Review: Do the hack & slash shuffle!
Capcom is known as a pioneer; a game company known for quality titles that innovate, raise the bar, and sometimes glamorize a genre that otherwise might as well be non-existent. Games like Mega Man, Street Fighter II, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and Viewtiful Joe demonstrate this. However, Devil Kings is not one of those games. Clearly influenced by Koei's uber-popular Dynasty Warriors, Devil Kings puts you in a familiar situation ? a one-man army against hordes of enemy troops standing in your way. It takes a slightly different approach than DW in certain aspects, but make no mistake, this is a prime example of aping a franchise, even if it's one that hasn't been ripped off too much. Fans of Dynasty Warriors likely will find this take on samurai-era warfare to be a little lacking in comparative depth, though it's core gameplay is pretty decent and sometimes pretty entertaining in the right circumstance. But make no mistake; Devil Kings isn't exactly the sort of game that demonstrates Capcom's clear abilities to make great videogames.
At the outset, Devil Kings lets you choose from 6 warriors, each with their own abilities and a storyline; story is a bit more important in DK compared to Dynasty Warriors, though it's nothing to really pay attention to. Of all the initial characters, Lady Butterfly is my favorite; you can't go wrong with a gun-toting geisha with an attitude. As a matter of fact, they should get her into Devil May Cry 4 seeing she plays in the same vein as Dante himself. Once you pick your character there's a handful of campaigns to tackle; some are defensive missions where you protect your area, others have you bashing through enemy lines to defeat their leader and take their fortress. The main difference between DK and DW is there's less strategic elements; unlike DW where you hop from place to place and take territories, DK puts you on the entire battlefield where you can take areas from the opposition on occasion, though it really doesn't make a difference. There's no fear of losing a battle because of supply losses, unless it's a defense mission, but you're always in place to defend rather than having to hightail it back to a territory. You also don't have to worry about secondary officers, and seeing most of the time you won't be able to rely on allies, it's probably a good idea.
With that in mind, Devil Kings is stripped down to the basics; taking out army after army of enemies as you press on to eliminate the ringleader, or attack any threats to your own territorial claim. Characters have a pair of attacks at the outset, in most cases there's a long-distance attack and a melee option. As you kill enemies you gain experience points, and every 50 kills someone drops a health orb to recharge HP. Every time you complete a scenario, your total experience is tallied up, and you gain a level if you did enough killing, and eventually you learn special moves as well as unique Fury abilities, and eventually you can chain some devastating combination moves for maximum damage. In reality, DK doesn't mess around much with needless extras; you just go out there and hack, slash, and sometimes fire upon your enemies like a true Commando. It's not particularly fancy, and sometimes can get really mindless unless there's a special objective.
The main difference between this and its closest competition (which is Dynasty Warriors and nothing else. At all) is how enemy troops are handled. In DW, when you took out a group of troops, the game let you know and it as such weakened the enemy. In Devil Kings, the enemies will constantly come at you, in massive numbers, unless you somehow figure out the magic trick to overtake an enemy territory and make them stop ? and even then the little bastards will pop up to retake their land. This is obviously put in place for one reason; they want you to progress through the mission without needlessly fighting enemies. Sure you need to get enough experience to level up and tackle more difficult Conquest missions, but you still have to press forward since enemies will constantly respawn, even if they'll just stand there until you get close, since they have nobody to fight most of the time.
Though there's lots of characters with unique talents and storylines, Devil Kings more direct approach to this sort of game creates a serious issue of repetition, especially since it approaches mindless territory quite often when you just get into a habit of mashing buttons against the faceless horde of baddies. It doesn't help that a lot of time the computer AI is mindless and you can carve through them without much effort. It's fun for a couple of scenarios, but it wears thin really quickly, which is saying a lot because Dynasty Warriors titles manage to mask the repetition by adding the strategic element. The more character-specific approach to the story is nice, putting a bit of personality behind the people you're fighting as, but it's irrelevant after a while; after all the main idea here is to hack the crap out of everything that opposes you, not following an epic plot. The 'devil' characteristics of the main players also adds a less authentic tone, seeing DW always tried to be accurate in history. There's nothing really wrong with Devil Kings from a core gameplay perspective, but it does nothing particularly thrilling to set it apart from other PS2 games.
Visually Devil Kings is somewhat plain; it's artistically strong but generally it doesn't push the PS2 hardware in pure beauty. What DK does have going for it is the absolutely massive amount of enemies on the screen at any given time. Sometimes they just pop up out of nowhere (mostly because DK doesn't use fog tricks or any of that sort of stuff to prevent pop-up), but when in a conflict, there can be seemingly hundreds of enemies against you. And never does the game slow down. To the casual watcher who just happens to see the action, they might stop to take in what's going on; it can be pretty impressive. One strange thing is sometimes the story cutscenes are in CG, while other times they are done anime-style. Unusual inconsistency. The audio features decent voice acting from the characters during cutscenes, and forgettable music. On the other hand the battles feature plenty of battle cries, orders barked, taunts from leaders, and the sounds of enemies being killed.