Dynasty Warriors is a long-running series of hack and slash games from Koei Tecmo. Story-wise, it is based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which is a Chinese historical novel from the 14th century based on the collapse of the Han Dynasty, the founding of the titular states, and their reunification in the 3rd century. However, Dynasty Warriors has no problems with coming up with its own retelling of events, which tends to be much more exaggerated than even its source material.
How Has Dynasty Warriors Changed Over Time?
For starters, it should be noted that the English versions of Dynasty Warriors games are one number higher than the Japanese versions. For example, Dynasty Warriors 9 in English is Shin Sangoku Musou 8 in Japanese. This is because the first Dynasty Warriors game was a fighting game, whereas subsequent games have been hack and slash games in 3D environments. As such, the first game was called Sangoku Musou while subsequent games were called Shin Sangoku Musou, which can be translated to something along the lines of “Three Kingdoms Unrivaled” and “True Three Kingdoms Unrivaled.” Meanwhile, the English versions started out with Dynasty Warriors and continued using Dynasty Warriors when the nature of the games changed, thus resulting in the differences in numbering.
As a result, the complete change in genre is the single biggest change that the Dynasty Warriors series has ever seen. With that said, while the Dynasty Warriors series is notorious for making minimal changes from game to game, said reputation is not wholly fair. Furthermore, the sheer number of games has resulted in a lot of cumulative changes, meaning that the earlier Dynasty Warriors games are very different from their more recent counterparts.
There are two Dynasty Warriors games that have seen significant changes to their formula. One would be Dynasty Warriors 6, which boasted even more freedom in the 3D environments at the cost of increased repetitiveness for the characters’ movesets. The other would be Dynasty Warriors 9, which saw radical changes throughout its systems, as shown by its incorporation of stealth elements as well as fishing mechanics. Both games have received a fair amount of criticism, which is the reason that the series returned to the normal state of things following 6 and will presumably return to the normal state of things once more following 9.
As for the other Dynasty Warriors games, they have seen their own changes. For example, there has been a massive expansion on the number of playable characters as well as the number of playable stages, which is the result of a very gradual process. The most notable change in this regard would be the addition of the Jin faction, which was the dynasty that reunified the Three Kingdoms in real life but tends to be overshadowed because it didn’t come into existence until very late in the process. However, it should also be noted that there have been significant differences in how the games have presented the same story again and again, with some using different perspectives and others using different degrees of divergence from both the historical facts and the historical fiction.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the Dynasty Warriors series has been so successful that it has inspired an entire sub-genre patterned upon it. Some of these games are made by other companies, but it is interesting to note that Koei Tecmo has made a wide range of such games both on its own and in collaboration with other companies. For example, the Samurai Warriors series is based on the Sengoku period of Japan. Likewise, Koei Tecmo has teamed up with Nintendo to make both Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem Warriors, which are based on The Legend of Zelda and Fire Emblem respectively. On top of this, it should be noted that the Dynasty Warriors series has had numerous spinoffs, including some that have resulted in their own subseries.
The Dynasty Warriors series might not win any prizes for innovation, but its reliable nature has enabled it to continue for more than two decades and counting. There might come a time when the Dynasty Warriors series will be retired, but for the time being, that possibility seems remote, particularly since Koei Tecmo has seen strong interest in keeping it invigorated.