Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce

Striking Out

Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce does indeed strike out, but not in the way you might think.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: May 2, 2009
Poor KOEI can't seem to catch a break. People constantly complain that the Dynasty Warriors franchise refuses to make serious strides, opting instead to make smallish iterations that somehow, inexplicably, even, continue to sell no matter what. When they do branch out a little, such as with the Gundam offshoot, guys like me end up ragging on the sequel for not improving. Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce is an improvement, though. It is -- at least in the grand scheme of the Warriors franchise -- enough of a departure to be considered a proper derivation of the norm.


That doesn’t mean it's a radical departure, though. In actual practice, much of what makes Dynasty Warriors... well, Dynasty Warriors is still here. You'll still button mash, but do it in smaller areas and in set missions rather than having grand, open arenas. Again, not terribly different from the Dynasty Warriors games on the PSP to begin with, but it's in the actual execution of those missions and small, compartmentalized areas that Strikeforce feels markedly different.

Perhaps not in the areas themselves, but in the way they're delivered. See, for the first time, you actually operate from a hub village, one where both story-driven missions and side quests are doled out, where vendors sell goods, where items can be traded and where those vendors can actually be upgraded with cards that can themselves be leveled up, becoming stores of more powerful items. Character customization, a Rage system that allows for more advanced moves via full-on transformations (though the good ol' musou attacks are still around) and dual wielding of weapons with their own light/strong attack combos all help round out the freshy-freshy. Oh, and you can attack enemies in the air, glide and... okay, so this is a fairly different Dynasty Warriors experience.

To be more precise, it's a very Monster Hunter-like experience, but with the rampant success of that game in Japan and KOEI being a Japanese company that has enjoyed more than a few sales of their games across the Pacific, it makes sense that they'd try to ape the most successful PSP game out there. Doing so with some Infrastructure modes would have been nice, but Ad-Hoc will work (especially if the rumored US release of Ad-Hoc Party kicks into effect and KOEI made sure they were in on said Party), and the game is clearly designed to be a multiplayer experience.

In fact, without the partnership of a co-op buddy, the game alternates between being mindless and, frankly, rather boring and PSP-snappingly difficult. The normal amount of grinding and proper selection of beginning characters is as important as ever, but the difficulty spikes in the game can absolutely be enough to throw a brick wall into any momentum the game might have started in the absolute cake earlier levels. Constantly respawning enemies, interruptive projectile attacks from off-screen and the inherent control deficiencies of having the shoulder buttons handle (sometimes hilariously inaccurate) lock-ons and a dash means that there's a lot of Monster Hunter-style re-centering of the camera -- not something I'm particularly fond of.

I have to say, though, I am fond of this direction of things. Particularly in the town, the game looks downright pretty on the PSP screen, and while it quickly retreats to less detail in favor of fading-in enemies and cut-and-pasted level chunks, it's still a rather nice looking game overall. Ditto for the game's typical mix of lilting traditional instruments and constant-yet-inoffensive generic rock guitar, though the effects work isn't quite as nice as it could be -- particularly if you throw on a pair of headphones.

Still, whatever shortcomings the game's presentation might have, the allure of being able to play with friends and having a progressive hub world more than makes up for it. For me, this is more about the social experience, much like those Monster Hunter games Omega Force draw a whole hell of a lot of inspiration from. So long as you have a couple PSPs, a couple copies of the game and some friends (particularly those that have been bitten by the Monster Hunter and Dynasty Warriors bugs -- which may admittedly be asking a lot), there's a lot of fun to be had here. Just don't expect to enjoy it the same way you may have with Warriors games of the past. For me, that's a good thing.
The Verdict
7.5

It's primarily a multiplayer experience, but what's here is also just different enough to really stand out -- and better still to give the Warriors franchise a breath of fresh air.

8.0Graphics:

Though the little-ish levels aren't nearly as attractive as the hub town you'll end up spending plenty of time in, the game overall looks quite decent.

6.5Sound:

The typical Dynasty Warriors tunes are here in full force, but the rest of the game's audio is rather minimal and repetitive at best, and mildly annoying during extended stays.

8.0Control:

I would kill for a second analog stick, but the lack of one is handled... well, like the Monster Hunter games do (and previous PSP Warriors games have), which is to say a lot of re-centering.

7.5Gameplay:

It's still Dynasty Warriors, just... different. And in this case, different is good. Transformations, air combat (however weak it might be), tag-team wireless play, a hub world... Yes, it's Monster Hunter by way of KOEI, but it works.