Category Archives: Videogames

Posts and thoughts about videogames by me ^^

Musou Outtakes part 1: Western Musou games?

Last week I was lucky enough to have a very interesting Musou related conversation via Skype.  The conversation was with someone that I consider to be a true Musou expert, someone with ‘working knowledge’ of the series….Let’s call him ‘Mr. L’.

I will be doing a full Musou 2 Me interview with Mr. L shortly – right now I will post the transcript of our conservation regarding Western Musou comparators as I think it contained some interesting insights. Enjoy ^^

Mr. L: still waiting for your next What makes a Musou article :P
Leady: I have started the 3rd part…
Leady: but went off on a massive tangent lool
Leady: and confused myself hahaha
Mr. L: Just like Musou! :D
Leady: lool!
Leady: I have pieces of it written on my pc, ipad and bberry
Leady: Here’s a question for you….
Leady: what do you think is the closest a Western studio has come to making a Musou game?
Leady: or a game using design and mechanics close to the Musou formula?
Mr. L: Left 4 Dead perhaps? at least gameplay wise.
Mr. L: Not story wise
Leady: interesting
Mr. L: Left 4 Dead definitely has that one vs many feel to it
Mr. L: hundreds and hundred of enemies

Left 4 Dead features hundred of zombie enemies - is it the Western equivalent to Ikkitosen?

Mr. L: brb…
Leady: ok
Mr. L: ok back
Mr. L: Yeah, all the games that come to mind as comparisons to Musou are Asian
Mr. L: N3 and Kingdom under Fire are Korean
Mr. L: Final Fight and clones are all Japanese
Mr. L: I’m trying to think of Western games that have perspective based story-telling
Mr. L: but I can’t think of anything off the top of my head
Leady: I was thinking Lego Star Wars
Leady: in terms of the Character Action part
Leady: its basically Musou
Leady: but lacks the 1 v 1000 feeling
Leady: but then again so does Ken and other recent Musou games
Mr. L: actually, Lego might be a good example as well

Lego Star Wars 3 looks to ramp up the enemy count - maybe it's getting even closer to Musou? Notice that Ahsoka is reverse wielding her lightsaber here - just like in the TV show.

Leady: they really seem to have mucked Lego Star Wars III up
Leady: I was really looking forward to that
Mr. L: Marvel Ultimate Alliance might be another good comparison
Leady: oh yer good point
Mr. L: but yeah, I can’t think of a Western game where playing as different characters presents different points of view in the same overarching story
Leady: Also in Lego Star Wars all the characters have very simple controls and there are cloned animations rigs
Leady: on differing bodies
Leady: which really reminded me of Musou as well
Leady: and the fun is in unlocking all the characters and playing them just because they are ‘them’
Leady: and you know them from the outside fiction
Mr. L: True

Marvel Ultimate Alliance closely matches Musou's Character Action and RPG elements.

Mr. L: though pre-Dynasty 6, Musou didn’t clone rigs
Leady: damn i should put this transcript on my blog ^^
Mr. L: back in the good old days of Musou
Leady: yeah but the moves were accessed off the same basic commands/inputs so players could slip from one character to another without trouble
Leady: in Final Fighte etc. there is more strategy needed to play each character
Mr. L: well if we’re looking at combos, we shift back to Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Leady: I need to try MUA out
Leady: but I don’t like Marvel lool
Mr. L: awww… poor Willy
Mr. L: let me play a song on the world’s smallest violin for you
Leady: hahaha lool
Leady: this is definately going on the blog now
Leady: lol
Mr.L: I guess the problem is that it’s easy to compare games to Musou gameplay
Mr. L: but Musou story telling is what makes it unique
Mr. L: I think the fact that Koei has recycled the same story over and over is what has hurt Musou so much
Mr. L: because as long as the stories are unique, Musou can be very interesting
Mr.L: I think back to the Japanese RPG Seiken Densetsu 3

Multi-perspective JRPGs such a Seiken Densetsu 3 offer differing scenarios depending on which character the player chooses.

Mr. L: the sequel to Secret of Mana
Mr. L: in that game you chose 3 of 6 characters to take with you as your party for the entire game
Mr. L: and based on your main character you end up with one of 6 unique prelude scenes and one of 3 final areas and boss sequences
Mr. L: As such, even though the middle is the same for all the characters, it feels like you are fighting for different reasons based on who you choose
Mr. L: and you have a different “really bad thing” on the line
Mr. L: Perspective is just something that is missing in western games…
Leady: ah i c
Mr. L: either the central character is a blank slate for the player to fill, or a single fleshed out character with no alternate characters to choose from
Leady: Remember Shining Force 3 on Saturn?

Probably one of the dumbest moves I have ever made in my life was trading in all 3 parts of Shining Force 3 on Saturn for a Dreamcast Pad and VMU. I have never traded-in a game since then...

Leady: It had 3 different scenario missions
Leady: sorry, disks
Mr. L: I recall Shining Force for Genesis, not Saturn
Leady: the Saturn one
Leady: had 3 disks
Leady: one for each character and his party
Leady: so each disk was an individual part of a main story
Mr. L: neat
Leady: then at the end all three characters and parties came together
Leady: for the big fight. (saved data crossed between games)
Mr. L: though japanese again :P
Mr. L: very neat
Mr. L: I approve
Leady: It was awesome

So that was the exert from our discussion. We went a bit off topic and got into JRPGs at the end there but I think it shows that while other games contain certain similarities the Musou formula remains quite unique – it’s either an inimitable piece of know-how to Koei or no other games company sees any profit in trying to copy it!

Leady247 ^^

Musou to Me part 3 – The silvertongue Interview

silvertongue is another big Musou fan I have known for a long time – I was thinking about it today and I can’t 100% remember where we first met. I think it was in Birmingham at Memorabilia Dec ’08. (Koei UK had a stand there promoting Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce PSP). Is that right slivertongue?

Anyway, wherever we first met we have been friends online ever since. He has been a key member of the Tecmo Koei Europe forums – propping up the discussions on Warriors games and Nippon Ichi’s RPGs during the quieter times and always on the pulse when it comes to new game announcements.

silvertongue was a key member of the Rebel forces during the defense of Echo base on Hoth...

silvertongue has always been somewhat obessive on the videogame artbook front  – either pre-ordering games to get the bonuses or attending Tecmo Koei events to buy the latest books. I got him to take us a picture of his collection because it’s awesome:

Yes, that's a signed (by Hisashi Koinuma) Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage artbook in the middle!

If you want to follow silvertongue on twitter, you can find him here @DirtyHandsX (I don’t even want to ask the origins of that nick).

Anyway, enough with the intro and on with the interview (I think you can tell which is his favourite Musou right from the beginning ;))…

So silvertongue, when did you play your first Musou game?

My first Dynasty Warriors game was back in 1998 on the Playstation 1 (Ed: he’s talking about the 1v1 fighting game that predated the ‘true’ Musou games check it out here).

If you mean my first ‘true’ Musou game then it would be Dynasty Warriors 2 on launch day of the Playstation 2 in 2000 UK  (I think it was then). A long time has past!

You bought you PS2 on launch day?  Did you have to queue up outside of the store?

No, I worked at GAME at the time so I was there for the launch but lots and lots of other people did.

Oh, that’s cool – I was working in EB (Oxford Street branch) for the PS2 launch. It was a cool night…

This is actually me - Leady247 - selling the UK's first PS2 back when I worked for EB, Oxford Street. I'm the ginger one.

…Going back to Dynasty Warriors 2, can you remember any of your first impressions of the game?

I remember being amazed at all the enemies on screen at the same time. It was extremely addictive and kept you coming back for more.

I also remember finding it quite difficult. Especially saving mid-stage – you had to find a crate/box which had a memory-card in it to save…and these were very few and far between.

