Thanks to its continued success, Switch now plays host to even the most niche of genres. In fact, less than two years into its lifecycle, the debut of the Dynasty Warriors franchise on the platform isn’t even the first ‘Musou’ game to appear in hybrid form; everything from The Legend of Zelda to One Piece has been given the large-scale melee combat makeover. With the recent Dynasty Warriors 9 having embraced a less than popular open-world setup, it falls to heavily re-released entry number eight to do the series justice on Nintendo hardware.
With a title that’s likely to put a mid-tier Kingdom Hearts spin-off into fits of jealousy, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition brings together the entire original game from 2013, including many of the graphical improvements made when it arrived on PS4 and Xbox One and all the DLC and expansion content released with and around the Empires and Legends versions. If you’re familiar with the franchise, that will make some sense to you, but if you’re completely new to Dynasty Warriors then all you need to know is this version is about complete as you’ll ever need it to be.
Ever since the first game began unleashing hell back on PS1 over 20 years ago, the Dynasty Warriors series has followed and re-enacted famous battles from the era of the Three Kingdoms – a period of time during China’s history where the country descended into civil war with various regions and territories locked in a perpetual feud for control of the country and the throne. You can select from over 80 characters, each with their own weapons, fighting style and special ‘Musou’ moves for clearing large numbers of enemies at once. Once you arrive on the battlefield, you’ll need to hack-and-slash your way around a sandbox map, killing enemy generals to earn XP, slaying gatekeepers to unlock gates and, well, obliterating everything that moves.
It’s an incredibly simple concept, offering a pleasing cross between tactical combat and button-bashing melee. While it’s had a few helpful technical improvements since the series embraced this formula with Dynasty Warriors 2 on PS2, Dynasty Warriors 8 is pretty much the same experience you may have played countless times before. That’s not a bad thing, because Dynasty Warriors 8 is still one of the best entries in the series and this edition comes absolutely overflowing with content. The rich Story mode is here in full, including all the additional missions introduced in the Xtreme Legends expansion.
Alongside the vast Story mode content, there’s a generous helping of game modes to test out. Ambition mode is all about building the most impressive camp in order to gain the support of the emperor himself, while Challenge mode forces you to meet certain objectives within a strict time limit and with distinct debuffs and characters. Free mode, as its name suggests, enables you to simply roam a large map and fight for control of the region without any objectives clouding your mind. If you just want to launch 30 goons into the air with your halberd ad infinitum, this is the Dynasty Warriors time-sink for you. Add in a Gallery and Encyclopedia for all you history buffs and there’s a frightening amount of content to unlock. You could sink over 100 hours into this title and still barely scratch the surface.
As far as porting goes, Omega Force and co have done wonders – the framerate holds together surprisingly well. In fact, it performs better on the whole than the versions first released on PS3 and Xbox 360 almost six years ago. The assets used are clearly mostly based on those versions, but with a smoother approach to optimisation and a handful of visual improvements from the Xtreme Legends expansions, the Switch port is far from inferior. With barely any knocks to performance when playing in handheld mode – especially when compared to other handheld-based Dynasty Warriors releases – this is the franchise’s best outing in Switch yet.
If you have played Dynasty Warriors 8 before in any of its various versions, this Switch version won’t surprise you with any new content. You can play through most of its modes in local co-op and there’s all the DLC the game has received thus far; you can also choose between Japanese and English voiceovers. It’s nothing particularly new, but it’s brilliant to finally see the series make the jump to handheld without sacrificing either content or performance.
While it might seem odd for Omega Force to opt to port the five-year-old Dynasty Warriors 8 over the more recent Dynasty Warriors 9, it’s by and far the right decision for Nintendo Switch owners. Not only is Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Definitive Edition the best version since Dynasty Warriors 5, it comes to the hybrid platform offering more stable performance than the versions that once graced PS3 and Xbox 360. Even when its framerate takes a knock when playing co-op, it’s a remarkably robust port boasting an obscene amount of content fresh out of the box.