“How Has Dynasty Warriors Lasted So Long?” – Might We Ask the Same of Any Repetitive Franchise?

Dynasty Warriors could borrow Soul Calibur’s tagline: “A tale of souls and swords, eternally retold…”

The other day when the brand new Assassin’s Creed game was announced – I couldn’t help but wonder… How is it that the Assassin’s Creed series releases 2 to 3 games a year (in addition to releasing portable spin-off titles) and has yet to crash and burn like the Guitar Hero series? I mean, I enjoyed AC II until it decided to glitch half-way through the story, but the introduction scenario of AC III was so dull (for me) that I haven’t managed to play beyond the first three hours or so…

And then I realize that I don’t have much of an argument because I still play Dynasty Warriors… 

For gamers, I think there’s something especially comforting in a series that’s familiar. Often, repetitive (and fan favorite) series are nostalgic. I know, personally, that when I play a ‘new’ Dynasty Warriors game I feel like I’m 15 again – the age when I started my Warriors journey with Dynasty Warriors 3. I’m reminded of the many happy memories I have with my younger brother, playing the game with our favorite characters at 7:30 A.M. before school started – and playing more rounds of free mode and versus mode after the school day ended – to see who could get the most K.O.s.

I suppose the same is true for other fans – not just of Dynasty Warriors – but also Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy, etc. The characters are like old friends; the stories are old memories; and the gameplay is a skill that players have mastered and perfected over time.

 In games studies research, one of the most highly cited concepts regarding video game enjoyment is flow. Sherry (2004) explained that a flow state is achieved in gaming when there is a balance between the difficulty of the given task and the player’s skill. Tasks that are too easy result in boredom and tasks that are too difficult for the player induce anxiety. Fans of a particular series are likely to experience the flow state when they play a new game in the franchise because the gameplay is still familiar enough – but also presented in a different way – to establish a balance between the player’s skill and the difficulty of the given task.

Flow, in addition to nostalgia, may be one way to understand the popularity of repetitive and sequential video games.

But – please – Tecmo-Koei… you do need to revitalize Dynasty Warriors. Flow can only get this series so far.

How Has Dynasty Warriors Lasted So Long? | gamesTM – Official Website.

References:

Sherry, J.L. (2004). Flow and media enjoyment. Communication Theory, 14(4), 328–347. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2004.tb00318.x

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Spring Gaming

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Jie Xi, my “create-a-warrior” avatar.

Spring Break this year involved plenty of writing/research but also some much needed gaming. I recently acquire a copy of Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires for PlayStation 3 and I immediately jumped into the new create-a-warrior mode. My customized character’s story is the stuff of Mary Sue fan fiction – a European traveler turned mercenary during the Three Kingdoms Period of ancient China. Along with slaying, on average, about 900 peons per battle, she violates all kinds of historical gender and fashion norms – complete with charmingly anachronistic hipster glasses. I’ve been playing this series for over 10 years and I still enjoy the inevitable and increasingly ridiculous sequels.

As a veteran of the Dynasty Warriors series, it’s refreshing to play Empires mode with a customized character in a fairly open-ended narrative after playing the same story several times with the same cast of characters across the core games and the spin-offs. I haven’t actually played the core version of Dynasty Warriors 8 or Xtreme Legends – but honestly? I don’t feel like I have to because I’ve “been there, done that” since Dynasty Warriors 3. The last core Dynasty Warriors game that I played was DW7 and prior to playing DW8:E, I also tried DW4:E and DW6:E. I loved DW4:E but DW6 was lacking. I don’t think I ever finished it (thankfully, it was gift). Surprisingly, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires feels the most tactical the series has in a long time… perhaps, ever.

I particularly like that musou attacks are more varied, requiring different combinations of buttons to perform variations of the flashy but fatal attack. Evidently, Dynasty Warriors 8 took the best additions from all of the sequels and crammed them into one installment. Rage attacks from DW5; tomes a la DW6 are now strategems; and EX attacks from the seventh installment also return. Overall, the combat feels more dynamic then ever. I don’t think I want to play every single game in this series – but it’s certainly nostalgic returning to the Three Kingdoms era once again.

Even if I don’t understand why every one is praising me in Japanese.