People often tell me they liked the difficulty/challenge of the early DW games. Do you feel like the challenge of the series has faded over time?

Yes to a point. Sometimes it’s great to pick a game up and play it without getting frustrated with it being too challenging. However you can make a game too easy which takes away that feeling of accomplishment.

If people do find a Musou game too easy then they can always increase the difficulty setting to Chaos!

I do feel that Koei should invest some time into increasing the enemy A.I. – that in itself would increase the challenge.

In Musou games players can ratchet up the challenge by selecting 'Chaos' difficulty level.

So at what point would you say you became a Musou fan?

Well, I’ve always been a fan since DW2. However I would have to say when DW5 came along….that was when I became a total Musou fan! It blew me away with the amount of characters and their different stories.

Once DW got you into the The Three Kingdoms history did you research outside of the games to find out more about the characters or kingdoms?

The research came when Dynasty Warriors 5 arrived as it had a story for every character in the game. I became intrigued by all the different characters and their background stories.

So playing DW5 with its massive amount of characters and stories was like research in itself?

Of course. You have all the separate stories of each character to complete. Then there is also the in-game encyclopedia which in itself is like a Three Kingdoms history lesson.

Is DW5 the most content-rich Warriors game out there?

On the PS2 definitely…

…On PS3 I would say Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 which is absolutely huge in content.

DW5 had 48 playable characters each with their own unique story - in terms of content it's the ultimate Musou game.

We touched on the level of challenge earlier but I’d like to know more about how your impressions of Musou have changed since DW2?

Now the games look better, they play better. Saving is much easier now!

So much more content too. Take DW: Gundam 2 – that game is huge. The content is massive. I’ve been playing it for 55 hours now and still I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.

What would you say are the key aspects to making a good Musou game?

The fun factor has certainly got to be there.  Then the story…expanding the story by introducing new characters.

I’ve always been a sucker for extra costumes too. It would be great to have all the costumes included from past games to unlock or as DLC.

Fist of the North: Ken's Rage was the first Musou game to feature paid DLC - including new costumes.

We’ve seen different approaches to DLC in Musou games – for example: DWSF which had alot of free DLC but it was limited to remixed stages and re-coloured bosses.  Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage used paid DLC but offered some cool stuff like new costumes, characters and scenarios.  Which way do you think is better?

That’s quite a difficult question actually. On one hand everybody loves free stuff no matter what….

If Koei was to go down the route of charging for it’s DLC I do think the price should reflect what it is we’re actually buying.

If we had to buy DLC for DWSF then I would expect it to cost no more than £3 – £4 for about four to five of those missions. After all they are mainly just colour swaps.

As for FNS:KR DLC, yes we’re paying for extra characters, missions and costumes and I think the prices should reflect that.

However I would always say free DLC is the way to go – it’s kinder to all our pockets.

Would you be happy to pay for more content on top of the £50 you are paying for each game? Musou games come out quite often so I wonder if people would want to invest in DLC for each one?

It depends what content it is and what I’m getting for the price! I’m a sucker for costumes. So, yes – but it all depends on pricing.

When do you usually play Musou games?

Anytime I can. It doesn’t really matter what time of the day it is…I work from home so if I’ve finished what I need to do I’ll quite happily sit for a few hours playing a Musou game!

Do you just play when a new game comes out? Or do you play the old ones as well?

I play whichever I feel like at the time. I went back to play DW5 and noticed I’d lost all my save data…..’really wasn‘t very happy about that…so I decided to play through the whole game again and finish it.

So, yes, I play the old ones too.

DW5 has some great ending movies but would you really want to see them twice like slivertongue ;)

Do you like the feeling of unlocking and levelling characters then? Is it still as satisfying second time around?

Yes very much so. I suppose it comes from playing RPG’s as there is always a lot of levelling involved in those games. I’ve just started to play Warriors Orochi 2 again and I’m trying to level all the characters to level 99. It remains to be seen if I actually manage it.

So we know you played through it twice – what is about Dynasty Warriors 5 that makes it so good?

The amount of characters and stories that are involved in the game and plus it’s extremely addictive!

You could say that about alot of Musou games, what is it about DW5 that is better than other Musou games to you?

Honestly I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because it was the first Warriors game that I completed fully (twice), maybe it’s because of all the different characters. I really don’t know.

I know that you like JRPG games as well as Musou.  Do you see a alot of similarities between the two types of games?

When it comes to levelling characters and maxing out their stats then, yes…also the addictive gameplay. One of the differences is that JRPG’s tend to have quirky stories, especially Nippon Ichi games. You either love them or hate them.

It's fair to say most modern-day Musou fans tend to be into Final Fantasy and other JRPGs. Lots of levelling, cut-scene viewing and pretty boys ^^

Do you play each Musou game for a long time?

Very much so.

What keeps you addicted to the game and makes you keep playing ?

The gameplay is addictive, there’s a huge story being told. There’s always new tweaks to the gameplay and new characters to explore.

Have you ever played multiplayer mode in a Musou game?

Yes, Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce PS3 – which I really enjoyed. Did I mention that DW: Strikeforce is my favourite PS3 Musou game?

No you didn’t, that’s interesting – why did you enjoy that one so much?

I think mainly because it had a kind of fantasy twist to it. The characters had alternate forms to them: Fury form!

DWSF's fury forms split the Musou community - some liked them, others hated them. Personally I thought Dong Boar was genius.

It also had a lot more RPG elements to it. Farming materials to make weapons and orbs. Again, levelling characters so you could use stronger weapons. Also you could use all weapons on all characters.

The addition of trophies via PSN was great and made it more addictive.

Did the online co-op make a huge difference to the Musou experience?

Yes, very much so. It was great to play with other players whether it was to help you get trophies or just to complete the harder missions. I hope to see more online play in Musou games.

What about your feelings on the other next-gen Musou games such DW6, Gundam or FNS?

Firstly, I think DW6 gets too much of a hard time. It wasn’t what everyone wanted in terms of gameplay and had some cloned characters but I see it as something that was testing the water for Musou on next-gen consoles.

DW: Gundam 2 is way better than the first one. I knew nothing about the Gundam universe before it but I have to say I’m learning haha!! The content is massive in this game.

Fist of the North Star was a total surprise for me. Again I knew nothing of the series but again loved the game – It’s amazing what you can learn from playing a game.

I like stuff like Gundam and FNS because the game universe is completely different. They’re a nice fresh twist to the DW formula that we’ve all come to love. There’s a  whole roster of new characters to become attached to, new stories to become addicted to and to see what happens next.

Many Musou fans didn't know what a Zaku was until Dynasty Warriors: Gundam dropped.

Do you have any ideas for future Musou games?

Expand on the old story-lines to create new ones. Introduce new characters. Expand on the  move sets for each character. Create a brand new fantasy world, completely original and fictional. How about a traditional Three Kingdoms RPG?

Wow, ok, so just a few small upgrades required then! Have you ever bought any merchandise connected to Musou?

Yes, the odd Japanese book.

Have you made any friends through the Musou community online?

Yes.

How about in real life?

No, none of my friends are into gaming!

If you could give a message to non-Musou fans about why they should try the game what would you say?

You’ll be surprised at how much a Warriors/Musou game has to offer! Don’t always listen to reviews. Can you really believe what someone has to say about a game until you’ve tried it for yourself!

If you could give a message to development team of Musou what you say?

Listen to your fan base.

And if they listened what would they hear? In this interview you have been very positive about your experience with Musou games – are their elements that need some improving?

I’d say the major improvement that needs to be made is enemy AI and no cloning.

Who would you say is your all-time favourite Musou game character?

Sun Jian all the way. He doesn’t come across as being power hungry and obsessed. Also I love his DW6 character design. It’s just unfortunate that his time in the Three Kingdoms period is quite short in comparison to other characters.

silvertongue's favourite character - the Ruler of Wu: Sun Jian

Which is your favourite Musou game and why?

