Chinese dynasties of yore. Futuristic armoured-suit orientated animé. Two subjects as far from each other as one might keep their cyanide pills from their foodstuffs. Two different things and never the twine shall meet. Well, that's what I thought before I heard about Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2. With KOEI pumping out games quicker than a hardened smackhead injects heroin, their output rate is astonishing, on a par with annual sports titles in the vein of FIFA and Madden. At such a sprint, their creative legs were sure to tire and in 2007, with Dynasty Warriors Gundam, KOEI added an external IP to their retinue with the aim of giving a refreshing boost to the long running series, which has been in business before the dawn of time. Not having played the first game, or for that matter seen the animé series that this supposed "tactical action game" is based around, but having had unfortunate, regrettable experiences with the Dynasty Warriors series in the past, I anticipated my first time to be rough, painful and thoroughly underwhelming.
Armoured suit polished, buckles secured and ridiculous weapons primed, I hurried my way through the archaic-looking, arcade-style menus into what I would call the game's main feature: "Official Mode". While this was certainly no "All your base are belong to us" situation, I couldn't help but wonder as to why they gave it such an offputting name. Official. It conjures images of a balding overweight man carrying a clipboard asking me about my aeroplane luggage - not the fun and enjoyable time that we have all come to know as "gaming".
Since my last run-in with a Dynasty Warriors title, I was glad to see that things on the graphical side had had a good seeing to. While the environments are nothing to have you gawping in awe, the units look polished enough, spilling their vibrant colours all over the screen like an unruly toddler wielding a paintbrush. The worlds are pretty much desolate, with the odd destructible furniture languishing alone on the battlefield, and while this may have passed in the last generation or even in the early days of this one, with all their experience with the genre, the developers should definitely have woven at least a patchwork of environmental features to fill the barren levels.
To counterbalance this post-apocalyptic absence of satisfactory level design are the legions of units which can be on screen at any one time. While pivotal to the genre, the series and the core gameplay mechanic of the game, this should not be overlooked as it is rare that such a feat is achieved without reducing the Xbox 360 to a juddering, mumbling shadow of its former self, or in extreme cases involving poor ventilation, even a smouldering pile of ash and embers.
The game plays pretty smoothly, with the wading through the enemy commencing at a manageable and constant pace and the animations honed very well to evade any situations of jerky movement, which in the...monotony... of battle, would be very noticeable. The gliding of the armoured suits looks very satisfying when you're rocketing your way through space, and the movements of the countless regiments of both enemy and allied regiments of units appear very realistic.
The endless slashing of metal suits, however, can become very old very quickly. The action of defeating an enemy is often a situation which results in some degree of satisfaction, either based on the skill taken to achieve the kill, such as through a headshot, or through the gratuitous gore that explodes in a messy emission all over the screen. The problem is that DWG2 doesn't have either of these things; the kills are easy enough to achieve and come in such a sheer volume that any sense of achievement is removed early on.
The Official Mode lasts long enough, with a campaign style sequence of missions to do with four characters, but the only conceivable motivator to go through the tedious, repetitive drudgery FOUR times is for the achievements, which like a good ol' fashioned girl of high birth, don't put out all too quickly. While for fans of the animé, I'm sure that DWG2 will prove a wealth of fan services and an enjoyable homage to the series, but to the majority of Western gamers who won't have had much to do with Gundam, it will remain a puzzling direction for the Dynasty Warriors game to take and will only truly be enjoyed by fans of DW or Gundam.
The aural fare is nothing other than the minimum required. Indistinguishable to my western ears from many games to come from Asia, the power-metal-esque lashings of music sound very tired. The soundtrack, however, is award-standard when compared to the sound-effects. When you slash a sword through a piece of armour, you expect some grinding, clanging resonant note, not the dull slapping of a fish on a washboard. The voice acting is up to scratch, but that had most likely been ripped directly from the animé.
Other modes that are offered include an original story offered in the unassuming guise of "Mission Mode" and some online play. While the online is usually for the most hardcore, elite players of any given game, in DWG2, it feels very much the same as playing the computer as the idle gameplay style doesn't allow for much differentiation in skill levels of players.
In short, while Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 is a further refinement of a game format that has been in and out of consoles since the nineties, it bears no amazing, revolutionary features to validate a purchase. For fans, it may be somewhat of an extension to the animé series but doesn't have the replayability to warrant any more than a few days rental. The graphics, while improved are nothing glorious to behold and were they better, DWG2 would be a wooly example of mutton dressed as lamb. Except, the mutton would be the thousands of drones you have to work your way through and the lamb the seemingly invincibly forged suit you wear as you play the game.
Sam has been unable to peel his bloodshot eyes and RSI-ridden wrists from the world of gaming since he was first introduced to it, like all good junkies, by his Grandad. From those early days of MegaDrive sweetness, bashing through the throngs of enemies on Shining Force II, his love of all things games has extended upwards and outwards onto a variety of platforms. You can either believe that spiel, or get the real scoop and know that his spaceship actually crashed here some years ago and he is currently incognito as a games writer for Console Monster.