Fans of the Dynasty Warriors game franchise have felt the series hit a low mark from 2018’s Dynasty Warriors 9. And while Dynasty Warriors 10 is on the horizon, there is very little information on that upcoming game.
However, there is now something to tide over gamers' cravings for some Dynasty Warriors action, especially for the North American and Western regions market. Netflix is releasing the recent Dynasty Warriors film for the streaming service. Will the film fare better than its initial theatrical release? We look at the details.
Return to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Dynasty Warriors is a long-running video game franchise developed and produced by Koei (now Koei Tecmo). The series is a massive battle and hack-and-slash style action game. But it did not start that way.
The story and the setting borrows heavily from the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China (220 to 280 AD). Collectively known as the epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, this is set in the era of the warring Wei, Shu, and Wu factions vying for control of the empire, in the hopes of uniting the land under one ruler. As expected in such situations, armies clashed and political intrigue abound. Heroes from all sides of the conflict emerged, many of which have been elevated to legendary or even god-like status.
The first games produced by Koei to derive from these stories and settings were the appropriately titled Romance of the Three Kingdoms games, with the first game released in 1985. Also known as Sangokushi, these are turn-based tactical and empire management strategy games. Koei’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms has had multiple installments since then, with the most recent being Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV last 2020, released for the Nintendo Switch, Sony Playstation 4, and Windows PC.
However, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games were not exactly mainstream. Although often a critical and moderately commercial success, Koei wanted the brand to reach a wider audience. Their first attempt was Dynasty Warriors (1997) which was a one vs. one fighting game for the Sony Playstation 1/PSX. It was more like Namco’s Soul Calibur or SNK’s Samurai Showdown series of weapon-based martial arts fighting games.
But it was with Dynasty Warriors 2 for the Playstation 2 that the spinoff really found its stride. From this point on, the game series would follow a battlefield crowd-combat design, with the playable heroes going up against numerous enemies. Due to its huge success, the game was immediately followed up in 2001 with Dynasty Warriors 3. Its most recent release was Dynasty Warriors 9 last 2018. The game has also spawned imitators such as Fist of the North Star, Samurai Warriors, and even Hyrule Warriors (based on Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda franchise).
In 2016, it was announced that a live action film would be developed based on the Dynasty Warriors video game. Although films about the Romance of the Three Kingdoms have been developed and produced before, this would be the first time that the style and story from Koei’s Dynasty Warriors would be the focal point.
The film would be produced by Suzuki Akihiro and the Hong Kong-based company HMV Digital China. The movie was cast and filmed in 2017, shot on location in mainland China and New Zealand. After wrapping up filming in late 2017, editing and post production ran for over a year. The Dynasty Warriors film had an initial projected theatrical release of around 2019. However, due to delays and the effects of the global pandemic, the film was pushed back further.
Dynasty Warriors was released on April 2021 in Hong Kong and China. The film received mixed results, both critically and commercially. The response is apparently due to not meeting the expectations of different audiences. There are those who were not aware that the film is based on the video game and balked at the fantastical elements. Meanwhile, the audience that were aware of the video game adaptation did not expect that the film would be more story and character-driven, citing the lack of action set pieces.
New Life on Netflix?
After only a couple of months from its theatrical release, Dynasty Warriors has been added to the upcoming Netflix line up of films. In relation to this, Netflix released a new trailer with the following description:
Based on Koei Tecmo's namesake game. The Yellow Turban Rebellion breaks out in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. With the help of his trusted right-hand men Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, militia leader Liu Pei successfully suppresses the revolt. The calculating warlord Dong Zhuo takes advantage of the situation and takes control of the court, stirring further unrest.
This Netflix release will be the first time the film will be available to the Western audience. Although the film did not achieve its box office and critical goals in mainland China, could it appeal to the rest of the world? That seems to be the Netflix plan.
Dynasty Warriors is directed by Roy Chow Hin Yeung. The film stars Kai Wang as Cao Cao, Tony Yo-ning Yang as Liu Bei, Coulee Nazha as Diao Chan, Geng Han as Guan Yu, and Justing Cheung as Zhang Fei. Dynasty Warriors hits the Netflix streaming service on July 1, 2021.