The first time I saw a Dynasty Warriors game, it was when I walked into the TV room of my high school dorm.
I had left my PS2 out for the others in the dorm to play (loaded with Final Fantasy X) and was surprised to see a friend playing Dynasty Warriors 2 instead. It looked fun, but I didn’t really feel like playing it alone so I never really got into it.
Then a few months later over winter break, my step-brother was in town visiting. At the time, he was 10-years-old and I was more than a little upset with him for saving over my pre-final dungeon save in Ocarina of Time. My mother suggested we go get a game we could play together and immediately I thought of Dynasty Warriors 3—the first game in the series with coop.
So we went down to the local Blockbuster, only to find that it was rented out—though they did have a copy for sale. To my surprise, my mother actually bought it for us—and it turned out to be the perfect buy.
I’m not sure if I realized it back then, but the Dynasty Warriors games are pretty much the perfect gateway drug to get someone into gaming. At the time, my step-brother was not much of a gamer, he didn’t own any systems himself, but he did have the “want” to play—maybe because I was so into them.
And Dynasty Warriors isn’t a hard game to pick up and play. It basically uses a total of three buttons: strong attack, light attack, and special attack which can be mashed in different orders for a wide range of moves. Moreover, the general enemies are practically designed to be slaughtered in mass numbers so there is little chance of frustrating deaths. At the start, I would basically turn him lose on the normal enemies and go after the bosses myself—ending with a team-up special attack, of course.
As he got better, I’d send him off to conquer one area of the map while I’d go to another. I could tell this really made him feel like he was vital—like he was holding his own. And best of all, he was.
I don’t know how many times we beat the game, but it was always the same pattern. I, being the completionist that I am, wanted to level up every character in the game; so I never played the same character twice. He, on the other hand, was content kicking ass with his completely maxed out character. Neither one of us got bored.
Over the years since, the Dynasty Warriors series has been my go-to place for easing non-gamers (or casual gamers) into the world of gaming. It just makes them feel badass to be so strong and powerful as they wade through the enemy legions. And it’s only gotten better with time as anime crossover sub-series like Dynasty Warriors Gundam and One Piece: Pirate Warriors give the franchise an even broader appeal.
Frankly, Dynasty Warriors titles are one of the few co-op games I know of where players of radically different skill levels can have fun playing together. And that is something special.