Dynasty Warriors Next import preview hands-on with the full Japanese game

The PlayStation Vita doesn’t arrive in North America and Europe for another two months, but we’re way too excited and impatient to wait that long. Thanks to the earlier Japanese launch, we’ve already got a system in office and we’re already diving into our most anticipated PS Vita games. Visit GamesRadar all this week for updated hands-on impressions with the full imported versions, but note that these may not be the final versions you play in February.

If death and taxes are the constants of life, the constants of videogames are system updates, Madden and Dynasty Warriors. Since making an impact as an early PS2 hit, US gamers have been given approximately 80 different DW titles over the last decade. The large scale, Chinese history brawler has appeared on virtually every system, and even if you might be bored of it here, it still has a loyal audience, guaranteeing a US launch release for a PS Vita iteration.

What is it? It’s the Romance of the Three Kingdoms reenacted once more in a release that takes a good number of elements from Dynasty Warriors 7 Xtreme Legends to stitch together a new game. Dozens of characters from Chinese history battle it out among thousands of faceless troops.

What’s new in the PS Vita version? Consistency is the name of the game with this series, so we didn’t see all that much new when it came to the core concept and level design. Of the starting selection of characters, most seemed vaguely familiar, but there are so many in series history it’s hard to remember them all. And the first mission was pretty similar to the start of several of DW titles we’ve seen.

How do the PS Vita controls work? From the start we were happy to have dual analogue sticks as we walked the huge fields, sweeping the camera around while we fought enemies on all sides. Though the smaller sticks impeded us at first, we quickly got used to them, and the buttons were familiar to anyone that owned a PlayStation anything. Soon we were introduced to multiple special Musou attacks that interacted with the touch screen and motion sensors. Do they feel gimmicky? A little, but it was nice to see something that had never been in a previous Dynasty Warriors.

The best parts so far: If you still love the series, then the fact that so much remains unchanged should be very inviting. Plus, this is easily the best looking portable version of the series to date, and it even has online co-op. Perhaps it isn’t original, but you get a pretty complete package, which is hard to come by in a world of launch games pushed out the door to hit the sale date. And sometimes that predictability can feel like a nice, warm hug.

The not-so great parts: Or predictability can lose all its charm, which is how many feel about DW. Once impressive, it’s now simply bland and (at worst) monotonous. Perhaps if you once loved the series and want to come back to it after a long break, Dynasty Warriors Next is worth it, but if you said goodbye to DW years ago, we bet cute uses for the touch pads and cameras won’t pull you back in. When we started our initial playthrough, we were having fun bashing away at hundreds of foes with the square button. After 15 minutes almost all the fun had slipped away, and at the 30 minute mark when we slayed our 700th ancient Chinese nobody, we felt like we’d had enough Dynasty Warriors for another two years. Though maybe you’ll feel differently.

Above: We played through a section of the game already

When can you play it for yourself? Dynasty Warriors Next is part of the international launch of the Vita on February 22.

Is it import-friendly? Not really.We were going through the Warriors motions as the only mission we played continued, but eventually we were given an objective in Japanese we couldn’t understand and thus couldn’t complete the level. After being stuck for five minutes we gave up. Also we missed the series trademark amazing dialogue (joking).

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