Dynasty Warriors 4
April 03, 2003
Platform: Sony Playstation 2
Gameplay:  Graphics:  Audio:  Replay: 
TThroughout the 6,000 (or
so) year history of man, it has become fairly evident that no matter
what the civilization, no matter what the government, it's only a
matter of time before they go to war. It's like that old XTC song
goes, "Generals and Majors always seem so unhappy 'less they got
a war." So what better way to satiate that urge by providing it
in a harmless, non-lethal environment? Dynasty Warriors 4 is Koei's
latest offering of just that: A huge bloodless battle where you can
unleash your fury upon whichever clan you decide has drawn your ire
without the worry of ever even getting a splinter from your spear,
or getting carpal tunnel syndrome from whipping around your sword.
(Pun not intended.)
Get Your War On!
The format for all the Dynasty Warriors games has you fighting for
either the Wu, Wei or Shu empire (or the Barbarian clan if you're
Xtreme Legends expansion.) and trying to unify China under your
rule during the "Romance of
the Three Kingdoms" period.
To this end, you have been given a weapon and 2 bodyguards. Now go
beat stuff up. That's pretty much it. Sounds simple, but it's really
so much more. Dynasty Warriors 4 is not a remarkable revolution in
the way the game has been structured up to this point but the little
tweaks and additions make this the best version of the game so far.
If you're an old veteran, you'll want to pick this game up for the
additional functionality, and because the game looks so much better
than the previous ones. If you're new to the series, well, head down
to your local game store, pick up a copy and plop yourself down.
This is the type of game you can enjoy and enjoy often, because you
honestly don't have to think about much of anything at all.
In The Battle of Chi Bi, Clayton Slew 548 Men...
One of the most notable features of the new incarnation of the game
is that you can finally make your own character. The options for
customization are fairly limited, but having the ability to make
your own character is a plus nonetheless. You can give him or her an
8 character name, and customize a minimal range of their looks. You
can base your character's attacks on those of any character you have
unlocked. So, provided you remember what their stances looked like,
you'll be able to mold yourself into whichever general's image you
You can fight for whichever of the 3 kingdoms you want (You can also
play as Lu Bu once you beat the story mode once), and progress the
story that way. Unfortunately, I don't believe that you are able to
unlock your Level 10 weapon unless you play as one of the actual
stock generals, though I haven’t really tried to attempt that yet.
Your bodyguards are also customizable now. You can set up your own
group of guards, say the L.A. Lakers, for example, and have a squad
of Shaq, Kobe, Robert Horry, and maybe even “Big Stan” Medvedenko
cutting swaths through the enemy troops. You can also make the
bodyguards women, but then they’d have to be the Sacramento Kings.
Koei has been slowly tooling with these little options, refining and
polishing their product, and I'm glad these options have been
included. In the future, however, I'd like a bit more of a range of
options of the character's outfit/hair color, etc., possibly
designing 2 or 3 models per gender that you'd be able to choose
Hey, Good Lookin'...
Dynasty Warriors 4 looks better than any previous version of the
game by far. If anyone ever tells you that they can't see
PlayStation 2 games looking better over time, show them DW2, and
then pop in DW4. If they still don't see it, they really aren't
listening to anything you're saying. The ground textures are nicer
and the buildings are nicer. Even the jugs and boxes with power-ups
look better. The menus are revamped to be much cleaner and cooler
looking, as well. Pull off a Musou move while you're low on health
and while the guys are on fire: that anti-aliasing looks really,
really nice. Also the main baddies on a level will have a "blur"
effect to them so you know they're someone not to be trifled with. I
can't think of too many things that haven't received some sort of
visual upgrade from the previous versions.
However, there are still some problems that seem to be endemic to
the Koei line-up. I've knocked some bosses through walls; stuff
clips oddly, and if you're near mountains, the light effects that
come off of the weapon attacks don't illuminate all the polygons on
the ground. Some stuff is a little nitpicky, as nobody seems to care
about clipping anymore for some reason, but I point it out because I
Not Just Better Looking... Longer, Too!
One of the main complaints about the original Dynasty Warriors games
was that they ended after 6 or 7 missions. But those missions had
staggered difficulties inside the mission itself, so you had to make
sure you were leveled up in order to clear those missions. Well, now
instead of 7, you've got somewhere around 17 (with bonus ones on the
side) and it's entirely possible for you to go through the game
without having to level your character up in Free Mode.
So, now you can choose a character and plow through all the missions
without worrying about not being at a significantly buffed up enough
level to take on the generals that you'll be facing. In addition,
you can now change characters mid-story path and say, start the Shu
Campaign as Liu Bei, and switch over to Guan Yu or Zhang Fei if you
needed more range or something. Also, Koei has finally lifted the
limitation on campaign saves, so instead of being able to only hold
3 slots worth of campaign data, you've now got more freedom.
Various Other Differences
For those of you familiar with the series, you'll find that a lot of
stuff has been changed. Well, make that "tinkered with". Now,
instead of being able to slot 5 items you've obtained in combat,
you'll find that you start with 2 or 3. You slot whichever special
items you want, but in addition, you'll have a slot for a Horse
Harness which will allow you to enter a mission with a mount. You'll
also get Elemental Spheres which will add an element to your
Triangle Attacks and Musou Attacks.
