You might argue that a video game has to be historically accurate before it is called a history game. What is the point of playing a history game if it has misleading facts and exaggerated stories?
However, we need to understand that when other sources inspire games, they tend to version it. To achieve drama and ensure entertainment, the creators will change the narrative to sensationalize it.
Dynasty Warriors, created by Omega Force and Koei, is a Japanese hack and slash video game. Before we decide how historically accurate the game is, let’s go through its chain of inspiration. The longer the chain, the more likelihood of changes occurring in the transition.
Chain of Inspiration
This phenomenal hack-and-slash game series was prompted by Toei’s previous turn-based strategy game “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” The strategy game takes its title from the same-named classic novel by Luo Guanzhong, which is one of traditional Chinese literature’s four great masterpieces.
Surprisingly the chain does not end here. That story is inspired by the late Han-era historian Chen Shou’s Chinese historical document “Records of the Three Kingdoms.”
As a result, despite the powerful epic aspects, the basis of the narrative is firmly grounded in reality. The names used are also kept from the historical document. However, it’s fair that the creator took full advantage of his creative freedom to make the game more attractive to a broader audience.
The central concept of the series was that it let the player be a “one-man army” against the thousands of opponents in ancient China. Even though academics agreed that battles between the two generals were exceedingly rare, Koei included exaggerated actions.
It recreated legendary battles that you may have read about and allows you to feel what it was like to be the greatest warrior of the day. It was undoubtedly uncommon at the time; even now, action games generally only have a few rivals to battle at a time.
With simple commands, players could do superhuman actions comparable to those performed by heroes from ancient myths. Dynasty Warriors does an excellent job at it by allowing you to put yourself in the position of legendary fighters and experience their epic triumphs.
You never again have to listen to or watch the account of Zhao Yun battling through the hordes of Cao Cao’s army; you may now fight the armies yourself and emerge victoriously.
Characters are an essential part of any narrative. The authenticity of the story depends on how realistically the people involved were portrayed. Despite being based on historical figures, the Dynasty Warriors game series is infamous for altering how specific historical figures were shown in Romance of the Three Kingdoms or ancient texts.
Zhang He was not the tall, egotistical guy shown in Dynasty Warriors. However, because he lacked other distinguishing characteristics, such as Xu Huang’s ax, Koei transformed him into a crazy character, entirely unlike the actual person. However, while new characters were continually being added to the roster, such characterization made various characters stand out.
Some protagonists, such as Zhuge Liang, Sima Yi, and Zuo Ci, have the power to wield magic in their assault, which adds a touch of mystique to the plot. Young women who did not engage in any conflicts in the text or reality (excluding Zhurong and Wang Yi) are presented as dangerously strong females with outstanding combat skills and weaponry.
Take another example, Lu Bü: Koei depicts him as the most powerful fighter of all, a frightening and powerful figure whom everyone fears. As per the source, he was a cunning man who lacked dignity and made several disastrous political and military decisions. As far as I recall, there is no talk of him being a great fighter anywhere; in fact, he is shown as more of a foolish person. That’s quite a change.
That’s essentially what they do with the majority of the characters. Most of them are only shortly described or not at all in Three Kingdoms. So Koei gives them a unique attitude and unexpected cool features. Understandably so, it’d be pretty dull if everyone looked and acted the same.
The video game may be derived from historical text, but it is nevertheless a videogame. To gain audience and popularity, it needs to have strong, bold characters with personalities users enjoy.
The Dynasty Warrior is a perfect game for children to learn about Chinese history. It allows them to think critically about why historical events developed the way they did and even consider alternate endings. This will encourage them more to read and research about history in ways textbook teaching will not be able to.
One thing to keep in mind regarding Koei’s historical simulation is that they don’t claim to be completely accurate. The purpose of the game is to instigate historical interest. To learn more about the real history behind Dynasty Warriors parents can help children read the following:
- Chinese Dynasties for Kids by Keith Goodman
- Ancient History for Kids: Emperors of China by Left Brain Kids.