If we’re talking PS2 then it’s DW5, always has been and always will be. All the stories and all the characters just make it for me.

If we’re talking PS3 then 100% Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce. Online play is great. There’s so much do. Content wise the game is huge!

Thanks very much for the interview silvertongue – lots of insight there.

Remember, if anyone reading this wants to take part in a Musou to Me interview just drop me a message in the comment box – Leady247 ^^

Musou to Me part 2 – The Ranger Ryu Interview

I’ve known Ranger Ryu for a good while – getting on for 5 years now I think. When we first met we were both members of the Koei.com forums, since then he has moved up to the role of moderator.

Ryu’s one of the many Musou fans that have taught me about the series and opened up Koei’s Pandora’s Box of franchise for my enjoyment – for that I would like to thank him ^^.

Ranger Ryu's name is taken from the lead character in Capcom's JRPG series 'Breath of Fire'.

Ranger Ryu has always been a crucial ‘ear-to-the-ground’ – keeping me up to date on the latest views and opinions of Musou fans as well as tracking pricing and merchandising of Koei products in his local game shops.

My main comment about Ranger Ryu is that he has a very keen eye for detail and can spot the spelling and factual errors on websites that other wouldn’t notice – he’s always popping up on my MSN to point out something! In fact I am sure the first thing he will say to me after reading this is ‘ummm…Leady…yunno there is alot of spelling mistakes in that article!’ (that’s why I’ve read through this article like 3 times before posting it!).

Usually I would put a picture of the person being interviewed in the article.  However I thought for Ranger Ryu it was better to use Yurika from Nadesico as this the avatar he always uses on MSN!

Ranger Ryu uses Yurika from Nadesico as his MSN avatar. I have known him so long I have come associate him with her face!

As an experienced Musou player and also someone that is very in-touch with the current thinking of the community I thought he would be a perfect choice for my second ‘Musou to Me’ interview (if you want to read the first one with the loverly Gischie it’s right here).

Anyway on with the (epic in length and full of insight) Ranger Ryu show:

So Ryu, when did you play your first Musou game?

I played the demo of the first Dynasty Warriors (PS1) game on the Official PlayStation Magazine demo disc which if I’m honest I didn’t actually like. …

As for the first time I played a DW game and loved it ….that would be the demo of Dynasty Warriors 3 which was also included on an Official PlayStation Magazine demo disk.

Can you remember any of your first impressions of the game?

Really addictive. There’s something about hitting countless AI soldiers that just makes you want to keep coming back for more – plus the variety in the character’s move-sets made each character someone whose story mode you wanted to complete even if they did go through the same battles as others.

The DW3 generation character designs converted many people to Musou fandom ^^ (above are the guys that joined the playable crew for DW3: XL)

Did you research outside of the game to find out more about the Three Kingdoms theme?

At first I didn’t – mainly due to the fact I didn’t have a PC at home back then.

My research started once I had played Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII. I read through the character bios in the game and that made me want to research each of them and Kingdoms they fought for.

Where you playing Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII simultaneously with DW3? I think they both came out in the UK in 2005 right?

DW3 actually came out in March 2002 and RTK 8 in 2004 – but yes I was playing them at the same time.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII is quite a rare game in the UK despite it being released as a budget game. Where did you buy it?

HMV, Church Street, Liverpool. Actually Leady, it was a full price release first, then it was released on budget.

This is Liverpool branch of HMV where Ranger Ryu picked up his first RTK game ^^

You play both RTK and Warriors games – so is the Three Kingdoms setting a really key part of the enjoyment to you?

It’s more of a case that I liked strategy games since the PS1 days…games like the Command and Conquer series.

So once I got into the DW universe a strategy game based on the Three Kingdoms period became a natural thing to love.

Plus RTK helped expand my knowledge of the era. RTK8 went further into the timeline then DW did, for example including ‘The Fall of Shu’ in 263 AD.

When would you say you became a Musou fan?

From the first time I played the DW3 demo I was hooked.  Even though you couldn’t finish the level (Nanman Campaign) in the time limit allocated I didn’t care. I explored the whole thing – even going down the different paths in the level rather than the centre.

Then I picked up the full version of DW3 from HMV and couldn’t stop playing it.

After that I started to pick-up all the Musou games, firstly DW3: Xtreme Legends and then on and on.

The DW3 Nanman Map that Ranger Ryu got addicted to ^^ (click through to koeiwarriors.co.uk for more)

How have your impressions of Musou changed since those early days?

The change from a Soul Blade clone,  1 v 1 fighting game to the Musou game it is now was a really great choice by Koei.

As the DW series went on the graphics obviously got better, as well as the character designs and voice acting. I prefer to listen to the characters in English rather than Japanese – actually playing DW3 in French helped me revise for my GCSE French Listening exam.

The story cut-scenes have greatly improved – actually I thought that was one things Dynasty Warriors 6 did quite well.

‘Only thing that lets the series down now in my opinion is the AI of the soldiers – in DW2 and 3 they were so very aggressive but now they just stand around and wait to be hit.

You said the cut-scenes in DW6 worked well for you.  What was it about the scenes in that game that improved over past examples?

They featured deeper looks at the characters than previous games, going into their feelings about the era they were in and their motivations.  There is one scene where Sun Quan is talking with Lu Xun and Quan is talking about his vision for the land once it’s united under his rule….that sort of thing is cool.

What would you say are the key things to making a good Musou game?

Mostly it’s the AI of the enemy soldiers – it needs to be challenging without being too cheap. Actually, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam was an improvement over recent Musous in that regard.

Musou games also need interesting character’s.  I don’t want to play a story mode as say “generic general number two” or something.  I need to have a good story with drama. I especially liked Sun Shang Xiang’s story mode in DW6 where at Yi Ling she was torn between her husband Liu Bei and her brother Sun Quan.

The Double Zeta maybe a powerhouse but the DWG series has some aggressive enemy AI...

Can you elaborate on the AI in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam?

The AI in the DW: Gundam games seems to return to when the AI was good in the Warriors series – around DW3 and 4. The fights against the boss Mobile Suits were especially tough too, the hardest opponents were people like Haman Khan but maybe that’s mostly down to the Quebley…

When do you usually play Musou games?

Whenever I can really, though mostly it’s in the night or at weekends when I have the most free time.

Do you just play when a new game comes out? Or do you play the old ones as well?

I play the old ones alot, mostly DW3 and Samurai Warriors 2. Even though DW3 has better AI I would say I’ve put the most time into SW2….about 149 hours actually – that’s about 6 days!

What is it that makes Samurai Warriors 2 so good?

I like the characters more and as there are less of them in total than in DW you can concentrate more on each individual character. The levels are better designed in my opinion as well.

Also the Sengoku setting allows for more varied characters and weapons – the time period of SW is 1,300 years after DW. You get units and characters using weapons like muskets for example.  It just makes the characters move-sets alot more varied than in DW.

I also liked the narration idea that was introduced in SW where someone would explain what was going on and that it was tailored to whichever character you were using at the time.

Like many other Musou fans, Ranger Ryu claims SW2 is the best the Musou series has to offer.

At which stage where you introduced to the SW series? It seems to me that many people start off their Musou journey with DW and then end up moving across to SW…

I got into DW first, yes, specifically DW3 and the DW4 series (starting with DW4: Empires).  After that I picked up the first SW game and I quite liked it especially the idea of the the alternative paths within the story mode.

Can you elaborate on the narration element of SW2 that you liked?

When you play a stage in the story mode a narrator sets the scene for the battle and the events leading up to it.

I like this because it sets the general scene and you get a sense of where you stand at that point in history – specifically what your character is doing. For example: setting the scene for the battle of Anegawa, if you’re playing as, say,  Magoichi Saika explaining why you’re there.

Magoichi Saika - why does he go anywhere?

