Aside from a few rare gems (like Halo and GTA) PC conversions are usually cop-outs, copies of the console versions only with slightly smoother graphics and more awkward controls. This time around, given the astounding lack of improvements between games, Dynasty Warriors 4:Hyper actually takes a step forward in improving this slash 'em up series.
Although it is a port of a console game, the graphics, for the most part look very smooth and the cut scenes are especially pretty. Your characters move fluidly and convincingly, with each swipe and slash having a convincing feeling of weight behind it. The Musou attacks look as over-the-top as ever, with plumes of different colors and flames being thrown about all over the place as you hack down another fifty peons with a triple somersault and a scimitar. So that's box 1 of the "typical PC port" guide ticked, then.
When looking at box 2 (dodgy control system) you really need to look at the game itself first; Dynasty Warriors is not known for its complex controls. Visually impressive combos are achieved by simply pressing the same button enough times (or by pressing the Musou button), you can jump, block and that's about it. No matter how awkward some people feel when trying to play a console game on a keyboard you can't say pressing the same button is any more complicated in the PC version. If anything the keys are a little friendlier on your digits than the thumb rash playing DW on consoles gives you!
The game itself is pretty much the same as the console versions, which have varied almost nil since the original DW. Fortunately something strange has happened in the PC conversion - someone seems to have given the soldiers a brain! Now before you all get too excited, they haven't been given a great deal of intelligence; your allies still stand around like lemons and the crowds of enemies don't use any kind of tactic to take you on, but now they actually fight back!
In all previous DW games I've played unless you fight a boss character the soldiers are mostly content to just stand around and be diced up like pork, but in Hyper, the soldiers not only block but also wait for you to finish your combo and then counter-attack! After the initial surprise I quite enjoyed the challenge of actually having to balance my attacks with some blocking too and it makes the game quite a lot different to its predecessors.
Unfortunately, despite the subtle but important change, the gameplay remains far too simplistic in the days where nothing less than two guns and a sword will cut it. In order to survive in the next generation the DW series will have to make some drastic changes to its combat system. Perhaps making combos more varied and harder to pull off, or making the other thousands of soldiers fighting with you more influential to your victory rather than just window dressing would help to make the game more challenging but still keep its Arcade feel. That and fixing the camera, which after more than five years still seems to go where it pleases!
For those of you who are afraid of joypads but long for some quick arcade fun then this'll be just right for you but anyone who's played it on a console really doesn't need to pick this up, unless they want to know what it feels like when someone actually blocks your attacks!
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