I am darn pleased to be the owner of this handsome new Dynasty Warriors 5. I'm a longtime fan of this series, which delivers huge arcade-style battles in the context of the Three Kingdoms Era of ancient China (more here). However, they made a lot of missteps with Dynasty Warriors 4 which I hope get fixed in this new version. I shall list them now.
Large battlefields or the lack thereof. Dynasty Warriors 3 was famous for its enormous battlefields. Running across the field could take up to ten minutes even putting aside whether or not you had to fight past a couple of hundred enemy troops on the way, so distance actually became a strategic issue -- if you wanted to be in position for a particular event or to help a specific ally, you'd have to plan in advance to get there on time, and a horse to get around on became a vital military asset. DW4 shrank the battlefields dramatically, to the extent that those factors became meaningless. I have a rant all cued up about how modern games are just getting smaller and smaller and smaller to the extent that in 2008 we'll be battling enemies inside beautifully rendered closets and shoeboxes, but I'd better save it for now.
Bad voice acting and no way to avoid it. DW3 was also famous for its comically bad English dubbing, but you could (and should) simply choose Japanese voices in the config menu and think nothing more of it. DW4 had slightly better English VA and didn't allow you to switch to Japanese at all. Tsk tsk, Koei.
Kingdom mode. In DW3, each one of the 38 playable characters had his or her own storyline. Complete them all and you'd have seen the Three Kingdoms era through innumerable pairs of eyes and through every side of every battle. This was wonderful for replay value, and so of course they ditched it in favor of "Kingdom mode" in DW4 which had only three storylines, one for each of the three kingdoms. This was, um, not as good.
Weak allies. I've always been fond of games where, while your hero is perhaps the most important soldier on the battlefield and in fact is vital to ultimate victory, the rest of the army still has its purpose too. Both of you are needed to win. DW3 handled this very well through a morale system, where your allied generals and soldiers would gain morale when you won skirmishes and defeated enemy generals. Increase morale enough and the allied forces would cut down the enemy like wheat in front of a scythe. DW4, by contrast, weakened the allied forces dramatically, making them pretty much useless. Worse than useless, in fact, because the morale system can work for the enemy too -- enemy forces gain morale if your allies are losing, and then the enemies become tougher for you to beat personally. This demoralized me in real life.
Stronghold system. Friendly and enemy reinforcements in the Dynasty Warriors game flood in through stronghold gates located at the edges of the battlefield. You can close off enemy reinforcements by defeating the guards at the gate (and the enemy can do this to your reinforcements too, of course.) Closing off gates in DW3 was a viable strategic option -- you could limit the enemy to however many troops he actually had managed to move onto the field. But in DW4, closed gates would frequently reopen for scripted reasons, making this strategy pointless and forcing you to fight endless floods of enemies -- the Nanman Campaign was an especially nasty example of this.
Too much scripted stuff in general. Combine all these together, and often the only way to win a battle in DW4 was to follow a precise script, defeating enemies and completing events just as the designers demanded. In DW3, by contrast, many strategic elements were valid and there were multiple ways to win.
I haven't booted up DW5 yet. I will make sure to let you all know how it does on these points -- something I'm sure you are awaiting with breathless anticipation.