Do you play each Musou game for a long time?

Yes, I do.

What keeps you addicted to the game and makes you keep playing?

Really it’s to see what the development team – Omega Force – comes up with next to improve the series.  Although now we can say that Renbu in DW6 was a mistake! It looks like they’ve corrected their mistakes for DW7 though, which I’m really looking forward too.

Have you ever played multi-player mode in a Musou game?

Yes, I have with my friend. Mostly co-op though I’ve not played the online modes in DW:Gundam 2 or DW:Strikeforce on the PS3 yet.

Did you try Dynasty Warriors:Strikeforce multi-player?

I did on the PSP, yes, it greatly improves the game from the single-player experience.

DW: Strikeforce PSP is currently the pinnacle of co-op for the series. It will be interesting to see if DW7 can match it.

Have you played any of the next-gen Musou games such as DW6, Gundam or FNS?

Yes, I’ve played DW6 and Gundam. I didn’t really like the demo for Fist of the North Star though…maybe I need to give it another shot….

I loved Gundam though as I’ve seen the series on Toonami, Gundam Wing.

How do you think these ‘next-gen’ games differ than from the older games?

Gameplay wise it’s still the same style we fans know and love but as usual with advancing technology the cut-scenes are far better now than they used to be.

Do you have any ideas for future Musou games?

Until I try out DW7’s new gameplay ideas I can only comment on the older games….but improve characters move-sets –  i.e no clones!

And improve the storytelling. As I’ve said before the cut-scenes in DW6 were a move in the right direction for me.

Of course the most important thing is to work on the AI some more!

Will Dynasty Warriors 7 have what it takes to make fans dreams come true?

It seems like you want the both the story and the gameplay experience improved – could you possibly say which is more important to your enjoyment of Musou: the story or the gameplay?

I would say the gameplay.  If the gameplay wasn’t good you wouldn’t want to carry on with the game just to see some improved cut-scenes…

When you say you want the AI improved do you mean you just would like the game to be more difficult or do you mean you want the enemy troops and officers to react more realistically to your actions? One of the appealing parts of the older Musou games to me was that you really felt like your actions were affecting the course of a larger battle….

I would like the troops and officers to react to your actions as well as the state of their own unit. Like fighting harder if they have more morale.  If they had less morale then they’d be less aggressive. I’d like to see more incentive for you to lower the morale of enemy units.

Have you brought any merchandise connected to Musou?

Nope.

Have you made any friends in the Musou community online?

Yes, I have, my fellow moderators on the koei.com forums, Yue Fei, Ma Su, Sleipner, SteelDragon, Sun and Steel and you too (awesome guy! [ty ty – Ed]).

How about in real life?

Not really, no, as I don’t get a chance to go to any of the expos that Tecmo Koei Europe go to (I’d like to though someday!)

If you're a Musou fan in the UK, you can meet up with the Tecmo Koei team at the various expos they attend across the country.

If you could give a message to non-Musou fans about why they should try the game, what would you say?

Just try it, ignore the reviews –  except Eurogamer’s as they like the series – you may like it in the end. Some games you just have to try to like them.

If you could give a message to development team of Musou what you say?

Improve the AI!

Who would you say is your all-time favourite Musou game character?

Hmmm….tough choice but I’d have to go with Ginchiyo Tachibana. I like her moveset and story of being a Lord in Kyushu whose family have been fighting the Shimazu clan. Also using lightning element in her attacks makes fighting crowds easier.

Ginchiyo Tachibana - probably Koei's finest hour in terms of character design. Why-oh-why can't they produce female characters as iconic and powerful anymore? It said alot of good about the company's ethos that they could create strong female characters....they need to get back to that!

What is your favourite Musou game and why?

Samurai Warriors 2, for the reasons I mentioned earlier – plus conversations between characters are enjoyable especially anything involving Magoichi Saika:“a guy, er you sure about that?”.

Thanks Ranger Ryu – that was truly an epic interview!

‘Hope everyone enjoyed that – I will have another ‘Musou to Me’ interview up soon…so watch this space! (if you want to join in just leave me a comment ^^).

Leady 247 ^^

What makes a Musou? – Now in Print!

I spent quite a bit of time in December working on the first two parts of my ‘What makes a Musou?’ series. In these articles I have been trying to tie-down exactly what constitutes the Musou (‘Warriors’ series in the West) formula and why the franchise is adored by fans yet often cruelly misunderstood by the gaming media.

The first article I wrote was an introduction to the Musou formula followed by a look at the key element of Theme.

I was quite happy in January when UK Trade Industry Magazine MCV approached me for quotes to support a ‘FRANCHISE FOCUS’ piece they were working on to support the release of Dynasty Warriors 7.  It’s really awesome that they would consider writing such as piece on the Musou series ^^, thanks x 1 million to them.

I managed to use a lot of the work I had already done for ‘What makes a Musou?’ on this blog to answer MCV’s questions and I think it resulted in a great article. (The MCV writer is much better than me – he managed to say everything much more concisely and make things much more interesting than I could ^^).

You can read the article below. Many thanks to MCV and I hope this will really help people understand the appeal of the Musou games better.  Leady 247 ^^

Edit (11/02/11):  If the scan is hard to read, there is an web version of the article here: http://www.mcvuk.com/features/858/Tecmos-ten-year-Dynasty

PS. If you are in any way interested in the UK and European games industry you should read MCV every week or even better get a subscription!

Leady247 – January Round-Up

Yes! And we have made it through the worst month of the of year! Good riddance January.

It’s been an interesting month on the gaming front with the Nintendo 3DS going up against the SONY’s NGP in the battle of the ‘dedicated videogame’ handhelds.

Personally, I found the announcement of the Playstation Suite for Android to be the most exciting development – SONY has realised that the next generation of videogames is platform antagonistic and about services and content. This is a big step for an electronics and hardware company.

For me this was the biggest news of January...

On the blogging front I was a little frustrated, a generally manic January schedule cut into my blogging time and meant I could not get out the What Makes a Musou? part 3 which is floating around in my head. If I had managed to launch that article I would have comfortably beaten my December ’10 traffic – in failing to do so I have to be content with stability -_-.

On the Beer front January was definately a Leffe month as I caught up on all my Xmas drinking:

Leffe Radieuse
Leffe Leffe Bière de Noël (and my new glass)
Leffe Blonde (canned version)

Leffe's all round this month. 'Promise to switch it up for Feb.

The thing I am most happy with in Januray blog-wise is the start of two new categories: Star Wars & the mighty Arsenal. Both sections only have one post right now but I will try and develop those over the coming months.

I hope to bring you more of this stuff soon...

On the videogames side I continued my coverage of Warriors: Legends of Troy with a look at the item & upgrade system. This game is starting to take shape now – hopefully we will have some more information released in February. For now you can check out the official site here. Which brings us too…

My favourite two posts of the month which were my gamer interviews: I managed to trap Gischie on the train to Avignon for her thoughts on Angry Birds HD and Insp. Chin in Subway for his thoughts on Plants vs Zombies.

Let's do lots of this in Feb ^^

That’s it for January. The shittest month of the year is over and in Feb I’ll be moving in with my beloved ^^. It’s all downhill from here people ^^

Leady 247 ^^

Leady247 Gamer Interviews – Plants vs Zombies with Insp. Chin

There are few games that I consider perfect – completely successful expressions and explorations of their play mechanics and artistic values.  NiGHTS and Super Mario Kart (SNES) are a couple on my list – I’m sure you have your own.

When I got my ipad one of the first games I downloaded was PopCap Game’s Plants vs Zombies – it had recieved many favourable write-ups in EDGE and being a big tower-defence game fan I was sure I was gonna’ love it.

3 or 4 hours of play later I had pegged PvZ up on the ‘potentially perfect’ list. Having now spent tens of hours on the game completing the various achievements and launching massive campaigns into the Survival mode I can certainly declare it perfect in my book.