You also have a variety of food. Instead of just chomping on more
and more cha shu bao (BBQ Pork buns) you have a smorgasboard. Roast
pork, a whole chicken, and of course, the baos. You also no longer
have to get off you horse to pick up a powerup. Just run it over
now. This makes a lot more sense.
Also, you won't be picking up weapons in order to increase your
attack power. You'll just be leveling up your weapon, which is
primarily done by killing enemy generals. If you execute combos when
you attack, you'll pick up small amounts of points, say 4 to 40
depending on which Act you're on. If you kill an enemy general,
you'll get somewhere from 102 to 1248 experience points.
Speaking of enemy generals, there's another new function in the
game: the 1 on 1 duel. Occasionally, you'll run across an enemy
general in the course of battle and be challenged to a duel. If you
accept, you'll have 45 seconds to kill each other. If you don't kill
the enemy, and are not slain yourself, the match is ruled a Draw, no
matter how ahead or behind on the life gauge you are. If you do win,
that enemy general is removed from battle, and sometimes, the
mission just ends right there. Once the duel ends, you have the life
and stats you had before you entered the battle. So, unless you're
thinking the enemy is going to slaughter you outright, the duel is a
good way to go.
The duels really give a nice cinematic aspect to the game that
Dynasty Tactics had, but had been missing in the DW series up until
this point. It also makes it a lot easier to dispatch an enemy
general because, for the most part, they're either swarmed by their
men, or by yours. Either scenario means that it is a lot harder for
you to get the final hit.
Sometimes, you can't get that last hit in at all. The enemy generals
will now run if their morale is completely gone. It isn't like the
previous games where the final bit of enemy morale is gone after you
kill the last boss on the board. Now, once the rout is completed,
the enemy general will break and run for the nearest respawn point
which is outside of your traveling area (of course). Also, enemies
will now block arrow shots, so you can't back up and let Lu Bu trash
hordes of your allies, and pop off shots from outside the fray.
After a few hits, they just start blocking all the arrow shots.
To even up the score on archers, you are now able to get at those
archers who would pelt you from the towers. A lot more of the
environment in DW4 is destructible. You can now chop down various
towers, machines, and the like in order to dispel effects, or get
those damn archers outta their roosts. They're a lot easier to pound
on once they're on the ground. If you hear a little chopping noise
when you hit something, keep at it.
In addition to unlocking new characters to play as, you'll also
unlock different character models for you to use with your
character. This is a nice little feature. Even more incentive to
take the field again with your favorite character. Plus, as I
mentioned earlier, beating the game once will unlock the ability to
go through the Lu Bu story path, which gives you an entirely
different block of missions to run through, too.
Why Nobody Watches Dubbed Anime.
It's exactly because of stuff like this. American voice actors just
don't cut it when compared to the Japanese ones. When you have lines
like, ‘Yes, yes, I feel the power!’ you need to fire your
localization team, and you can't have the actor deliver the line
like he's a little quivering schoolgirl. This is one of the
complaints I'd put high up on the list of things to fix for Koei
when DW5 comes around.
To make up in the audio department, though, Koei does its usual fine
job of mixing up traditional Chinese sounds with enough hard rock
and techno to make it almost a unique genre of music all to itself:
Koei tracks. So, you kind of have to take the good with the bad in
the sound department here.
I would have said the audio leaned more towards the good than the
bad, until I beat the game and heard the end track, “Cross Colors”
by, ugh, Koyanagi Yuki. Imagine what the Japanese Dionne Warwick
would look like. That’s Koyanagi Yuki. I don’t understand what
Koei’s thinking. The track from DW3 was great. A nice Chinese tune
with some vocal effects. That was cool. DW2 featured the band move
(who do a good deal of the heart-pumping songs from the Initial D
anime.) and their song, “Can’t Quit This”. But come on! This is
neither adrenaline building, nor moving! Koyanagi Yuki can’t sing,
and definitely can’t sing in English! I can’t understand a word
she’s saying. She’s not even popular right now. I knocked a full
point off of the Audio score for having to hear her song. (You can’t
This is the best version of Dynasty Warriors to date. It really is
impressive how far it has come. If you're not a fan of mindless beat
'em up games, there isn't enough there to keep your mind active.
There is a bit of strategy if you don't want to just be the one man
army. In the future, though, Koei should fix the graphics,
voice-overs, and give the character more customization, and some
more stats like number of enemies defeated by regular attacks,
special, musou and bow attacks; or a list of the character's kills
that they can look at besides the one on the end game screen.
However, Dynasty Warriors 4 is an almost completely polished game,
and great fun for as long as you’re interested. There are enough
side quests and secrets to keep you involved with the game for a
while and the Vs. Mode should give you some added incentive to keep
playing. As usual, Koei learns from their past, and builds upon it
to make a more successful game. Rent or buy this one today, you
won't be sorry.