The history of video game sequels is strange. Some of the earliest, like Wizardry II and III, would more accurately be called “expansion packs”, and would probably be sold as DLC were they released today. It’s tempting to think of the “standalone expansion”, a la Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, as a new development. That isn’t exactly true, however.
Released in 2003 by Omega Force and Koei, Dynasty Warriors 3: Xtreme Legends (Henceforth “DW3XL” or simply “XL”) is very much like Sonic and Knuckles. No, it doesn’t have “lock-on technology”, but it does have the Playstation 2 equivalent. More on that in a bit though. On its own, DW3XL is similar to its less Xtreme predecessor in that you take an officer through various battles in the Three Kingdoms era of China. This time around, you can take control of some of the officers who weren’t affiliated with any of the three kingdoms, most notably Lu Bu. For the first time, you can take these unaffiliated officers through Musou Mode, meaning if you ever wanted to unite China under Lu Bu (Or Diao Chan, or Dong Zhuo, or a few others), here’s your chance.
While DW3XL is playable on its own, though, its real value comes if you also own the original Dynasty Warriors 3 (Henceforth “DW3”). If you do, you can select “Original” in the XL menu and, after some disc swapping magic, load all of the original DW3 content into DW3XL. DW3 has a bunch of content that you normally have to unlock by performing various tasks; if you have DW3XL, all of it just opens up when you load it into XL. This gives you nearly 40 officers to pick from in your quest to rule ancient China.
While the core of the gameplay remains the same in DW3XL, there are some interesting additions. XL adds two new difficulties, one on each end of the spectrum–“Novice” and “Very Hard”. “Very Hard” is what the name entails–among other things, enemy officers have their hidden fourth weapons I discussed in the DW3 entry, and they will use them liberally, including any elemental effects they may have.
“Very Hard” isn’t just for masochists, though. DW3XL adds additional, fifth weapons for all the officers, that can only be acquired by fulfilling specific conditions on Very Hard. Some of these weapons comes with inherent items, that will free up one of your item slots that would ordinarily be taken up by those items. As an example, Lu Bu’s fifth weapon comes with the Red Hare Saddle attached to it, allowing you to start a level on his legendary horse without needing to take up one of your five item slots to do so.
DW3XL also has an additional fifteen items your officers can equip, bringing the total to 40. One of the biggest changes, though, comes to your bodyguards. In DW3XL, you can name them, and collect items and equipment to boost their stats. You can also control their stat growth–bodyguards collect experience independently of your officer, depending on how many of them survive the conflict. Additionally, instead of “normal” bodyguards, you can make your bodyguards other officers, and combine with them to do a super Musou attack when you’ve defeated enough soldiers.
In terms of difficulty and length, and even audio-visuals, Very Hard mode aside, everything I mentioned about Dynasty Warriors 3 applies here as well–getting through Musou Mode with a “stock” character, even Lu Bu, isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it’s not impossible either. If you get through everything on the first try, expect it to take a couple hours starting from scratch. Rock and metal is the music of the day here, and the game is visually functional, although some enemies will blink in and out of existence as the game struggles to keep up with them all.
All of the good–fun, hack and slash action, feeling like a legendary warrior as you cut down armies of soldiers–and the bad–the annoying camera angles, your officer sometimes not focusing on the enemy you want him to–of Dynasty Warriors 3 is here in Dynasty Warriors 3: Xtreme Legends. When it first came out, DW3XL was released at a $30 price point as opposed to the $50 it would’ve cost had it been a full game. Nowadays, both “parts” of DW3 will probably cost about the same if you go for the original discs, but it’s still worth it (If for no other reason than to unlock everything in DW3).