Pursue this Lu Bu
At this point in time, people are probably sick of hearing about Dynasty Warriors. The team over at Omega Force has pumped out so many titles under the banner that you’d be forgiven for not knowing nearly half of them. Despite playing most of the Dynasty Warriors titles, a couple of the Warriors Orochi crossovers, and the wonderful Hyrule Warriors, I still have only played about 1/10th of the games in this series.
Even so, many people will tell you that Dynasty Warriors 8 was one of the best games in Koei Tecmo’s prevalent franchise. It contained swift, crunchy gameplay, a ridiculous amount of content, and full co-op support for every mode in the game. If you went for 100% completion, you were looking at spending at least 100 hours digging your teeth into its secrets.
That title came out five years ago, though. Why is it only now getting ported to the Switch instead of its successor, Dynasty Warriors 9? Well, for starters, Dynasty Warriors 9 is awful. Secondly, 9 barely runs properly on a beefy PC, let alone the underpowered Switch. Obviously dialing it back to the last entry was a safe bet for performance, but just about anything could have gone wrong with this port.
Thankfully, the Switch release of Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition (my god, what a mouthful) nearly lives up to its lofty title and is a good way to experience this high-octane action romp.
As that run-on sentence of a name suggests, this new version of Dynasty Warriors 8 is a complete bundle of both the base game and its Xtreme Legends expansion. I’ve only ever played the original on PS3, so I was pretty blown away when I looked at the level select screen and saw a second campaign for each of the four main factions. Even without factoring in the unlockable hypothetical paths, you’re looking at a staggering amount of battles to be fought. That could either be a blessing or a curse, but I really enjoy Dynasty Warriors 8’s combat, so I’m ready to dig in.
The biggest thing I feared was shoddy performance. While the series started out targeting 60 FPS on PS2 hardware, that eventually gave way for prettier graphics and lower framerates. As good as Dynasty Warriors 7 and 8 might be, one has to admit it was disappointing to see the speed dropped. Both of those games also failed to maintain a locked 30 FPS and could drop to some obscenely low framerates under duress. This new Switch port isn’t a locked 60, but it runs a lot smoother than the last-generation versions of Dynasty Warriors 8 ever dreamed they could.
That being said, this is most certainly based off of the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Dynasty Warriors 8. It may be sporting a higher resolution (what looks like a mixture between a 1080p HUD and possibly 900p rendering), but none of the assets have been changed from the older ports. I suppose this has more in common with the PC version than I was expecting since that is very much the same thing.
What you can expect is some pretty decent looking character models mixed with rather drab environments, ugly pop-in from distant objects, and some seriously ugly water. It doesn’t take away from the sheer speed the game has, which helps elevate it beyond the outdated look. Even though this port isn’t attractive, at least the gameplay doesn’t suffer.
This performance also holds true in co-op, for the most part. My friend and I were able to make the framerate chug in certain situations, but it never dropped into the single digits. The lowest we saw was around 20 FPS in seriously effects-heavy areas, but the game mostly performed well. The framerate does get halved in co-op, but consistency is there and it makes the co-op more enjoyable than multiplayer was on PS3. It even supports split Joy-Con play, if you hate yourself that much.
The main reason you might be picking this up is for portable play and even that holds up. Slowdown can happen, but it seems to be even less frequent than docked play. I didn’t get a chance to test co-op while undocked, but this is easily the best-performing portable Dynasty Warriors game I’ve ever experienced. It kicks the crap out of the 3DS entries and even runs smoother than Hyrule Warriors did on Switch. It can be hard to put down, at times, just because it feels so nice.
In portable play, the graphics don’t even seem to take any kind of hit. I suppose shadow resolution might be decreased and obviously, the game is now rendering at 720p, but any blemishes are hard to spot on the Switch’s display. It isn’t awful to look at on your TV, but it comes off looking nicer as a handheld title thanks to how sharp it is rendered.
As for bonus features, the game ships with both the English and Japanese voice-over options available. I know this became a standard feature with the jump to next-generation consoles (English was even dropped in the series for a little while), but the last-gen versions required a separate download to get Japanese VOs back. At least now if you want the choice, it doesn’t demand you jump through hoops to get it. Fully customizable controls are also a bonus, though you oddly can’t change the button for activating your rage meter.
Honestly, I went in with somewhat low expectations and was met with an attractive prospect. Maybe you’ve played Dynasty Warriors 8 to death over the last five years, but it is a truly great entry in Omega Force’s stupidly long-running series. Taking all of that action on the go in an uncompromised fashion just ticks every box off, for me. I’m sure others will feel the same way, especially since this isn’t the vastly inferior Dynasty Warriors 9.
So even though it is a bit late and might not really be worth the higher price, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition gets a hearty recommendation from me. It may not be the absolute best way to experience this title, but it is most definitively the best portable hack and slasher around.
Also, Lu Bu on the go is incredible.
[This impressions piece is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher]