This review is for all the Dynasty Warriors-haters (which appear to be mostly people from the Western hemisphere). Dynasty Warriors 5 isn't all that different from part 4 which wasn't all the different from part 3. The 1980's guitar-riffing soundtrack is still present. The graphics, while improved from previous versions, still generally look dated. There are minor changes and tweaks to the modes and gameplay, but those aren't important.
The single most important and appealing element to the gameplay is the "sweet spot." The "sweet spot" is my way of describing how the gameplay just feels right. When slashing through and felling hundreds upon hundreds of soldiers, it's as though the controller sends pleasure impulses directly to my brain with every Musou combo delivered. Euphoria sweeps through my body with each successful victory. It's very difficult to rationalize and verbalize what makes the game so enthralling. I've tried other similar games like Kingdom Under Fire and try as they may, other games either don't feel right or don't feel as good. I keep coming back for more in Dynasty Warriors sequel after sequel.
What I find puzzling is how popular icon franchises like The Legend of Zelda and Grand Theft Auto also do very little to change their successful formula with each iteration, but the gaming populace doesn't seem to mind—both even garnered instant Hall-of-Fame status. With the Dynasty Warriors series, each part is met with more and more dissonance from the haters. It would appear to be a double standard due to cultural barriers.
It's interesting to note that the Dynasty Warriors series is huge in Japan. Despite a slumping videogame market, each part of the series continually sells massive numbers and always tops annual sales charts. In addition to mass adoration, the series also garners much praise from native critics and gets its share of awards for artistic merit. In essence, Dynasty Warriors gets the kind of love in Japan that Grand Theft Auto gets here in the United States.
In stark contrast, the haters belittle such a significant series with jokes about "Asian" men in funny-looking costumes with impossible to pronounce names and relentlessly bemoan the rehashing of the same storylines and the repetitious and mindless hack-n'-slash gameplay.
What the Japanese and fans of the series see and appreciate are the complex cast of historical demigod heroes that are worshipped for their loyalty, intelligence, courage and ambition. Derived from the epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms novels, Dynasty Warriors is a seemingly impossible translation of one of the most important and culturally influential literary works since the Bible into an instantly accessible action-oriented videogame. If only Shakespearean works could be made into a videogame this engaging, I might have actually paid attention in high school.
The popularity in Asia is not justification for the lack of change in the series, but a testament to how different the series is perceived in Japan and underappreciated it is here in this part of the world. I partly agree with where the haters are coming from. The critic in me tells me this series needs to innovate, but as a gamer I'm once again completely satisfied by the experience. Defying conventional wisdom, Dynasty Warriors is unique in that the gameplay achieves a near perfect harmonious balance and change would only upset that. Millions of devoted fans seem to agree that change and innovation isn't important. Count me as one of them.