Plants vs Zombies is a tower-defence game that plays on every human’s hard-wired instinct to defend their homes – in this case from a selection of zombies shambling across your lawn, swimming through your pool and climbing on your roof!

The linear nature of PvZs battlefields (zombies progress straight down one of 6 pathways), and ‘everything-on-one-screen’, birds-eye viewpoint means Popcap can furnish the player with a massive variety of plants with which to lay-out their defences. Peashooters, Cob Cannons, Wallnuts, Winter Melon Catapults and atomic Boomshrooms are just a slice of your arsenal –  all powered by the smiling, bopping sun-flowers that look so pleasant you’ll defend them like dear friends.

Here's a screenshot I took from my iPad version of PvZ, you can see the great selection of plants available.

The zombies are beautifully designed and in-keeping with the homely, low-fi setting of the rest of the game. A normal zombie is weak, so how does he toughen himself up? He puts a traffic cone on his head. Still not tough enough? He puts a metal bucket on his head. Tougher Still? He puts on a suit of American football armour… We’ve got zombies on pogo sticks, bungee zombies, zombies on ice-resurfacing machines and tons more. The zombie army is bursting with character compared with your average tower-defence game.

It’s no surprise that a PopCap game has gorgeous, life-affirming artistic design – well, in PvZ the music is just as good, with loverly relaxing yet spooky tracks created by Japanes artist Laura Shigahara .  The most famous of which is the classic ending theme:

A word on the gameplay: Plants vs Zombies has one of the most moreish learning-curves ever conceived: completion of each stage rewards the player with a new Plant or item which players just have to try out. New obstacles are added to the mix just when the player thinks they have things under control and mini-games are sprinkled in when repetition starts to fatigue the players. The whole thing is just a master-class.

The act of actually building out your lawn with plants is super addictive, with plenty of combos to find and exploit. The search for that perfect set-up just never ends and this hits its ultimate expression in the never ending survival mode.

Buying the best items from Crazy Dave's car-boot sale will soon become and obsession! Still don't know what the bacon is for though!

The game has a massive level of complexity but it’s introduced to the player in such a way that before you even realise it your fingers (or mouse pointer) are dancing at light-speed over the level, brain whiring with a thousand considerations as the zombie genocide continues.

As you can see from the official website PvZ is available on XboX Live Arcade, iPad, iPhone, DS, PC and Mac so you if you haven’t tried it, you really have no excuse (well unless you only have SONY consoles and no PC or Mac I suppose!).

You can even get a free trial here.

This Friday I was lucky enough to catch up with my good friend (and as it turned out huge PopCap fan) Insp. Chin, let’ see what he has to say for himself:

Here's Insp. Chin in Subway with his iPhone version of Plants vs Zombies ^^

Hi Chin, so how did you discover Plants vs Zombies?

It’s from my friend, she recommend me to play it. Also, I’m a fan of PopCap games.

Which PopCap games?

Zuma & Bookworm Adventures!

Did you try playing Zuma Blitz on Facebook?

No

So was your first experience of Plants vs Zombies on PC?

Yes

Did you buy it straight off or was it a trial version?

A free, trial version.

Insp. Chin supplied me with this exclusive screenshot of his PvZ welcome screen. WELCOME BACK! Chin

How did that work?

Basically  you can play 90 mins of the game for free… it’s good, ‘depends how long you want to play really…I mean whether you actually need to pay for the game.

What did you think of the game when you first played it?

Pretty fun, it’s a strategy game – you have to plant flowers and put eveything in right the slot.

Did you find it hard to understand the game at first?

When I started it’s very simple, with good tutorials and easy to understand.  You can get one new plant after each stage so there is more and more to learn.

So you were enjoying it straight away?

Yes, I also liked the mini-games, like bowling the Wallnuts at the zombies.

Insp. Chin in action! He can't look up once he has started playing!

So did you buy PvZ after the 90-minute trial ended?

No, I ended up getting the full version from a friend (laughs, embarrassed)

Once you had the full version – however you got it – how often did you play it?

I only played when I was bored as my PC is slow and I’m always busy – so only on weekend if I’m bored. It’s relaxing, not stresful to play at all.

What do you think is good about this game?

The visuals, and the design is perfect.  Also the music – Laura I think her name is, is the composer, she is Japanese and she made the tracks with the designer of the game.  I think the designer is actually the zombie’s voice as well….actually…errmm…

…In the Japanese version the voice of the zombie in the final song is the composer’s father.

Could you get addicted to Plants vs Zombies?

Ahaha…not before, since I don’t have a lot of chance to play. Now I have it on iPhone I’ll play it all the time on the train.

So do you think it’s a game that fits better on the iPhone?

Yes, because it’s best to play in little bits.

Do you have favourite type of Plant?

haha..yes the…Jalapeno, errmmm the Chili Pepper

This is Insp. Chin's favourite Plant ^^

Do you have anything you think could be added to the game to make it even better?

I dunno, hmmm,  but I have seen trailer for the XboX version and you can customise your house etc. that’s cool.

It’s perfect really…perfect..uhahaha….

…But I’d like to play as zombie….

I heard on the XboX version and the DS version you can play as the Zombies and invade your friends house!

Yes, I think on XboX you can do that, but I have tried it yet.

So given you somehow got the PC full version for free did you pay for the iPhone version?

uhahaha…YES!

So you did give PopCap some money in the end, after all the enjoyment they gave to you?

Yes, for £1.89 it’s really worth it.

Of all the PopCap games you’ve played in your life, how much money have you actually spent on them?

Less than 10 quid…uhaha (laughs uncomfortably)

PopCap Games - will they be around much longer if all of their customers are like Insp. Chin ;) ?

And how many hours of those games have you played?

Alot of hours, I used to play Bookworm Adventures, Dynamite, Zuma, you can find those games free-to-play on the plane to Malayasia!

So hours and hours of play and you have only given £1.89?

Yes, they are free on the plane, Zuma for 13 hours, I got it for free

Would you say you’re a cheap gamer?

I’d say I’m a Malaysian gamer!

Do you have any messages you would like to give to PopCap?

haha…I’ve told them PvZ is awesome and they replied to me straight away on facebook.  I’ve known them for about a year.  They don release a lot of games but they put maximum effort into each. I really love that about them.

But Plants vs Zombies is a very good game…. oh my god, I feel so bad now, oh my god!!

That’s enough before you dig your own grave here Chin!

That’s it for this week’s interview.  If you would like to be interviewed by Leady247 just let me know in the comments box ^^

I’ll back soon with another interview with Gischie on Sengoku Basara 3.

Leady247 ^^

Update: Thank’s to Splatterhouse in the comments box for confirming that PvZ will also be coming to PSN Soon. So now you have no excuse at all not to play this !

WARRIORS: LEGENDS OF TROY – CHARACTER UPGRADE & ITEM SYSTEM REVEALED (PARTIALLY?)

I haven’t posted about Warriors: Legends of Troy (WLOT) recently, largely as there has been no new information…

However, buried within yesterday’s new screenshot release from Tecmo Koei was a couple of interesting tidbits that explain part of how the character growth/level-up system in this game is tied to its item system.

The Grid

In  the above screen you can see the status screen/grid for WLOT’s main-man: Achilles.  To the left we can see his stats grouped into Health, Fury, Quick Attack, Focused Attack and Stun Attack (presumably this means shield strike?). I like the way the attacks are ‘bar-based’ rather than just represented as numbers as this makes the game a little less abstract/’RPG-ish’.

In the middle of the screen we can see the item grid itself and on the right we can see a selection of items that that Achilles can equip.  In this image he is equipping the Gem of Bellerophontes which unlocks a ‘Focused Attack Combo 3′ for him – square, square, square, triangle.

