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Dead or Alive 5: Last Round

Dead or Alive’s greatest strength comes from its accessibility. Unlike many of its ilk, Dead or Alive rejects complex move-sets and combos for something simpler and purer. Two buttons do the majority of the work: punch and kick, combinations of which allow you to string together simple combos. A throw button and block button round off the face of the controller, leaving the shoulder buttons and triggers to dish out a more powerful punch and kick, a power blow, and a cheeky taunt. It’s wonderfully austere.

DOA is more about rhythm. Shifting the tempo of your strikes, keeping them varied aiming high and low on your opponent, being prepared to sidestep at a moment’s notice, and blocking in time with an incoming strike to counter and stun your foe. Indeed DOA isn’t complex but remains nuanced. Add to that gorgeous looking graphics, exciting transitions between areas within arenas, an intense soundtrack and impactful sound effects, and you’ve got yourself a superb fighter.

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Dead or Alive 5: Last Round brings all of the aforementioned qualities together in the final version in the Dead or Alive 5 series, bringing together the previous version’s content, along with a few new things, to provide the definitive edition. The modes on offer are standard fighting game fare, not offering anything special but covering all the basics to allow you and the AI to fight it out in classic arcade mode or training, or for you and friends to beat the snot out of each other in one-on-one bouts or tag team locally or online.

The story mode is absolutely nonsensical and ridiculous, offering the flimsiest of excuses to pit two fighters against each other, but series fans will likely get a kick out of the lengthy narrative, and it serves as a good introduction to each character as your control shifts along the roster.

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Over its previous generation release, Last Round offers an obscene amount of unlockable costumes, and unfortunately these primarily reveal more and more flesh of the female fighters, a Dead or Alive trait that the original fifth release had moved away from a little bit. It’s disappointing to see it return. The roster, meanwhile, has been increased to 34 fighters bringing fan favourites back as well as a couple of new characters, but unfortunately this dilutes the quality a little bit. More than a few from the roster clearly haven’t been given the time and care to make their move-sets unique or entertaining to fight with. Otherwise, an increased frame rate and resolution, some mildly improved lighting and particle effects, two new stages, and a basic but fast and stable online mode, rounds off the package brilliantly.

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Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is a terrific fighting game. Although it looks very much like it did on the Xbox 360, the exaggerated, cartoon aesthetic has always looked stunning and it doesn’t look out-of-place on the Xbox One for a second. And despite some superfluous characters the highly accessible combat style and spectacle of launching opponents into other areas during a bout, is just as compelling and enjoyable as ever.

Editor’s note: During our time with Dead or Alive: Last Round we encountered none of the bugs or save data corruption that the title is apparently plagued by. However, Team Ninja have publicly acknowledged that there are some serious bugs being experienced and they are working on fixes.

Thanks to Tecmo Koei for supplying TiX with a download code

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Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires review

The Dynasty Warriors series revels in its adrenaline fuelled, hack ‘n slash, arcade action. Large battlefields act as your playground to brutally and spectacularly stab, slice, smack and subdue hundreds of on-screen enemies. It’s a very pleasant and satisfying experience. You wield unparalleled power and can decimate troves of enemies with a single swing. Add to that the over the top special moves and magical techniques and the whole thing turns into a wonderful spectacle based on the unification of China in the second century BC.

The Dynasty Warriors Empires spin-offs take this same hack ‘n slash experience but adds a layer of big-picture strategy to it, incorporating more mechanics, thought, and customisation, to expand the concept beyond mindless combat. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, many prefer the more simplistic experience, but if you’re itching for a more personalised and immersive genocide simulator, the Empires versions are certainly worth a try.

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Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires is Omega Force’s latest entry, however, the Warrior titles are frequently criticised for their repetitive nature and lack of evolution: does this one finally do enough to shake that reputation? Unfortunately it doesn’t.  Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires certainly makes some smart changes over its predecessor but the experience remains much the same.

