The hack ‘n slash franchise that refuses to quit, Dynasty Warriors, has dipped its feet into the Nintendo Switch pool with ports of the wildly successful spin-off titles Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem Warriors. But after much demand from fans to see a mainline game appear on the system, Koei Tecmo finally delivers with the recent release of Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition. The series has been going strong for twenty-some odd years and the mindless action shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
What we’re exactly working with here is a port of Dynasty Warriors 8, which originally saw release back in 2013, coupled with the “Xtreme Legends” expansion that dropped a year later. For those unfamiliar with the franchise: Dynasty Warriors is a series of action RPGs set in ancient China where you take on the role of prominent historical figures from that time period and play through heavily exaggerated versions of famous battles and other Chinese historical events. The game presents you with multiple campaigns to play through where you learn the stories of powerful families from different parts of the country, and why these families all can’t wait to tear each other apart. On top of the multiple story modes, the game offers a variety of quick play and arcade style options, along with a surprisingly deep “ambition mode” where you use the spoils won from battles you play to build your own village from the ground up. Also included is an incredibly welcome local multiplayer mode and newly refined tutorial battles for noobs like me to get acquainted with the game’s fast-paced battle mechanics.
Rather than stick you up against one or two evenly balanced AI opponents like traditional RPGs, the Dynasty Warriors series has always opted to turn this concept on its head by instead sending wave after wave of dozens of enemy NPCs in real time as an attempt to overwhelm the player rather than overpower them. Often you find yourself taking on crowds of enemy soldiers several times larger in numbers and completely mopping the floor with them through intense hack ‘n slash combat. This is a defining trait of the series and it’s this unique style of gameplay that Fire Emblem and Legend of Zelda both used extremely well in their respective spin-off games. It’s incredibly satisfying to effortlessly mow down hundreds of enemies at a time, while still having the notable challenge provided by the story objectives along with the sheer number foes standing between you and victory.
The series has received some criticism over the years saying this style of gameplay makes battles repetitive and all the combat is nothing more than senseless button mashing. While it’s true that the story missions do have a bit of a repetitive nature to them (regardless of what you’re doing in the story at the time, it’s always going to include having to burn through a thousand or so NPCs on your way to the objective), there’s more here than meets the eye. What keeps Dynasty Warriors interesting are the incredibly fun combos and attacks you can pull off through mastering the game’s combat system. It’s fast, but not necessarily shallow. You have a lot of different characters and weapons at your disposal and that makes for a lot of crazy attacks, counter-attacks, and strategies you could be flexing on the battlefield at any given time.
While the gameplay and combat mechanics feel like they’ve never been tighter, there is a significant lack of polish in other aspects that drag this title down significantly. Despite having only released at the beginning of the current console generation, the game has a pretty dated look, even for 2013. None of the character animations look natural and the characters themselves look way too polygonal for a game that released this side of the 2010s. Backgrounds and set pieces are all very uninspired and often look completely flat during gameplay. In porting to the Nintendo Switch, I noticed a great deal of glitches during cut scenes, mostly things like pieces in the background rapidly glitching in and out of existence, or textures simply refusing to render leaving awkward gray blocks in their place.
All of these visual flaws are made all the more obvious when you enter a split-screen multiplayer match and the frame rate ends up taking a bit of a dive. Obviously it’s easy to point to the hardware limitations of the Switch to excuse this, but with every passing month it becomes harder and harder for developers to hide behind that excuse as the Switch is now home to tons of graphically impressive games. While these visual flaws never got frequent or irritating enough to really take away from the overall experience of the game, it is a bit unfortunate to have to walk away with the feeling that a little extra care in making the game more in line with 2019 standards would’ve gone a long way.
While I do have to knock the split-screen multiplayer for its visuals, I really do want to clarify that this game is incredibly fun to couch co-op with a friend. The overwhelming nature of the Dynasty Warriors style makes it a wild ride with local multiplayer and it’s great to see another game on the Switch featuring this. On the subject of the Switch’s capabilities, I played through a solid chunk of this game almost exclusively in handheld mode and it really caught my attention just how well Dynasty Warriors lends itself to mobile platforms. Intense RPG action like this game is the perfect solution for someone on the go who may be looking for more bite-sized chunks of gameplay, but packed with as much action as possible, and that’s Dynasty Warriors in a nutshell.
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition Review
- Graphics - 5/105/10
- Sound - 6/106/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
At a cool 40 bucks, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends – Definitive Edition lives up to its namesake as the definitive way for fans of the series to experience Dynasty Warriors on the go. While its outdated visuals and overall lack of polish is a bit of a disappointment to see, the core gameplay continues to be rock solid and isn’t showing any sign of cracking soon.