Source: Pexels, by Anthony : )
You never forget your first.
I was struck recently, when browsing my games library on the Xbox, how little I wanted to play anything I had currently installed. Modern Warfare? Nah, clocked it. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Not in the mood for it. PowerWash Simulator? Fantastic but I’d already completed it. In this age of digital ownership of video games, where we merely need to press install, et voila; we have games to play – why on earth does it feel like a chore to go back and play?
It never felt like that with Dynasty Warriors 3 (DW3). The king of hack and slash games. The crown jewel in Koei Tecmo’s catalogue. So good that Omega Force made countless, spin-off Dynasty Warriors games: Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage, Dynasty Warriors Gundam, Fire Emblem Warriors, One Piece: Pirate Warriors, and many more.
The first time I played DW3 was in demo form (gosh, remember demos? Those were the dog’s business!) The demo had you choose one of the three characters, then thrust you into a large scale battle with countless enemies – one of whom was a heavy-set dude with what looked like wolves for hands. Oh, and they had elephants. Anyway, you best crack on because you’ve only got ten minutes.
I played this over and over and over and over and over again. I was mesmerised by it! With only ten minutes, I could barely cover a fraction of the map before time was up and I started again. Honestly, who needed the full game when this was so much fun? Well, me. I needed the full game.
I had become hooked and started using the internet to research, eventually discovering the background of the series. Based on one of the “Four Great Classical Novels” of Chinese literature, ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ (RoTK) , I came to find out the heavy-set dude was Meng Huo, leader of the Nanman tribe. The three playable characters were Zhao Yun, Huang Gai, and Zhen Ji – all historical figures and none of whom were on each side, but let’s not let details get in the way of a demo!
Truth be told, the historical context of the game didn’t really matter. After all, it took me seven years to read the first volume of RoTK because I hated reading. But the game? My lord, as soon as I managed to get my fat little hands on it, I devoured it. The vast majority of 2002 and 2003 was spent completing large scale battles with all manner of different warriors from the competing kingdoms of Shu, Wu, and Wei – trying to rack up a bigger KO count than the time before. (It’s KO, not kill. We’re not monsters, obviously).
Even all these years later, I can remember playing the Seige of He Fei Castle and the distinctive guitar themes that played depending on which kingdom you selected. The powerful, bruising ‘Blast from the East’ with its twin guitar lead. The dominant bass line in ‘Men of Intelligence’. These songs were imprinted on me!
It wasn’t a perfect game, by any means. One trip to YouTube and the English dubbing will reveal Cao Cao being pronounced as Cow Cow and not T’sao T’sao, which feels fairly forgivable for the early 2000s. The less said about Zhou Yu’s cry of “This victory shall belong to Wuuuuuuuuuuu!” the better. The fog of war was less about the uncertainty in military situations and more about the game deciding it couldn’t quite handle huge amount of soldiers as well as the odd tree or two. But matter it did not. It was my most cherished game and, despite playing pretty much every game in the series, still my favourite.
Which makes it a damn shame I can’t play it anymore.
You see, the current problem we have is aging machines. A PlayStation 2 from the early 2000s that was used repeatedly will inevitably start to show its age. And by that, I mean no longer work. You could buy a second hand PlayStation, but it’s not exactly as reliable as brand new. So, that brings us to the wonderful world of backwards compatability. Whereas the Xbox seemed to do a pretty decent job of ensuring you could play your old games, it’s gotten progressively worse as the years have gone on. You can’t play it on the Xbox Series X. You can’t play it on the PS5. You can’t play it on the Nintendo Switch. You can’t play it on the PC.
All this is a long winded way of saying, Koei: for the love of all that is holy, bring back Dynasty Warriors 3 for modern consoles. You have an army of loyal fans who would be appreciative and buy it on day one.
Sincerely yours, a humble fool.