Sporting a name that's almost as ridiculous as its core gameplay, Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition consists of both Dynasty Warriors 8, which released on the PlayStation 3 last summer, and the Xtreme Legends expansion, which can also be purchased separately as a standalone title on Sony's ageing console. The latter typically adds in a few new characters, stages, alternate missions, and one or two new modes, and this latest edition is no different. Alone, the expansion would provide a decent amount of content, but when packaged together with the original release, you're looking at weeks, if not months of hacking and slashing action.
Last year, we happily declared that Dynasty Warriors 8 was the pinnacle of the series in our review, and fans will be glad to hear that it's made the jump to the PlayStation Vita quite well. Facing off against entire armies on the portable device allows for a home console-based experience while you're on the move or lying in bed. The game's capable of rendering an impressive amount of troops on the screen at once, and it's safe to say that anyone who's familiar with the series will feel right at home despite the smaller display.
Throwing so many soldiers into view takes its toll on the title's technical performance, however. Make no mistake, the release recreates the blistering action found in its PS3 counterpart to the best of its ability, but there are relatively rare occasions where the frame rate crashes into single digits, and grunts will pop in and out of existence when the game thinks that you're not looking. While these problems aren't game breaking, it's frustrating to see the performance take such a hit, especially when you're trying to weave together combos or fend off several enemy officers at once.
Thankfully, technical mishaps are where the bad news ends. If you've been hankering for some genocide on the go, then this is easily the best Dynasty Warriors title that you'll find on a handheld – mainly because it's a direct port, and doesn't attempt to do anything outside of what the franchise does best. It helps, of course, that the Xtreme Legends content complements the base release brilliantly, adding in five enjoyable new playable characters, a slew of stages filled with new objectives, and a high score-based challenge mode. It even goes as far as to flesh out the existing ambition mode to a ridiculous extent, providing the already addictive time-sink with an endgame of sorts where you'll be conquering other kingdoms for the glory of the Emperor.
For those unfamiliar with the series' eighth instalment, it featured four storylines within its main mode, one for each of the tale's titular kingdoms. Taking you from their inception to one of their most important final acts, each army is populated with colourful personalities who are in constant conflict with their neighbours, and each story is played out through a number of historic battles that are laced with cutscenes. Here, the fresh content comes in the form of various new stages that supplement the already huge stories, along with a totally new plot that follows popular brute Lu Bu's splinter faction. Some are 'what if' scenarios, similar to the theoretical routes that already exist within the story mode, while others detail the achievements of the expansion's five new warriors.
Regardless of their context, these additional stages are great fun to blitz through, and in some cases, feel more refined than the existing battles due to a number of design choices. For starters, these new maps tend to be even more flooded with opposition than usual, so there's never a dull moment as you wade through thousands of enemy grunts. And secondly, they're generally better paced – you likely won't find yourself trekking back across barren battlefields to complete an objective that's miles away from your current position. Instead, these additions see your chosen character tasked with pushing through the enemy ranks in a more linear fashion, which benefits the release's traditional focus on non-stop action.
Speaking of which, a few tweaks have been made to the fighting formula. Ex attacks – specific moves that are executed by using your chosen warrior's favourite weapon – now come in twos, as each character has been fitted with a second technique. Not only does this mean that the cast is even more diverse, but some of the attacks are so good that they single-handedly make a few of the less effective fighters well worth using. Subtle changes have also been made to the way that your opponents brawl as well, although they can ultimately make quite a difference. Annoying archers now draw swords when you close in, eliminating the awkward and often dangerous standoffs that used to occur, for example. You'll have to be even more tactical when taking on opposing officers, too, as much like you, they'll be able to switch their weapons in an attempt to equip something that your own instrument isn't very effective against. That said, targeting particular foes using the Vita's smaller analog sticks can take some getting used to, especially if you've put plenty of time into the previous PS3 edition.
To top it all off, everyone's favourite free mode has been overhauled to an extent, allowing you to take up to three bodyguards into combat, who can be helpful when tackling the tougher difficulties. Your progress in ambition mode also bleeds over, so that you can buy powerful weapons that you've unlocked by upgrading your blacksmith, and this further solidifies the feeling that everything you do in the game – whether you're grinding for levels or carrying out newly implemented battle-specific objectives – is entwined, and you're always advancing your overall completion rate.
Alas, if you're still questioning whether the core mechanics and systems of Dynasty Warriors 8 are for you, it may be worth checking out our original review, in which we detail the likes of weapon elements, switch attacks, and character-specific special moves.
If you've been eager to bloody your blade on the move, you can't go wrong with Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition. Its conquest of Sony's portable device hasn't been entirely smooth – with frame rate problems and poor visuals detracting from the experience – but the sheer amount of content on offer makes up for its technical shortcomings. Simply put, succumbing to the slash-'em-up's slaughter has never been easier.