Dynasty Warriors 4
+++ Nanman Campaign is the best level in the series
++ Moderately Difficult
++ Adds Storyline mode for "Other" characters
++ Adds informative encyclopedia which tells you a bit about ROTK
+ Decent graphics upgrade
+ Surprisingly good voice acting
+ Xia Kou and Tong Gate are both solid
-- Adds only a few new characters
-- Very little difference in equipment management from DW3
- Streamlined storyline mode makes game even more repetitive
- Duels with "powered up" opponents and Lu Bu are nigh impossible
This game actually sold very well, getting Greatest Hits in the United States and a variety of positive reviews. Either Koei bought the extra reviews or for some odd reason random reviewers liked the streamlined gameplay. This game does feel a tad more polished than previous editions and has pretty decent voices but almost every character from a particular faction will take essentially the same route through the game. Another yet to be reviewed game in this set had much higher production values and still wound up with a lower score than this. After DW4 critics soured presumably because Koei stopped funding them and while the game is essentially the same design over and over I think the games should universally have similar scores, whether they be poor or positive.
Duels are the main difference between this game and the rest of the series. Whenever you stroll up to a named officer (and sometimes random guys) you'll be prompted with the option to duel, which once you get the hang of it is a pretty good idea. You fight him in a miraculously appearing arena that takes about 1 second to walk all the way across and it is pretty fair for most opponents. If you die you're dead if he dies he's dead and your side gets a morale boost. However if you don't accept the duel at all you lose morale.
While this seems simple enough once you run into Lu Bu at Hu Lao gate and he laughs at your pathetic nature you may not feel so wonderful. Lu Bu and other super powered opponents (though only in specific levels, Guan Yu at Guan Du, Gan Ning at Xia Kou etc.) will kill you in 3 hits while you can't do more than a tiny sliver of their health per hit. While I guess it is possible to actually drain their health bar to 0 it would take somewhere around 50 tries. However, you can win the duel by just hitting them a few times and running away the rest of the way (most of the time this will still fail miserably) and waiting for the time to run out and get a positive morale boost as a result, though the general will still be there when you leave the dueling arena for a normal fight. While a moderate, even double damage boost to Lu Bu's output and slightly reduced damage incoming may be in order making them completely impossible pretty much killed dueling for the rest of the series.
Final Score: 7/10
Dynasty Warriors 4: Xtreme Legends
++ Some of the "Legend Mode" areas feel completely unique
+ Makes largely irrelevant characters from the main game feel more important
+ Xtreme mode is an entertaining diversion for about 5-10 hours
+ Adds Chaos Mode (Super Hard difficulty) to the main game
-- Really stupid title
-- Adds no new characters
-- Essentially the same game for 30 more bucks with little to add except a cheap import feature
-- Adds few new items and no new weapons
Ah here we are at our first "expansion" review of the DW series. As I've said before these are, with one exception, all cheap corporate cash-ins that add essentially nothing to the game and force you to have both games to access all the content on one disc. While the very first time you get around to playing the two modes is fairly entertaining eventually you realize how tedious most of the Legend modes are and how brainlessly repetitive Xtreme mode is. This is DW with no new content whatsoever and just a bunch of bland crap to power through. While I don't really think this is a horrible game by itself it isn't functionally interesting in any way either.
Final Score: 4.5/10