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Friday, March 25, 2011

What I've Been Up To

For those of you wondering what I've been doing for the past few days since writing about Soul Blazer, I have an update for you. 

I've placed a pre-order on Dynasty Warriors 7 (despite the fact that I should wait for Empires, but that's neither here nor there, really), finished Soul Blazer, started on The Guardian Legend (again, long story) and have been trading custom soundtrack playlists with the denizens of the Dynasty Warriors 7 forum on Gamespot (which is actually mirrored from GameFAQs *shudders*).

So, here's the skinny:

Yes, a seventh Dynasty Warriors game is in the pipeline.  It's due out next Tuesday (March 29th) along with:

-WWE All Stars for the 360, PS3, Wii and PSP
-Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars for the 3DS
-The 3rd Birthday for the PSP
-Super Street Fighter IV 3D for the 3DS
-Need For Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed for the PC, 360 and PS3
-Darkspore for the PC
-Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2012: The Masters for the 360, PS3 and Wii
-NASCAR 2011: The Game for the 360 and PS3
-Magicka: Vietnam for LSD, PCP and Shrooms.  Seriously, though, it's for the PC.
-Mass Effect 2: Arrival for the PC, 360 and PS3
-Realm of the Titans for PC
-Moon Diver for the PS3
-Face Rider for the 3DS

Back to Dynasty Warriors 7.  Dynasty Warriors is a series by Koei that started way back on the original SONY Playstation (which I refer to as the PSX because that was one of the early designations.  It is not to be confused with the overpriced PS2 media centre of the same name) as a fighting game spin-off of their Romance of the Three Kingdoms strategy series, which I've outlined in an earlier post. 

A little background on Romance of the Three Kingdoms is required here.  Basically, in the late 2nd century, China's imperial power was flattened by corruption in internal strife.  This led to a civil war that resulted in the nation/empire be split into three, each portion ruled by a different family (or dynasty).  These three families were Wei, Wu and Shu.  Eventually, China would be reunified by one of the retainers of Wei - after their throne is usurped, and this family would form the Jin Imperial dynasty.  That's pretty much the meat and potatoes.

The games focused on the civil war itself, and ignored what happened after the Three Kingdoms.

In each game, you select a general and start fighting in virtual 2nd century battles with magic, siege engines and horses.  Oh, and the occasional war elephant (although they kinda sucked).  As the games progressed, more generals became available.  There were over 50 at the time of Dynasty Warriors 5, and each represented a different faction.

The second game in the series was a beat-'em-up for the PS2, and it pretty much picked up from there.After the 3rd game, and expansion called Extreme Legends was created, which added new characters and a new level structure.  A version of this expansion exists in some form or another for all preceding Dynasty Warriors games since.  Another expansion, Empires, was created after the fourth game in the title.  Empires adds strategy elements and removes the game's story, and focuses more on conquering all of China however you want to using the characters of the series.  There are also two spinoffs of this series (one more of a mutation), Warriors Orochi which combines the worlds of Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors Strike Force, which is an action-RPG that focuses heavily on collecting materials to make new weapons and items.

Strike Force is not the only game in the series to incorporate character development; 4 and 5 included ranking up and collecting items to boost your attack, defense, health and special attack guage stats.  6 took a more RPG approach, and included a level system (in 6 Empires, the level cap was 50).  You could also equip a certain number of booster items which could do everything from raising stats to healing you after a certain number of KO's or even boost a specific stat after x number of KOs.

Each new version has added and removed features in some way or another.  Every version adds new character.  The combat system is fairly simple, relying on matching up light and heavy attacks, and really didn't change much until Dynasty Warriors 6, where it was over-simplified to the point where it became extremely boring. 

As things stand right now, the most current title in the series is Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce, at least until next Tuesday.  It was generally poorly received.  This is not undeserved, because while it brought some neat ideas to the table, it also had a crapload of problems. 

Strikeforce introduced unprecedented officer customization (for the series) by allowing you to take a second weapon of any type (in every other game, an officer had their main weapon and that was it), added different kinds of special abilities as well as being able to perform rush attacks and air combos, and even each weapon type had special moves and features associated with them.  The cherry on top was that it supported 4-player online co-op.

