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Friday, May 9, 2014

Which characters should be added for Dynasty Warriors 9?:

Dynasty Warriors 8 is out in its complete edition for PS4, and is firmly the best game on the system right now, and the best DW game ever.  However, DW8 is not perfect.  It still lacks a few segments of history from the books, which have been largely neglected, and it doesn't give proper credit to many great men who lived during the time.

DW9 could complete the franchise once and for all, if it added all the remaining historical segments and characters as yet unaddressed.

Shu:  Sun Qian, Wang Ping, Zhuge Zhan.

Wu:  Zhuge Jin, Zhuge Ke, Lu Kang, Cheng Pu, Sun Xiu.

Wei:  Xun Yu, Xun You, Cao Hong, Cao Jie, Cheng Yu, Cao Rui.

Jin:  Chen Tai, Sima Yan, Du Yu, Yang Hu, Xin Xianying.

Others:  Liu Biao, Hua Xiong, Hua Tuo, Yuan Shu.

In all, the game needs 23 more characters, 2 of whom are female and can be made appropriately nice eye candy to keep the game attractive.  The number of characters added from 7 to 8 is also around this number, so the franchise really only needs one more entry -- DW 9, 9 XL, 9 Empires, and the whole series can be done.

Who are these characters?  Why do they deserve entry?  Let me explain.

Sun Qian was an able diplomat for Shu who joined after his former lord, Tao Qian died and gave his province, including his officers, to Liu Bei.  He served with distinction, smoothing many diplomatic talks over and winning Liu Bei places of refuge and allies.  Since he can be added early to the game, he could also spice up Shu's early stages by offering players an alternative to the three brothers.

Wang Ping originally served Wei, but found his advice ignored and in frustration switched sides.  Yet again his advice was ignored by Ma Su, which led to the disaster of Zhuge's northern campaign.  Even so he rescued Ma Su and preserved Shu's army and lines so that they could retreat.  He went on to serve in many future battles with distinction.  I also like his acerbic disdain for incompetence which runs throughout his career.

Zhuge Zhan is Zhuge Liang's son and the last defender of Cheng Du.  He won his first battle against Deng Ai and fought to the death when his fortune ran out.  His son also fought to the death right after him.  As a tribute to their father's virtue, showcasing how noble even his children were in the service of Shu is an admirable way to wrap up the story of the kingdom's fall.

Zhuge Jin is Zhuge Liang's older brother.  He served as a great diplomat between Shu and Wu due to his familial connections.  He always stayed true to Wu and Sun Quan trusted him as a brother.  He was eventually given military command and served with distinction there as well.  He even rose up to the role of Prime Minister and again served ably until his natural death.  He was always known for his humanity and ability to soothe over differences, a truly moral soul and worthy to be Zhuge Liang's brother.

Zhuge Ke is Zhuge Jin's son.  He also served as Prime Minister when his father died.  Multiple times he defeated the much larger armies of Wei when ranged against him through superior stratagem, and through fierce dedication he laid siege to a city until he was too wounded to fight on.  Even so he urged his troops to fight on to the death, but they would not listen, and his fool of an Emperor ordered his execution though he had done absolutely nothing wrong simply because he was the better man.

Lu Kang is Lu Xun's son.  Lu Xun was Wu's finest general and Lu Kang carried on the family tradition well.  So long as he lived, Jin didn't dare invade Wu, but simply waited until he died of old age before invading, so great was his renown.

Cheng Pu served Sun Jian from the very beginning, as well as Sun Ce and Sun Quan after.  He fought in many battles and served in high positions, like vice admiral at Chi Bi.  He was the one who encouraged Sun Jian to aspire for his own Empire by stealing the imperial seal.

Sun Xiu was the last good emperor of Wu.  He fought his way out of oppressive rule by his own Prime Minister and freed the land so that good people could breathe easy again.  He honored Zhuge Ke who had been so unfairly executed by the previous Wu Emperor, and while he reigned the land was prosperous and peaceful.  Lu Kang and Sun Xiu would make good opponents for Jin's last campaign and conquest of Wu, even though both were actually dead by that time, for the purposes of the game having someone of worth to fight will make the conquest feel more meaningful as a stage.

Xun Yu, Xun You, and Cheng Yu were all important advisers to Cao Cao.  They were no less distinguished than Guo Jia, who is already in the game.  It's silly not to include them in too, then.  Xun Yu and Xun You advised Cao Cao from the very beginning of his story, only to be killed by Cao Cao when they objected to him supplanting Emperor Xian.  Their stand for principled loyalty to the Han is admirable.

