Pros: Plenty of stuff to collect and twelve different characters to play
Cons: Possibly more repetitive than other Dynasty Warriors games.
The Shin Sangoku Musou series with multiple PS2 games, expansion packs
and even a PSP title moves along to Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. While
all of the other Shin Sangoku Musou (aka Dynasty Warriors) games boast
endless battles with hundreds of troops to fight, the GBA version is
fairly different. The core blend of war tactics and button mashing can't
be done on the GBA's hardware. Koei went all the way back to the drawing
board with this game, to create a unique Shin Sangoku Musou title.
Story mode starts out with you selecting one of three factions, Wei, Shu
or Wu. Then you can select a warrior from whatever state you choose. The
game does feature nine characters to play with from the start. Familiar
faces from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms saga are Xiahou Dun, Zhou
Yu, Sun Shang Xiang, and Zhao Yun. Once you pick your character you move
onto a story battle. However, it isn't a wide open field where you wail
on enemy troops endlessly. Instead you start out on a board game like
grid. The goal is to move all the way towards the enemy general before
enemies move towards your opposing general. Your general, as well with
all troops, can only move one square at a time. With each move you can
be fortunate enough to find new weapons or enter in battles when you
share a square with an enemy troop.
Battle mode switches the game to open field where five to six troops
appear at anyone time. You can swing a regular attack by hitting A and a
heavy strike by pressing B. Just like in Dynasty Warriors you can mix up
different attacks by starting a combo by pressing A and then ending with
B. Pressing A then B yields a stun attack, AA then B finishes up with a
long combo. The other combo you have, AAA then B, ends with a powerful
spinning move that can get you out of being surrounded. No matter which
character you pick the move structure is the same. Where characters do
differ, slightly, is in their musou attack. Just like in other Shin
Sangoku Musou games hitting enemies or grabbing a jug of sake fills up
your musou meter. A full musou meter can be activated by pressing L+A to
unleash your ultimate attack. Musou attacks are a longer, heavily
damaging combos. Some of them like Xiahou Dun's are designed to
corner an enemy and concentrate damage. While attacks like Zhen Ji's
move back and forth to hit as many surrounding enemies as possible.
For a GBA game the battle system is fairly decent, but the continuous
fighting may not have been the best direction for the game. Each battle
has a K.O. count in the upper left hand corner. To "win" the battle you
need to eliminate that many troops. If there is an enemy general you're
confronting they will be the final enemy to fight. Most of the time are
only three troops you'll fight. A melee solider carrying a spear or
possibly a sword that has a simple three hit combo. A silver coward that
runs away into a corner, wasting clock time. Most annoying out of all of
them is the lone archer. They run away like the silver troop, but also
shoot arrows that can make you lose your level up bonuses.
On the right hand corner there is a multi colored wheel that with a
meter that fills green in the middle. With each K.O. the greet bar rises
and when it's full the top most icon on your level up wheel will be
active. If you press R you'll activate the bonus. Or if you wait for
more K.O.s the flashing icon will move clockwise so you can select a
different bonus. Bonuses that you can select from are speed up, attack
up and other statistics. When you get enough experience points from
fighting all of those bonuses that you activated will be added to your
statistics. If you want to give your character a big power boost, this
is the way to do it. If you're hit by a seemingly insignificant arrow or
are slammed to the ground you'll lose one of the hard earned level up
bonuses before you can incorporate it. The level up system
encourages you to avoid hits as much as possible. If you don't play by
these rules you'll find your general severely underpowered against
computer controlled generals.
On the GBA the graphics changed from a realistic approach to a SD
(super deformed) look. Characters have huge heads on tiny bodies, which
is an interesting choice for game design. There are a couple of
battlefields to fight on that are reused again and again. You'll fight
on the same town area, empty grassy field and mountain areas. The
gameplay engine seems to handle the amount of troops and extras on the
screen fairly well. With only up to seven moving characters, slowdown is
rare. The game's detailed encyclopedia has some more realistic, but
static graphics. Sound wise you hear the same battle music over and
over. The couple of tunes that are present are reminiscent of prior
Dynasty Warriors games. The other major inclusion is a couple of voice
clips taken directly from the PS2 games.
Where the game does shine is in replay value. Like other games there
are plenty of weapons to collect. The Game Boy Advance version has them
hidden so well that you'll need to explore every space to find them all.
Add in three different story states to play as plus secret characters
and you have over 20+ hours of gameplay. For the really hardcore there
is the possibility to level up your favorite general as much as you.
Barring the rules of making a portable title short lasting Dynasty
Warriors Advance has plenty of gameplay, if you're into it.
As a whole package Shin Sangoku Musou Advance is a mixed bag. The
core gameplay is button mashing fighting. While other Dynasty Warriors
titles are guilty of the same thing, the atmosphere of being in a huge
battle made the game a lot more entertaining. Battling five or six
troops in waves may not be enough to entertain gamers, even fans of the
series. However, it's unique nature and game board approach makes it
worth a look for fans of previous games.
If you're into the series you probably know how the story is going
to go anyway, so missing dialogue is not a big deal. Of course the game
features menus and a tutorial that are in Japanese, but these aren't a
huge hurdle to overcome. The gameplay is simple enough to understand.
Where importers may run into trouble is when trying to decide how to
equip their characters.
Strangely enough Koei hasn't announced any plans for Dynasty
Warriors Advance to come to America. It was playable in English on the
E3 floor, but no release date info as of now.
Shin Sangoku Musou Advance has it's moments in innovation, but
endless fighting separates this title from the masses.