However, it was the first major console release to not include offline co-op (an insult to the fanbase), the base combat system was the same monotonous piece of crap from Dynasty Warriors 6 and the framerate went bonkers whenever it felt like it.  Where the older Dynasty Warriors titles had massive levels, Strikeforce incorporated levels that were chopped up and scaled down.  Mounted combat was gone.  It was like for every goof thing, there was something bad, and much of it outweighed the package as a whole.

That said, 7 is looking more and more welcome.  The combat system has been rolled back to pre-Dynasty Warriors 6, you are allowed to use multiple weapons, you can use siege engines instead of just destroying them, and the story has been expanded to incorporate the rise of the Jin dynasty.  Character upgrading will also be available, and has been rolled back to pre-Dynasty Warriors 6 as well, with a few enhancements which includes skill point allocation.  The roster has also been increased to 60 characters, and both online and offline co-op are available.

So, I'm pretty stoked.  If you want to know more, check out the Dynasty Warriors 7 link at Koei's website.  You can check out the screenshots, read about the game and listen to some of the songs on the game's soundtrack.

Now then, I've also recently finished Soul Blazer.  It's about 12 or so hours long, and it's not bad for an early 1990's action-RPG.  It's no Brainlord or Secret of Mana, but it was quite enjoyable nonetheless.  I had fun with it.

Next up - at least until my review poll closes (choices are on the right-hand side after my links, labels and such) - I'm working on The Guardian Legend for the umpteenth time.  The reason I say this is because the game's save system is rediculous, but the game itself is awesome.  It's kind of like The Legend of Zelda, but with guns.  And boss fights occur in a Shmup (Shoot-'Em-Up) sequence.  It's also got some of the best NES music since Megaman 2, and that is saying something.  I strongly recommend that you try an emulation of this at the least.  For it's time, the production values are through the roof.

And finally, I'm in the process of updating my custom soundtracks for my 360 games (which I rarely use).  I have one for Koei's Warriors series, one for for Fallout (which I've used twice), one for fantasy-themed games (no, I do not use this one for Oblivion; Jeremy Soule is this era's Johan Sebastian Bach), one for Mercenaries 2 (which I do use when I play), one for fighting games and the last one is for racing games.

I stream these off of my computer because, frankly, I have 70 gigs of music on my computer.  And playlists are great.  I'm currently in the process of modifying them (starting with the Warriors soundtrack), and I will probably delete a few (like Fallout).  Racing and Mercenaries will be staying though.

The reason I make these is because I'm not a fan of licensed music and I sometimes have...more appropriate music for the material.  For instance, I actually put the Fantasy soundtrack together for the excellent and underappreciated Sacred 2 (which Blizzard can learn A LOT from for Diablo III).  The Mercenaries soundtrack exists because while I love Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, the soundtrack doesn't really have a lot of punch.  And it's kind of interesting that all of the achievements are named after songs.  Seemed more like a hint than a reference to me.

I created my fighting game soundtrack because I wanted ot lay it to something heavy.  When I first played Kakuto Chojin, the first thing that really stood out was the soundtrack (and not the Q'uran passagest that got the game banned to appease some religious fundamentalists).  Instead of mostly pulsing techno or rock, it was actually composed of several different genres, such as industrial metal, trance and hard rock.  It's actually, so far, the best fighting game soundtrack I've ever heard.  The gameplay's not quite up to par, but I'll leave the enjoyment factor up to youse guys.

My racing soundtrack is simply the music that I would like to drive to.  This includes genres ranging from hard rock and blues, different metal subgenres, trance and electronica, you name it.  I'm not a huge fan of most of the licensed crap I hear in Need For Speed or even Forza 2 (although you only hear music in the dashboard unless you're playing a custom soundtrack).  I could probably see myself using this as a template for GTA 4 if I chose to buy it.  But I'd have to make sure to add Breaking The Law by Judas Priest, because for whatever reason, Rockstar thinks it doesn't belong.  It was a single, and it's better than You've Got Another Thing Coming by leaps and bounds in the fun department.  And it fits.

What can I say, I like to micromanage my gaming experience.

Okay, it's 2:41 AM and I'm rambling.  Have fun, and check out my poll (I bet you thought i was gonna plug DW7 again...fooled you) - there's only 5 days left on it, and I will  have that review done by the end of April, whatever you vote for.

I swear.

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