The primary mode follows the adventure of your chosen character, or custom-built character, as you join a ruler, or rise up against one and attempt to bring China under the rule of a single kingdom. Both historical and fictional scenarios crop up and challenge you to strategically plan your invasions, raids and missions, purchase and train troops, build facilities and obtain goods and gold. Then, of course, are the battle themselves, which sees you take to the battlefield with your forces and generals and hack ‘n slash your way through countless soldiers and enemy generals and commanders, to control points on a map, defend the ones you have and conquer specific individuals.

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Indeed then it’s a game of two halves: the battlefield combat and the strategic ruling, each offering drastically different experiences that pair together surprisingly well. The combat is fast paced and immediate, while the strategic planning and crafting of your kingdom is much slower and drawn-out. The result makes for some interesting and compelling scenarios. For instance, you may have a high enough rank to organise your own raids of territories, weakening them ready for an invasion force, but your ruler may have other ideas and invade somewhere you hadn’t expected, throwing you into a difficult battle that could have been made significantly easier if you’d softened it up instead.

The strategy portion is also highly varied. Your rank determines what you have influence over and what option you can choose between battles. A low rank limits you to following orders from your ruler and their generals, and fighting in battles. Meanwhile, a high rank will allow you to influence your ruler’s strategy, keep you own forces and perform raids independently and also get more involved with the politics of your kingdom. You can also take control of kingdoms and become the ruler, giving you ultimate power. Furthermore, you can complete missions for generals to increase your friendship with them, help with diplomatic relations and even marry and have a child to further manipulate alliances. With all these options and decisions you can make within a campaign, you can create a highly personalised narrative for yourself and experience something very different every time you play.

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The combat is far more predictable, but undeniably a lot of fun, initially at least. It does still suffer from repetition, with battles, regardless of objective, all coming down to hacking up the troves of enemies and their key commanders, but Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires makes a few good changes to help alleviate this. Stratagems can now be earned and unleashed on the battlefield, these cards offer things like random lightning strikes against enemies, or wave after wave of incoming arrows. You can even change the weather with some stratagems, which can improve or limit the usefulness of others.

Additionally the fame system from the previous game has been replaced with a traditional levelling system, so your character improves linearly and doesn’t fluctuate like before. And defence battles now require you to protect your points on the map for 5 minutes rather than the previous 15, making them far less tedious. However, the biggest change to the combat side is the different default weapons and move-sets for the characters. There’s been a reshuffling that will give veterans new techniques to master for their favourite characters, a move that is likely to displease more than delight the fan-base.

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Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires hasn’t changed much from its previous iteration but the changes and new additions do improve the experience for the most part. Things like the new customisation options for your horse, banner and troops are great for personalising your experience, but unfortunately poor visuals with low detail, ugly textures and objects/enemies popping into existence, are off-putting and disappointing. However, the series has never been visually stunning and a smooth, fast frame rate despite the hive of on-screen activity is perhaps worth the visual banality. And It is still fun but if the strategy aspect doesn’t appeal to you then the fun is going to dry up fast. Otherwise it’s another good but predictable entry in a series that hasn’t evolved enough.

Thanks to Tecmo Koei for supplying TiX with a download code

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YAIBA:Ninja Gaiden Z Special Edition Announced

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It has been announcedtoday that a Special Edition of YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z will be available at launch in limited supply for fans that purchase the retail game for either the Xbox 360 when it launches on 21stMarch.

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The Special Edition of YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z will include an exclusive full colour comic book by Dark Horse Comics, exclusive Yaiba themed DLC costumes for both Ryu Hayabusa and Momiji for use in Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate and an original soundtrack for Xbox 360 which is included on physical disc.

I got to play the demo of this at last September’s Eurogamer Expo, and really loved it. The demo was a very early alpha build but the combat was fluid and smoothed and cell shaded style and animation really suited the game and story.