Cao Hong is a general of Cao Cao that fought from the very beginning, all the way to Cao Pi's time.  He won many battles and duels and even saved Cao Cao's life from Ma Chao.  After this long career of service it's crazy not to include him.  Many generals are in the Wei lineup already who have done less.

Cao Rui is the last real Wei Emperor.  After him, no Wei ruler had any authority, but everything went according to how the Sima's wanted.  He listened to advice, trusted worthy ministers, and even went to battle himself when his empire was in peril from Wu's invasion.  For such a momentous role in history it's silly for his entire reign to be bypassed and his character to be virtually removed from the story.

Chen Tai was an able defender of the western regions of Wei's empire against the constant assaults by Zhuge Liang and Jiang Wei.  He fought in many battles and honored wisdom when he found it in the character of Deng Ai.  The two were great friends.

Sima Yan is the first Jin Emperor, who oversaw the conquest of Wu.  He ignored the cowardly advice of his ministers who said taking Wu was impossible and urged retreat over and over even in the midst of the campaign.  As a result he was awarded with victory and a united China.  He also appointed talented men to undertake the campaign who delivered the goods -- Yang Hu and Du Yu.  No one left in Wu could stand against them.

Du Yu conquered Wu, winning battle after battle and overthrowing all their strategies with ease.  For such a signal achievement, it's madness for him to be left out.  Deng Ai and Zhong Hui are already in and they had to work together to beat Shu, a nation 1/3 as populous and with a smaller army than Wu had.

Yang Hu was courteous and disciplined against Lu Kang, and nominated Du Yu to be his successor.  His wisdom was made obvious by Du Yu's victory.  Though he only guarded a border during his time, it's clear his character was brilliantly polished.

Liu Biao was a powerful warlord from the very beginning of the story.  He gave battle to Sun Jian, Sun Ce, and Cao Cao, beating all of them when they encroached upon his lands.  He welcomed Liu Bei into his land, even though it would mean making Cao Cao his enemy, out of respect for his virtue and filial piety.  He even offered Liu Bei his land after he died, which Liu Bei took him up on.  Liu Biao is at the center of the story and his actions, as much as anyone's, determined the fate of the Three Kingdoms.

 Hua Xiong was a brave warrior on level with Lu Bu.  He won duel after duel and only Guan Yu managed to put a stop to him.  For such an imposing character of great fame and ability to be represented by a lowly npc model just doesn't work.

Hua Tuo was the greatest doctor of the age.  He treated Zhou Tai and cured him of seventeen wounds received while protecting Sun Quan.  He cured Guan Yu of a poison arrow.  He was willing to cure Cao Cao's headaches as well with brain surgery, but Cao Cao didn't trust him and put him to death instead.  His amazing healing powers, having interacted with all three kingdoms, makes for an interesting tale and his character could have an interesting fighting mechanic based around his miraculous healing powers.  It also shows what a villain Cao Cao was at heart to kill even those freely offering to help him.

Yuan Shu was an enormous actor on the stage at the beginning of the story.  He interacts with practically everyone -- Cao Cao, Sun Jian, Liu Bei, Sun Ce, Yuan Shao, Lu Bu, etc.  It's silly not to include such a pivotal piece on the playing board.  He was also the first to declare himself Emperor and set aside the Han, a portent of things to come.

These people fought well, showed their unique character through various words and deeds, and have deep relationships to the already established cast.  These relationships make their characters interesting and fun to learn about.  Because everyone here is related to the characters we already like, we're well disposed towards them before we even meet them.  Dialogue between characters and cut scenes involving them all become easy and flow well.

Though there are many more generals who fought and even won battles, they never presented themselves as unique individuals worthy of notice, nor did they get into a meaningful relationship with the pre-established cast.  They would just wander out in no-man's land even if they were introduced, which is no good from a storytelling perspective.  One additional game's worth of characters is all that is needed to fully flesh out this story.  As for additional stages, they need to include Du Yu's conquest of Wu, Zhu Ran's victory against Wei after the battle of Yi Ling, Zhuge Ke's victories against Wei, and more of the battles between Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi/Cao Zhen in his northern campaigns, which were simply full of brilliance.  Liu Bei's defeat of Yuan Shu is useful, as is Cao Cao's victory over Yuan Shao's sons.  Cao Rui's defeat of Wu's invasion is also necessary.  With just a half dozen or so more stages, the story of the 3 Kingdoms could be told in full.

There is enough new content in Dynasty Warriors for one more game, after which everyone and everything of importance will have been covered.  It will also be DW's chance to shine with the new improved hardware available on the PS4.  I urge Koei to make one more game, following all of my suggestions, and provide a capstone to this wonderful franchise, based off of the all time classic book, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which I've now read in full in order to understand and enjoy the franchise more completely.

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