I was playing, they attacked enemies and defeated them faster than I could and enemies defeated by my bodyguards did not count for my total K.O. to unlock Lu Bu.
One thing I really like as a female gamer is the inclusion of female characters. Now.... while I do not really think the costumes are suitable for fighting ( you try leaping off a wall in high heels and see how you end up. ) they are really cool looking.
I am so happy with all the added features that I do not mind the slow downs created by having so many characters on screen at one time. The PS2's engine is just not powerful enough to do this smoothly. I am not really tech minded so I have a hard time explaining this. Basically, in some cases in the game play, there are so many characters on the screen that you lose the visual on some of them. You know they are there, and you can damage them with an attack, but you just can not see them. This is somehow related to the PS2's processor if I understand correctly.
My main complaint with this game is the English voice acting. My advice is ..... play with the Japanese voice option enabled. Unless you want a good laugh. After the first 2 or 3 times hearing them, the English voices can grate on your nerves.
The background music is guitar heavy and very fitting for the game. And the ending music is by far better than the Techno style drivel in Dynasty Warriors 2.
I hope this review is not too scattered for the reader. There is just so much about this game as I said, it is hard to know where to start. I hope this is helpful for you and you enjoy playing this as much as I do. And the fact it is based on actual history is an added attraction. You can play the game and give the kids a history lesson at the same time.