Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition is the gaming equivalent of a B-movie. The writing is camp and clichéd, the story is forgettable, and characters have the depth of a child's shoe. And yet there's something shamefully attractive when it all comes together.
Let's face it - the much-revered Eastern hack 'n' slash franchise excels at one thing: combat. And with 30+ games under its belt, the formula for success hasn't changed: give players a selection of over-the-top weapons, and just let them smack enemies until their thumbs bleed.
If it ain't broke etc…
The Complete Edition boasts numerous features: Online play! Story mode! Free mode! Challenge mode! Encyclopaedia mode! But while all of these modes are nice enough, and do add value past the six-hour mark, there are really only two questions that need to be answered: "How's the combat?" and "What's this Ambition mode all about?"
Combat works simplistically on the basic principle of light and heavy attacks, either of which can be linked into one another to produce different combos of varying power, while the Circle button launches a spectacular special attack.
If there's one thing the Dynasty Warriors series knows how to do, it's fast-paced, fluid combat. Each weapon has been crafted with care to give just enough pull to feel both realistic and fantastical.
With smaller, quicker weapons, characters feel like they're moving faster, even though most weapons all move within the same speed parameters.
Playing as the over-sized Lu Bu brings enjoyment by the bucketload. Mowing down seas of weaker foes with his trusty halberd to get to the boss enemy, then hitting a combo which ends in driving said boss's head into the dirt, is exhilarating, and, dare I say it, never gets old.
Bro, do you even Lu Bu?
There's also a sense of hilarity to combat. Horses, for example, don't just jump like normal horses - they soar ten feet into the air. It's a ludicrous sight, but somehow seems fitting.
Likewise, companion army AI is so bad it's funny. While you're off massacring the weak or completing objectives, your fellow soldiers will just stand around and watch. If you look at them they'll quickly start to run around, as caught in the act.
It's rubbish that the AI is so bad, but at the same time it's hard not to laugh - and if it brings a smile to your face, can it really be so bad?
The other area worth exploring is Dynasty Warriors 8's excellent ambition mode, a makeshift hub where you can create a camp of sorts. Different missions yield different rewards, each of which can be used to level-up amenities (blacksmith, merchants, and so on), acquire new henchmen, or customise the appearance of the base.
AI pretends to be useful, but it's not
With a near endless supply of weapons and characters at your disposal, ambition mode adds a sense of worth beyond just battling for the sake of it, and serves as a mode allowing players to fully explore everything the game has to offer.
This all sounds well and good but there's one huge problem Dynasty Warriors 8 tries unsuccessfully to hide: it's a really sloppy port. You can tell by how hard text is to read and how hard to make out the map is that this is a game designed for the TV, not mobile.
The water textures are sublime...
Throw in massive drops in framerate when there's too much happening on-screen, textures that look like flat colour, and enemies that pop in and out of combat, and Dynasty Warriors 8 feels rushed. There's a brilliant game in there, but its brilliance pushes the Vita to breaking point.
I don't know what's happening in this screenshot
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition is the B Movie vision fans want: vicious combat with a dollop of cheesy dialogue and a serving of nonsense storytelling.
In parts, Dynasty Warriors 8 breaks the mould. In others, it just breaks. Will fans of the series care? Probably not, they'll be too busy smashing skulls with a variety of different weapons. Should they care? No.
When you buy a Dynasty Warriors game you know exactly what you're in for: a rampant bloody farrago. If you want something serious and immaculate, look elsewhere, but if you load up Dynasty Warriors 8 hoping for the video game medium's answer to Sharknado then you won't be disappointed.