 

Dynasty Warriors 8 Review

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Dynasty Warriors 8 is the latest entry in the long-standing Dynasty Warriors series from Tecmo KOEI. Some people have criticized Dynasty Warriors as just being the “same old thing” year after year but as veteran fans of the franchise will tell you, each title has its own unique feel to it and slightly different features, characters, and variations in the way the story of the Three Kingdoms unfolds. Developed by Omega Force, Dynasty Warriors 8 had a lot of fans really excited for all the new stuff it was supposed to bring to the table. But did they deliver?

Dynasty Warriors 8 is much more in-depth than any previous game in the series so far. For one thing, it has the largest roster of playable characters yet with 77 to choose from. Rather than playing through the campaign over and over again with each officer, this time around you are given the option to choose from several different officers available on each mission. This adds a little bit more variety when playing through the campaign. Since you aren’t locked into playing a bunch of missions as the same character, you can switch it up if you want.

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DW8 also brings back the weapon swap system that was added into the last game. You once again will collect, buy, and sell various types of weapons. Long gone are the days where each officer was restricted to one unique weapon. Any officer can pretty much use any weapon, with varying degrees of compatibility. Although being able to use any weapon with any officer does make it so there aren’t any useless characters, it does detract from the overall personality of each officer. The focus seems to be placed more on what weapon you’re carrying than who you are actually playing as.

Weapons are even further emphasized with perhaps the biggest new gameplay mechanic called weapon affinity. There are three types of weapon affinity: Heaven, Earth, and Man. They interact with one another in a rock-paper-scissors type fashion. Earth is strong against Man, Man is strong against Heaven, and Heaven is strong against Earth. When you attack an officer that has a weapon weak against yours, you’ll deal extra damage to them and also be able to perform special Storm Rush attacks. Fighting an enemy officer with a weapon strong against yours reduces the damage you deal to them and will also make it so they don’t flinch when you hit them, thus they can power through many of your attacks. Switching weapons during combat is useful against these officers and there is a new “switch counter” mechanic that allows you to counter their power attacks with a precisely timed weapon switch.

The campaign is pretty long, with each kingdom’s story taking four or five hours itself. Added to that is a new game mode called Ambition Mode. In this mode you are trying to construct an impressive building that will motivate the Emperor to visit you, so that you can draw him to your side. To increase your status and build up the tower, you’ll have to complete various battles that earn you building materials and allies. Materials can then be used to construct or level up additions to your tower such as the teahouse, blacksmith, and barracks. Ambition Mode is a decent addition but it eventually starts to feel like doing chores. Even if you stick to just playing the campaign, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of this game. Campaign missions can also be played with a friend co-operatively which is nice.

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There have also been a couple of changes to the musou attacks. Players now have three musou gauges instead of just two and there’s also a new Rage Awakening gauge that, when full, can be activated to go into Rage mode and perform a True Rage attack. True Rage attacks are incredibly powerful musous that will go on for as long as you hold down the button (or when the gauge is empty). It’s possible to clear out entire bases of hundreds of people, including notable enemy officers, using just one True Rage attack.

Dynasty Warriors 8 feels more “Dynasty Warriors-like” than some of the previous games in recent years. The maps are absolutely huge which makes for some epic battles and lots of triggered events. Battles are filled with more triggered events making them seem more dynamic and authentic. The latest installment brings back pseudo-officers that control an area or command a unit such as gatekeepers, mobile commanders, and of course base commanders.

With all the new features and gameplay mechanics, Dynasty Warriors 8 should have been the best in the franchise ever. Unfortunately the Xbox 360 version suffers from severe frame rate issues that often make it nearly unplayable (the PS3 version supposedly does not have this problem). One would have expected this to no longer be an issue in the year 2013, especially since other Dynasty Warriors games on Xbox 360 could run just fine. This slowdown makes large battles annoying rather than fun. Tecmo KOEI has said they are working on a patch to alleviate the problem. Hopefully it will be released sooner rather than later.

