Dynasty Warriors 4

April 03, 2003

Platform: Sony Playstation 2
Reviewed by: Clayton Chan


Gameplay: [9] Graphics: [9] Audio: [7] Replay: [9] Overall: [8.7]

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 counting the 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 wanted.

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 from.

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 care.

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 skip it.)


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.

Buy the Game

Buy the Strategy Guide

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I'm ready!


Dynasty Warriors 4 PS2 review on netjak.



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