Dynasty Warriors games have appeared on nearly every platform since the original PlayStation, so it’s not too surprising that the Vita gets one as well, and at launch for that matter. Gameplay is practically identical to other Dynasty Warriors games: you control various legendary heroes or warriors in ancient China and do battle against literally thousands of enemies, usually a few dozen at a time. The goal is to annex as much land by force as you can, using a combination of pre-battle strategy planning and in-battle combat.
The most notable difference with the Vita version from the other Dynasty Warriors games I have played are the controls. There are quite a few game functions controlled with touch and shake motions. For one, you can pull up a map in game at anytime by flicking a corner; from here, it’s easy to move your officers to other locations in the battle area. You might want to send them all towards the main enemy base for example, while you attempt to hold down your own base. Speaking of bases, if your Break meter is full, you can perform a Direct Break which steals and enemy base instantly (normally you have to defeat x number of enemies). The Direct Break is performed simply by tapping on the building. Certain special attacks, like the Musous, are performed by shaking the controller to build up or continue the assault. Players can also use the gyro functionality for aiming certain attacks. Wisely, all of these Vita-specific controls can be turned off for more traditional controls. It’s not that the Vita controls don’t work fine, they do, but they’re pretty unnecessary and, at least for me, don’t enhance the experience.
Combat is at least half of the gameplay for Dynasty Warriors Next, but there is a significant strategy element as well, especially the further into the game you get, as your enemies become more challenging. Before each mission, you can spend gold you have earned to use one or more of the main characters in battle. Each character comes with a bonus, such as increased health for your forces, or more bases at the start of the battle (which you must protect). These pre-battle preparations are complimented by quick real-time unit relocations that you can make via the mini-map with just a few taps of your finger.
In addition to campaign or story mode, there is Coalition mode for ad-hoc co-op play, which I have not been able to test. You can also play the Conquests mode which lets you choose a faction to try and conquer the land with. It’s very much like the Campaign mode in terms of gameplay, but it isn’t bound to a story. It’s a nice addition, but not really different enough from the Campaign mode to peak my interest. However, being able to create your own officers in the Edit mode to use in the Conquest and Coalition modes is a plus.
Other components of Next are the Encyclopedia and Gallery, which gives you a plethora of information on the officers and the story of the Three Kingdoms. Finally, the Gala mode uses the Vita’s ability to snap pictures and includes a rear-touchpad calligraphy mini-game that’s a decent distraction.
In terms of presentation, Next looks like a console version, which is to say it’s ok, but not great. As with all Dynasty Warriors games, the repetitive use of enemies gets boring, which is the presentation’s biggest flaw. Interestingly, no Japanese language track is available here, which I would have liked for the added authenticity.
Next does a lot of neat things with the Vita hardware. How much they will enhance your personal experience with another Dynasty Warriors adventure remains to be seen, however.