The Gem of Bellerophontes takes up 2 horizontal blocks and in 5 x 7 grid.  In the above image we can also see items of other shapes and sizes.  This suggests that players will have to manage their item grid space effectively and use mix of items tailored to their playing style – it’s unlikely that they will be able to fit every item into the grid.

The Troy item grid is reminiscent of the inventory grids in games like Resident Evil..

This item grid is important as it fits into WLOT’s overall theme of being a more strategic Musou game.  It looks like character growth will not be completely linear (the-longer-you-play-it-the-more-powerful-you-get) but players will have to put some thought into which items are the most effective to equip to their item grid.  Hopefully it will not just be a case of there being a ‘best’ line up of items and different players will be free to explore different selection patterns.

Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce did quite a good job towards a non-linear character growth system via it’s chi, orb and weapon matrix – hopefully WLOT will go even further.

WLOT also offers a 'shop' where players can purchase new items.

In the above screen you can see that like many other Musou games WLOT will have a shop where players can purchase upgrades for their character – in this case new items.

Important information to glean from this screen is that players can actually upgrade the size of their item grid – allowing more space for equipping items.

We can also see that more expensive items such as ‘Foreign Soil’ take up large blocks of space in the grid – in this case 2 x 3. This suggests that players will have to select their items carefully and may only be able to have 2 or 3 ‘big’ items per grid.

Also it looks like players can stock multiple copies of the same item.  This either means that effects will be ‘stackable’ or items are going to wear out over time…this adds another little layer of depth to things.

One other thing I like is that WLOT’s items also add a little texture to the back story of the game.  For example the aforementioned Gem of Bellerophontes: a quick google search showed me that Bellerophontes was a legendary Greek hero that not only tamed a pegasus but also defeated a chimera.

Bellerophontes may not be a character in the game but it's cool Tecmo Koei Canada are putting some of this lore into WLOT

That’s it for this little WLOT update – I think this item system looks quite promising and non-linear character growth is definitely a good upgrade for a Musou game.  Hopefully we should see more of the game revealed soon.

Leady247 ^^

Leady247 Gamer Interviews – Angry Birds HD with Gischie

Angry Birds, created by Finnish mobile gaming experts Rovio and published by EA owned Chilllingo, was the true breakout gaming success of last year. Selling more than 12million units via App Store alone it makes you shudder to think what the sales figures must be now the game has rolled out onto new platforms such as Android and even PSN Minis – the Angry Birds are conquering the world!

In case you’ve been really been out of it recently and don’t know what the game is all about here is a gameplay trailer:

With the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to see that Angry Birds had a magic recipe for success. Simple touch-screens controls coupled with easy-to-grasp and immensely satisfying physics-based gameplay combine to form a game that anyone can enjoy. If you know how a catapult works and have some basic understanding of the phyiscal properties of various materials you are well on your way to destroying some Piggy fortifications ^^

This easily-accessible core was bolstered by fantastic art design that brought an anger-fuelled spin to the cutesy, pastel puzzlers of the mobile gaming landscape. Players are given an arsenal of personality-stuffed, pissed-off looking birds – these birds mirror the frustrations of rat-race commuters everywhere and allow us to take cathartic revenge on the brood-raiding, over-fed pigs in ivory towers.

Music is also fantastically well-done with several of the jingles and squawks becoming part of British pop-culture.

If you want an understanding of the tone of Angry Birds check out this ‘Peace Treaty’ video (say whaaaat??, fuck off!!)

The game is also Crystalized – backing up the solid gameplay with online support that includes all the achievements, leader-boards and friends lists modern gamers demand.

My first experience with the Angry Birds came with Angry Birds HD an upgraded version of the orginal game for the iPad.

After a brief introduction to the controls my girlfriend Gischie quickly got addicted to the game and completed the five initial ‘worlds’ in around a month and a half.

To get an interview with Gischie on Angry Birds I had to beg and force her and it wasn’t until I managed to corner her on the train from Paris to Avignon that I managed to extract her thoughts:

How long have you been playing Angry Birds?

Your questions are always the same.  I can’t remember how long….let’s say around one month so far….

Were you aware that Angry Brids had been a massive hit before you started playing it?

No.

How were you introduced to Angry Birds?

By WC.

Who’s WC?

The annoying creator of this blog.

So he bought it for you?

Yes, for his iPad. He only buys games to make me try them. Not to play himself.

Angry Birds HD gives players a great view of the stages using the iPad's expansive screen ^^

What did you think of the game the first time you played it?

To begin with I tried to understand the rules of the game and how to control each of the birds….for example there are ones that you can explode or ones that can be split into three.

Did you think the game was fun at first?

It wasn’t that fun while I was trying to learn about the gameplay.  Later it was good.  The story was interesting at first.

So was it the storyline or the gameplay that made you want to keep playing the game?

More the gameplay. The storyline isn’t that good – after a while I started to wonder….I mean, would some pigs steal the eggs of birds?

Pigs observing other Pigs in tiny UFOs. Only top conspiracy theorists would see this as cutting realism ^^

What did you find compelling about the gameplay?

Its very simple, just throwing the bird. The complicated and interesting part is working out the tactic to pass each level.

Did your interest in Angry Birds start to grow over time?

Yes, because I was discovering new and different types of birds.  The missions get more complicated, so you start having to get more dedicated and try and try again .

During the month since you started have you been playing a lot?

Yes, Angry Birds is the main game that I have been playing.

The yellow birds are the Theo Walcotts of Angry Birds.

How often do you play and how long per session?

I played every time I was at my boyfriend’s flat or when I was at his parents house and he had his iPad with him.  Sometimes I only had time to play for 5 minutes but if there was nothing else to do I could play between 30mins or 1hour per session.

What did you try to accomplish during each Angry Birds session?

Trying to complete the stages in order – but if I got stuck on one stage I went on to another category for a bit so I didn’t get too frustrated.

Did you get addicted to the game?

Of course.  I want to complete each stage and see the next one.  When I see a new stage I have to pass it as I am a stubborn person!

The Pigs like to erect more and more complex fortifications to defend themselves ^^

Did you try to get the 3-star rating on each stage?

Sometimes I tried, but mainly I just wanted to pass the stage quick as I could and see the next one.

Did you develop any feelings about the Birds themselves?

My favourite is the big red one because he can destroy a lot and he is so fat.

Gischie prefers the big-fat-red bird ^^

So did the birds have much personality to you?

Actually the pigs have more! Such as when you finish a level – they smile at you like you are a loser!

So did defeating the pigs give you extra motivation to try to complete the game?

Yes.

Do you think Angry Birds has enough stages/levels?

There is a lot.  But I am looking forward to other stages being released. We got the Mighty Eagle pack at Xmas, that was something new.

So you haven’t had enough of Angry Birds yet?

No.

What is it that keeps up coming back?

I enjoy finding more solutions. Solving the puzzle of each stage.

What did you think about the Mighty Eagle upgrade?

It’s just a way to skip a stage if you are really stuck.  I dont think it should be allowed.

Gischie wants the Mighty Eagle BANNED! ^^

Do you have any ideas for how to make Angry Birds even better?

I’d introduce a new type of bird or maybe some new types of pig.

Do you have a message you’d like to deliver to the developers?

Can you the make pigs less mean?

In what way?

Make them more smile-y and cute looking.

Why would you want the enemy to be cuter?

It would make it less frustrating when I can’t kill them!

Gischie - She likes Angry Birds and she's a Wenger fan - #bestgirlintheworld

That’s it for this week’s interview.  If you would like to be interviewed by Leady247 just let me know in the comments box ^^

Leady247 ^^

Review – Dragon of the Three Kingdoms – Battle Naman Barbarians

Dragon of the Three Kingdoms – Battle Naman Barbarians

Key Info

Developer: WaGames
Format: iOS
Price: £0.59p
Languages: English or Chinese Text
Play Time: 3-4rs
Completion Rate: 48%

(Disclaimer: There are not many official screens for this game so I had to take many of the ones in this review myself using my blackberry so they are a bit blurry but I thought they still looked ok.)

