It seemed like just yesterday when Dynasty Warriors 4 was released. If it doesn't seem like that to you then pick up a copy of Dynasty Warriors 5 and see how much it reminds you of the last game in the series.

With only a few significant upgrades, none of them major, a new Dynasty Warriors game has been released. I can only deduce two things from this version; the developers were stuck for new ideas or the series has run its course. While I admit this is undoubtedly the best version so far, it's far from original. It's built on the foundation of past games and smells suspiciously of a "best of."

Hack and slash fans will be treated to a very long game. It's mindless for the most part but does require some planning at the beginning of the various stages. There is some strategy and exploration but fighting will consume most of your time. I consider myself a fan of action games but enough is enough. Halfway through the game I just couldn't take it anymore. Even though you acquire new weapons and abilities the gameplay is relentlessly repetitive. You begin by fighting tens of soldiers which soon becomes hundreds and then thousands. If this style of gameplay appeals to you then consider yourself in heaven. For the rest of us, it's like being in the other place.

The improvements include better graphics, more playable characters, a steady framerate, longer viewing distance as the fog of war is pushed back and only one bodyguard instead of a group. This one bodyguard system eliminates some of the confusion during heavy melee conflicts and allows you more flexibility to pull off combos. This one bodyguard is much smarter and more dynamic this time around. Not only will he protect you much more effectively but you can use him much like a second player in a co-op mode. A special attack called the Musou Attack can be triggered when both your meters are full. Lightning will strike and you'll devastate all the enemies within range. You can also substitute animals such as tigers for bodyguards.

Not only are you required to take on hundreds of enemies before you meet the boss but you'll have to find more powerful weapons and upgrade your skills. Some weapons will be left behind by fallen enemies but most of them you'll find scattered throughout the map. The map is huge and that makes for a lot of exploring. The weapons come in two classes: light and heavy. The light weapons are faster but while the heavy weapons are capable of more damage they can leave you vulnerable for longer periods of time.

Introduced in the last game, strongholds are fortresses that give the occupying force a few advantages. It can act as a supply base, a spawn area and a shield. By overtaking a stronghold you can reduce your enemy's advantage and boost your army's moral.

This ancient China saga seems to be running out of steam. There are more than 50 characters each with their own story. These stories just relate their backgrounds and don't have much to do with the overall story of the warring factions. The voiceovers are as bad as ever and that slightly cheesy, metal riff rock obscures the sound effects that could be best used to orchestrate a more realistic sounding soundtrack - not that anything else in this game is realistic.

If you've played any Dynasty Warriors game you've basically played them all. Only the fanatics and reviewers can spot the subtle differences. If you haven't played any of them then this is the one to get, otherwise, never mind.

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System: PS2
Dev: Omega Force
Released: March 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Dan