You have to give Koei some credit for trying new things with the handheld Shin Sangoku Musou (Dynasty Warriors) titles. Granted these ideas didn’t really work out in Koei’s favor in Dynasty Warriors Advance, but they’re attempting to add something in besides more enemies on screen. Dynasty Warriors Fighter’s Battle DS starts changing things by removing the bountiful selection of generals found in the other games. Instead you play as one of three Chinese gods: Genbu, Suzaku or Seiryuu. On the plus side you have more flashy combos and you can call meteors to rain from the sky. On the downside there are only three characters in the game to choose from.
Another change Koei made, for the worse, is they scrapped character equipment. There are no ultimate weapons to find or random accessories to collect. Replacing it is a card system where cards represent the generals from the Dynasty Warriors series. Before you enter a battle you select general cards to defend outposts and your main base. These cards also serve another purpose, boosting your character. General cards may increase your attack similar to if you found a better weapon and they adjust what “spells” are available to use. That’s right Dynasty Warriors DS has magic… sort of. When you defeat enemies they drop coins that you need to snatch up. Grab these and a spell will be randomly selected based on what spells your cards allow you to cast. One spell calls a meteor to hit a group of soldiers, another makes a flash blizzard that freezes all enemies on screen and one of the most useful spells during duels drains the musou meter from an enemy. The problem with the spell system is you don’t really know what spell you’re going to get to cast since everything is random. The only thing you can do is tweak the probability of a spell appearing by adjusting your cards. If you’re a fan of the earthquake spell (my favorite!) equip more general cards with that spell to increase the chance you’re going to cast it.
Besides casting random spells combat is just like other Dynasty Warriors games… where you’re mashing the B button to do a four hit combo. You can mix up attacks by pressing the A button which does a slower, but more powerful special move. If you’re playing as Seiryuu you can make a vortex appear and suck nearby enemies in it. Suzaku has a combo where he knocks a group of troops forward then runs towards them and finishes with a powerful strike. The attacks are certainly more imaginative than the air combos in the PS2 games, but since you’re using the same combos through each episode you’re going to get bored of seeing them real fast. Like other Musou games you slowly charge up your musou meter when you attack and you can press X to unleash it.
The actual game is probably more similar to Dynasty Warriors Empires than a traditional Dynasty Warriors game. To win a battle you have to capture all of your enemies outpost bases, defeat the generals there and then defeat the general in the main base. There are set routes to take so you aren’t free to roam around the map. Here is the worse part about the system, you’re forced to fight a set number of troops before you can leave one square of the map. Want to get five squares up? Yeah you have to fight over a hundred mindless troops. One thing the engine is good at doing is throwing thirty or so rough edged models on screen at one time so you can get through the fights fairly quickly. However, the whole set up makes Dynasty Warriors Fighter’s Battle DS terribly boring. All you do is run from one room to the next, defeat the required number of soldiers, then repeat it… for the entire game. The only thing that keeps Dynasty Warriors Fighter’s Battle DS remotely interesting is a computer controlled character is trying to capture your bases so there is a little time pressure.
Beating one "storyline" takes about five to six hours depending on how fast you push the A button and there really is no reason to go back unless you want to collect all the cards. There is also some sort of multiplayer option too, but I haven’t really played with it. And I don’t think I’m ever picking Dynasty Warriors Fighter’s Battle DS up again to try it out. Seriously, it’s just that bad.