The Dragon that Piqued my Interest

Dragon of Three Kingdoms (Dot3K) is a iPhone/Pad game that was interesting to me for two reasons: it was Three Kingdoms based as well as being what looked like a 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em up which is one of my favourite gaming genres.

A Three Kingdoms side-scroller...? Sounds good!

The developer – WaGames  – describes the game as an ‘Action RPG’ but I would say it is more like an mini 2D Musou game. That sounds pretty good right? However at £0.59 or $0.99 you very much get what you pay for and production values are sorely lacking.  In many ways Dot3K feels like a rush release of a small chunk of what was perhaps a much larger 2D Three Kingdoms based project (we can dream…).

What’s it all about?

Let’s start with the Story-Line: The game consists of 6-stages that tell the story of the titular Dragon of the Three Kingdoms: Shu knight Zhao Yun – as he assaults the Southern Naman Kingdom on China.

Its's Zhao Yun with a sword..(coming soon to DW7!)

Players of Dynasty Warriors will recognise Three Kingdoms characters such as Shu’s strategist Zhuge Liang, fire & bomberang babe Zhu Rong (here Chu Rong) and her husband and Naman commander Meng Huo.

The Dot3K version of Zhu Rong...not too bad I think.

Each stage begins with Zhao Yun receiving a briefing from Zhuge Liang on his mission.   The Little Dragon then proceeds to plow through battlefields populated by the same 3 or 4 enemy  grunt variations before reaching a boss character.  After defeating the boss it’s time to take the loot, hit the shops to power-up and then it’s on to another stage.  Sound familiar?

The likenesses of each the major characters are pretty close to their Dynasty Warriors counterparts.  I think Zhao Yun looks particularly cool here and I particularly like the way he carries his sword Chinese style with the hilt facing forward. Big-time Zhao Yun fans may be unhappy he is not equipped with his famous spear but I believe if they try the game they will be very happy with their fav character’s portrayal overall – he is still the dashing, agile hero in blue and silver we all expect!

Zhuge Liang and Zhao Yun appear in another exciting cut-scene, you can cut the tension with a knife -_-

Controlling the Mini-Musou

It is clear that WaGames looked closely at the Musou template during the creation of Dot3K. Alot of the hall-marks of the Musou formula are present and correct here.

Combat is a hit-point based affair – enemy characters have the iconic red energy bar above their heads ready for your slashes to whittle down.  Stronger enemies have more hit-points and the way to over-come them is 70% levelling-up and item equipping to achieve better statistics, 20% player skill and 10% luck (non-existent AI means you never know when an enemy will get trapped behind a wall etc).

After some chatting much slashing ensues...

The actual slashing mechanic reminds me a little of Golden Axe in that it is a standard combo that builds through continued strikes to the enemy – even the sound effect is quite similar. You can also change the direction of the strikes during the combo.  The combo in Dot3K consists of a few slashes, a couple of hacks followed by a dragon-punch+sword type move that reminds me of Hayato in Marvel vs Capcom 2 or Star Gladiator.

The controls are mapped onto a touch-screen d-pad and buttons. I have to say they are layed out well, don’t let your fingers get in the way of the action and are responsive – thumbs up to WaGames for this implementation.

While the animation is nicely satisfying and the controls are decent, Dot3K is very much a case of ‘renbu’-style brainless one-button-mashing combat. As with Dynasty Warriors when you equip a new and more powerful sword it alters the visual effects by adding elemental powers and sometimes the speed of the strikes but no new moves are added on top of the character’s basics.

There are six stages to 'renbu' your way through...

Any depth to the combat or is Zhao Yun just another pretty face?

Dot3K combat requires no real skill or tactics of the player other than reading some basic attack animation patterns and knowing when to break off attacks to avoid retaliation. As your speed statistic increases relative to the enemy you are able to circle around and attack from behind which is pretty effective.

There is also a rudimentary kill-chaining/combo-ing system in there but I was unable to tell if this had any effect on the game or was just something flashing up on screen for effect.

It's only really the boss/officer fights that demand any skill from the player.

The game also features a Musou bar under the player character’s life bar.  Once that is full the player can hit the ‘Fire’ icon to unleash a super (Musou) attack.  This consists of the exact same combo as your normal attack but accompanied by more flashy effects and does a hell of a lot more damage.  Hmmm…where have seen that before?

Players can equip one special ‘Flag’ skill which acts as a smart bomb.  Collect flags during the levels and once you reach a set amount you can trigger an area-of-affect attack which is perfect for clearing out a screen full of weaker enemies .  The flag skills I saw were a volley of arrows (4-flags consumed) or a flaming volley of arrows (7-flags consumed) etc.  This reminded me a little of Golden Axe’s magic potion based special attack system but has nothing like the visual charm or satisfaction.

There is nothing anywhere near this cool in Dot3K

Grinding out the Namans

As you would expect from a game based on the Musou formula Dot3K features a levelling system, items to collect and equipment to buy.

The levelling system is simple enough – killing enemies gives Zhoa Yun experience points and upon reaching a set amount of said points he levels-up and gets a stat boost.

Each of the 6 stages in the game are tagged for a specific character level.  So for example, the second level suggests you are level 10 before tackling it.  If you go in there at level 7  no matter how well you play you are not going to get far.

Musou fans - how many times have you levelled this guy up over the years?

Of course, as with a normal Musou game there is satisfaction to be had in trying a level and failing – then going away for a bit to level-up your character only to return and smash that level in!

Items can be collected from pots and crates in the level.  Items include power-ups (all of the usual Musou stuff: Meat Buns, armour-up, damage-up, Musou bar recovery etc.), money/treasure and the aforementioned flags.

The humble Meat-Bun. Loved by Warriors around the world!

At the end of the level money can be spent in the shop on better weapons and equipment to further boost the power of Lord Zhao Yun.

Other musou-inspired additions include mounts such as horses and elephants which work in a similar way to DW with standard attacks and a Musou charging-attack (again these were reminding me of the famous chicken-legs and dragons of Golden Axe in that they are powerful but hard to maneuver in a cramped 2D plane).

GORE! GORE! GORE!

(ed: apologies for the lack of screenshots in the next section.  I ran out! If the text gets to much just skip to the end and read the conclusion ^^)

So overall we have that fine Musou balance in place.  When everything is working well the game enables the player to feel empowered but also allows the enemies to present a decent threat providing a good amount of tension and excitement to the gameplay.

Those ‘Musou moments’ we all know and love – those last gasp Musou attacks that finish off an enemy crowd allowing you to escape or that desperate search for a single meat bun to stay alive are are all present and correct.

I also quite liked the way the Dot3K rewards you with extra lives if you stay alive for long enough – that’s a good reward for effective play.

But on the flipside – when the Dot3K loses that knife-edge balance it quickly falls into the trap of becoming a grinding treadmill. The player brainlessly killing identikit enemy after identikit enemy just to earn the experience points and money required to progress to the next stage.

As a gamer I am not anti-grinding but Dot3K does not offer enough goodies to keep you going.  Having only one playable character and not being able to have the promise of that next big unlock around the corner definitely sees Dot3K lose part of a true Koei Musou game’s ability to drag players through some monotonous periods of play.

(also of course Dot3K cannot offer the ‘Tactical Action’ side of Musou – without distractions such as the free-roaming maps, base invasions, troop flows etc. too much emphasis is placed on the combat and levelling system to carry the game.)

Lack of Variety

The thing that really cripples the game is a lack of variety inflicted by Dot3K’s obvious low production budget.  If you are going to build a game that asks the player to grind or re-play stages without offering any depth to the combat mechanics you need to have plenty of variety in the graphics, scenario/staging, unlockables/loot and stage set-pieces.