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One of the other problems with the game is, as was mentioned before, there is too much of a focus on weapons rather than characters. Meeting an enemy officer on the field of battle becomes simply a matter of hoping your weapon beats his in the rock-paper-scissor matchup. What would have been challenging battles with powerful foes will turn into an easy rout if you happen to have a superior weapon affinity. Even if you do happen to face an enemy with a stronger weapon, they are usually nothing a few consecutive musou attacks won’t take care of for you.

Mowing down waves and waves of enemy soldiers becomes stale after awhile since they do little more than stand around waiting for you to kill them. It’s not unusual to have KO counts over a thousand on this game. It is surprising that after so many years nobody at Omega Force has thought to make the underlings feel more realistic and attack more often. Turning up the difficulty adds more of a challenge since you get hurt much more with each hit that does land against you, but it also seems to make your NPC allies get dominated, leading to you having to run around the battlefield doing everything yourself.

Slowdown issues aside, Dynasty Warriors 8 is still a pretty good game. If you are into mind-numbing hack n’ slash action, or are a fan of the series, then don’t hesitate to pick it up.

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Dynasty Warriors 8 Now Dated July 19 for Europe

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Tecmo Koei in Europe has announced that the upcoming release of Dynasty Warriors 8, will be available in stores across Europe on the new date of July 19th 2013. The game is set to feature new characters, new modes, new and redesigned stages, and new scenarios, following the stories of the kingdoms of Wei, Wu, Shu and Jin through the actions of historical military and political figures of the time as they fight to gain control over the Three Kingdoms of China.

Fans who pre-order Dynasty Warriors 8 from UK retailers can receive various in game DLC or collectable items:

By pre-ordering from GAME.co.uk, fans will receive a beautiful, limited edition smartphone pouch, otherwise unavailable outside Japan, in one of four exclusive designs. Each design features a different character and colour, representing the four kingdoms.

Other retailers will offer a DLC pack, featuring Zhou Yu, Lu Xun, Cao Cao, Zhang Fei and Guan Yu’s outfits from Dynasty Warriors 1. Additionally, those who pre-order through independent retailers will also receive an exciting exclusive DLC pack that brings outfits for Zhao Yun and Sun Shangxiang from Romance of the Three Kingdoms 12 into the Dynasty Warriors universe for the first-time.

Epic Games Japan Allows YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z To Run Unreal Engine 3

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Epic Games in Japan has come to an agreement with Tecmo Koei Games to license the Unreal Engine 3 technology for the development of “YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z,” a bold new take on the renowned “NINJA GAIDEN” franchise.

Team NINJA, the development team from Tecmo Koei describes the game as a “new experience” and that it “is not a sequel”, but as with any game running the Unreal Engine 3 we can already build a picture in our minds of how awesome this could possibly look!

Quoted by Yosuke Hayashi, studio head of Team NINJA. “As with any new title, there are many new challenges, from the game design to art style and even development team structure. Unreal Engine 3 is a great ally to have when taking on those challenges. Unreal Engine allows us to quickly and efficiently iterate on countless ideas, and ‘YAIBA’ is now taking on a life of its own. We can’t wait until gamers everywhere get their hands on the ultimate ninja zombie experience.”

YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z is currently in development and Tecmo Koei will reveal more information in the coming months.

E3 2012: TECMO KOEI LINE-UP

TECMO KOEI Europe, today announced its E3 2012 strategy focusing on an in depth look at the highly anticipated next generation of DEAD OR ALIVE combat, DEAD OR ALIVE 5. The fighting game will highlight TECMO KOEI’s E3 presence with comprehensive, hands-on demos and the kickoff of the exclusive DEAD OR ALIVE 5 tournament series presented in collaboration with the IGN Pro League (IPL), the competitive gaming league presented by IGN Entertainment. TECMO KOEI will also reveal new projects at the show. The TECMO KOEI booth is located in the South Hall, Booth #2047. Continue reading E3 2012: TECMO KOEI LINE-UP