I know very little about the Three Kingdoms era of China. I know that there were three kingdoms, and that after about 100 years, they were united as one kingdom. Thanks to today’s Game I Beat In 2014, I also know that during this time of turmoil, numerous battles were fought by men whose names were little more than their army rank, like Private, Corporal, or Sergeant. On the other hand, if you survived long enough to be known in battle by name, you were a force of nature who could command fire, boulders, and single-handedly destroy hundreds of nameless soldiers on the other side.
Released in 2001, developed by Omega Force, and published by Koei, Dynasty Warriors 3 is the third game in a long-running series that spun off several series of their own. The original Dynasty Warriors was a one-on-one fighting game before its sequel transitioned to the gameplay the series is known for. The Dynasty Warriors series, as a whole, continually covers and re-covers the Three Kingdoms era of China as depicted in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The era covered roughly a hundred years and numerous battles (Not all of which actually occurred, what with Romance being a novel). In Dynasty Warriors 3, you take control of one of a number of notable figures in this era of China, and go to town laying waste to opposing armies.
The main mode of the game is the Musou Mode. In this, you go through 7 battles of the era. Which battles you participate in differs from officer to officer, but the end result–the unification of China–is the same. There’s also a Free Mode, where you can replay missions on an individual basis, and a Challenge mode where you see how long you can last against endless waves of enemies, or how quickly you can take out a small enemy force.
As for how the game plays, it’s a third person hack and slash where you obliterate entire nameless armies. Each mission has an objective, nearly always “Defeat a specific opposing officer”, and a number of other officers on both sides. There are also Gate Captains, and defeating these prevents opposing officers from spawning. Beating Gate Captains and Officers also grants you increases in your attack and defense, which carry over from mission to mission and game to game.
This is a good thing, because it’s more or less what the game expects. Even on Normal, trying to go through Musou Mode with a stock character can be quite the challenge depending on which officer you pick (The final mission as a Shu general is particularly brutal). I used some items from a previous playthrough to help me out with this one, although my officer choice of Wei Yan didn’t have any stat boosts other than what he acquired in playing through Musou Mode.
While the game is a lot of fun, there are some things about it that annoy me. One of the buttons serves as a Guard button, that also puts the camera behind you. That’s fine, but there’s no other way to adjust the camera. A related issue is that there’s no way to lock onto and target a specific enemy in a large crowd. This can sometimes lead to attacking the “wrong” enemy, at which point an officer comes and destroys you.
Musou Mode is the main mode, and it took me about 10 hours with my nearly-stock character to get through it. Of course, each Kingdom has a slightly different ending, and every character also has a hidden fourth weapon unique to them. Getting these weapons involves playing on Hard and fulfilling some hidden requirements in one specific mission. Some of the criteria involve changing history, and knowing the actual Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel may or may not help in this regard–having never read it, I don’t know. A more likely ally in this quest will be The Internet.
Dynasty Warrior 3’s soundtrack isn’t what you’d expect for a game based in Ancient China, although it does suit the atmosphere of “One man (Or woman) laying waste to thousands.” Hard rock and other heavy music dominates the soundtrack. It does help set the mood for destroying entire armies on your own, which is about all you can ask for.
In all, Dynasty Warriors 3 is a fun, challenging hack and slash where, if you try hard enough, you can even learn a bit about the Three Kingdoms era of China. The game was released on Playstation 2 and the original XBox. It is apparently also available on the Playstation Network, although finding it on Amazon or a similar site isn’t very difficult or expensive either.