Dragon of the Three Kingdoms has minimal art-assets so one section of the level tends to look identical to another part.  Generally we only see one ‘gimmick’ on each level for example a river, rain-storm or ascending a mountain path.

As I did not play all of the game it is possible later levels add more variety but I doubt it. When you compare it to the detailed, surprise-filled designs of Golden Axe (we all remember the surprise of realising one of the levels was on the back of a giant eagle right?) there is clear lack of effort and inspiration.

This lack of visual flair and variety carries through to the character spirites themselves.  Each level has just 3 or 4 different grunt type enemies.  Generally you just have an archer, swordsman and spear-man though there are hints of sorcerers and other types later in the game.

In general only the bosses show any real flare or personality in their design (Chu Rong’s Dhalsim-style fire spitting attack is quite impressive for example).

It’s a shame there is not more variety as I actually quite like the quality of the sprite-work in the game and certainly Zhao Yun looks great standing still or in motion. Even blown up x2 on the iPad screen the characters have a decent chunky feel to them.  If only WaGames had more time and resource to pour into the game and could have brushed everything to Zhao Yun’s level  this would have been one superb looking 2D game.

In Conclusion

I can’t say that I did not enjoy playing Dragon of Three Kingdoms.  But the fun was mainly derived from the fact that I was playing a pretty satisfying version of Zhao Yun on a mission that I was already emotionally invested in from playing Musou games in the past.

I was motivated to see this new adaption of some of the Three Kingdoms visuals (the War Elephants here are pretty cool – I like the blood on their tusks) and interested to see just how far the developer would push for a true 2D Musou game.

I think without that level of curiosity around the subject matter it would be very hard to recommend this game as it is clearly sub-standard in game mechanics, production values and artistic direction  when compared with numerous games in both the ARPG and side-scrolling- beat ‘em up genre.

So for Three Kingdoms, Musou and expecially Zhao Yun fans I would say at 59p give this a go.

For everyone else, you can get Golden Axe and many other better games for the same price.

Overall Score: 3/10
Overall Score for Musou fans: 5/10
Overall Score for Zhao Yun fan-boys: 7/10

(If you want to know anything else about the game, just let me know in the comments box – Leady247)

Musou to Me part 1 – The Gischie Interview

I decided to work on a companion series to my ‘What makes a Musou?’ series called ‘Musou to Me’.  In this new series I will interview a variety of Musou game fans and find out their thoughts on the prolific series.

I will try and conduct the interviews face-to-face as I always think that off-the-cuff answers are much more interesting and enlightening.

I hope that the Musou fan’s answers will feed into the topics covered in the ‘What makes a Musou’ blog series.

My first interviewee will be my wonderful girlfriend and consistently brave guinea-pig Gischie.  You can read her thoughts on iphone game Tumbledrop here.

When did you play your first Musou game?

I played DW3 about 5 years ago in Paris.

Can you remember any of your first impressions of the game?

It was addictive.  I wanted to beat all of the stages but it was hard.  I wanted to finish all of the character’s story-lines to find out more about them.

Gischie's first Musou memories are of DW3. These War Elephants seem to be coming back to DW7 at least.

Did you do research outside of the game then?

Yes, I researched about each of the characters by searching the internet and looking at sites like Kongming.net and KoeiWarriors.

When would you say you became a Musou fan?

When I spent alot of time on DW3 and also getting active on the Koei Warriors forum (ed: Gischie was a key member of the Koei Warriors community during its period of rapid growth. You can read some of the history of that community here).

How have your impressions of Musou changed from when you first played DW3?

The old games were a lot more difficult – for example there were less power-up or healing items that you could collect.

Recently Musou has lost a lot of things compared to DW3….. Lost things that made it addictive.  For example characters are not so likeable now – sometimes they don’t have individual weapons.

The graphics are better now though.

Next-gen Musou game likes DW6 have improved graphics but Gischi feels that the characters have lost some of their individuality over time.

What would you say are the key things to making a good Musou game?

Firstly, it should be fun. There should be a good vareity of costumes – all sorts of things – even being able to get funny outfits like a police-women for Zhen Ji could be cool.

The story-lines are important – such as Chinese history.  If it wasn’t about the Three Kingdoms people wouldn’t like Dynasty Warriors so much.  Because DW has that background it gives you alot of characters to explore.

When do you usually play Musou games?

In the weekend and sometimes in the night.

Do you just play when a new game comes out? Or do you play the old ones as well?

Just the new ones apart from Samurai Warriors 2 –  I could play that one forever.

What is it that makes Samurai Warriors 2 so good?

Characters, gameplay, the Sugoroku mode.  The Xtreme Legends disk also give you more stages and weapons to get…

What is it about SW2 that is better than other Musou games to you?

The universe – there is more kingdoms in Samurai Warriors compared to DW.  In SW2 every character has their own story related to them not just connected to their kingdom .  Gameplay is better – characters all have a different types of moves: normal, charge or special type.

Fighting with a combination of her Magic Bracelets and Martial Arts strikes, Gracia has one of the most interesting move-sets in all Musou.

Do you play each Musou game for along time?

Yes.

What keeps you addicted to the game and makes you keep playing ?

To see what has changed and what’s innovative about each game.  But these days with work I can’t play as much as I could when I was a student.

Have you ever played multiplayer mode in a Musou game?

Yes. But I don’t like it so much as its difficult to see the map very well and it gets confusing, sometimes I look at the other players screen by mistake (laughs).

Did you try Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce multiplayer?

Strikeforce is alot better in multiplayer.  But its very hard to get the people and equipment together – not everyone has a PSP!

Attending a Koei fan event like London Expo can be the best chance to play DW: Strikeforce multiplayer.

Have you played any of next-gen Musou games such DW6, Gundam or FNS?

Yes, I played them all. I love Fist of the North Star which did what the fans wanted, with the blood and gore.  Each character is different and the FNS story is very good.

Gundam I was a bit lost as I don’t know the story of it.

How do you think those games are different from the old games?

The universe is completely different going from the ancient times of Samurai and Dynasty Warriors to the end-of-the-world in FNS to the very futuristic worlds in Gundam but the gameplay is still the same ‘kill-them-all’ type.

Do you have any ideas for future Musou games?

They should not concentrate on the old characters.  Just make new ones and give them better story-lines – and make the whole thing better because Sengoku Basara is around now and it’s challenging.

They should  probably review the gameplay because its getting worse and worse.  In someways they should go back to the old ways – one weapon per character for example.  Who really needs DW7 weapon swap system,  they should instead improve each character’s moves.

Is Basara coming to shoot down Musou in the West?

Have you ever bought any merchandise connected to Musou?

No.

Have you made any friends through the Musou community online?

Yes.

How about in real life?

Yes, but its hard because some of the people aren’t in the same country.  One good thing is that that Koei Europe have expos and things where you can meet-up with people and see your friends in real-life.

If you could give a message to non-Musou fans about why they should try the game what would you say?

They should just try it…it’s like Marmite – you never know if you would like it or hate it unless you try it!

Is Musou the Marmite of Videogames?

If you could give a message to development team of Musou what you say?

Give up the crap, improve it in such a way that fans would be happy.

Who would you say is your all-time favourite Musou game character?

Nohime. It’s shame they don’t really exploit her story because it could be so good and not only overlapping Nobunga’s. For example she could follow him and then kill him!

Do people have similar personalities to their favourite Musou characters?

Which is you favourite Musou game and why?

Samurai Warriors 2. I think it arrived after DW5 and everything was better.  The character specification was better, all of the stories were better and there was much more interaction between characters.

Thanks Gischie!

Gischie with her beloved copy of SW2: Xtreme Legends, yes she is a difficult lady to photograph!

If you like to be interviewed for this feature then let me know !

Leady247 ^^