Transcending history and the world, a tale of souls and swords eternally retold. - Narrator from Soul Calibur III
Dynasty Warriors is a series that has been sacrificing ingenuity for a steady quality increase, adding up to over a decade of sequels that are merely old cakes with new frosting. It all started with Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a strategy series that dates back to the NES era. Using the tale they've told a thousand times, Koei fashioned the very first Dynasty Warriors for the PSX. As a weapons-based fighting game, it was able to stand amongst the more popular in the genre.
However, they unexpectedly deviated from the course they'd set and switched the second game's focus to a hack n' slashing beat 'em up. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as the new idea slightly raised the ratings they'd been receiving and, unbeknownst to both Koei and the general public, created a literal dynasty of DW games.
This has continued up until present day, where gamers still quell the Yellow Turban rebellion and fear for their lives whenever Lu Bu enters the fray. Koei had yet to give its fans something new, sating them with mere graphic updates. However, in April of 2009, warriors everywhere rejoiced. The new PSP game, Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce, cast off its shackles and delivered the gameplay that the main series had in a new and exciting way.
Strikeforce has finally come to home consoles and has bought with it everything that made the PSP version fun. Now, bottom line, you should already know if you like Dynasty Warriors. Almost everyone has played at least one in their lifetime. If you do find yourself thinking that you could use a bit more action in ancient China, then you don't want to pass this one up.
Aside from the normal hack n' slashing, you're given several options in killing your enemies. You can attack normally with your weapon, switch to a second armament you've brought with you into battle, or activate the new Fury mode and enter an ascension state that is unique for each character and drastically raises your attack power while modifying your appearance to that of a divine entity.
The objectives range from overtaking a fortress, defeating a certain number of enemies, felling a level boss, etc.
The big change now is that you're allowed to ring up to three friends along with you into battle. However, you're only able to connect over Live; there is no splitscreen or LAN play. If you cannot connect to Xbox Live or don't have any friends that wish to play with you, three AI players are chosen to accompany you. However, they're not as useless as you'd expect. Instead of running into walls and standing there whilst your ass is handed to you on a silver platter, they actually seem to fight and help you out of tight spots.
The signature smoothness of Dynasty Warriors' style is here and shows off with impressive effects and epic battles with little to no slow down. Aura effects fly from your character as if it were an episode of DBZ and the detail found in each character's costume is remarkably well done. It's certainly a step-up from the sixth installment, but can really only be appreciated when examined closely.
You move as if you were playing any other Dynasty Warriors game. Controlling the camera with the right stick can be annoying, seeing as you're almost always mashing away at the X button, but a quick tap of the left bumper can fix it in the direction you're facing.
A big part of the movement in this game is jumping and dashing. Your character can jump multiple times now, if they're equipped with the right orb, and is able to dash either on the ground or in mid-air. When done in mid-air, you're able to fly across the battlefield. Flying is a large part of this game, with some battles taking place entirely in the air (Wei Phoenix).
The maps themselves are bland and unimpressive, offering little variety and seldom a landmark or meaningful location. They've gotten an overhaul, as well. Instead of free-roaming a large, open expanse, players must navigate a set number of smaller areas with guidance from the mini-map.
My favorite part of this game is the boss battles. I'm not talking about a really powerful man. What I mean are the building sized creatures you're tasked in doing battle with. These monsters range from a trio of giant tigers, an aerial battle with a phoenix, to a large cat beast that protrudes from a wall. The beasts are usually accompanied by another fighter, often the leader of the nation. They can be extremely difficult to defeat when you're trying to focus on the colossus and really seem to distract you from your awe. It might've been better if you could fight the enemy, then the beast, but I don't make the games.
Shops and Customization
A new feature are the shops. There's a vendor that sells you meat buns and a plethora of items to aid you in your coming battles, a blacksmith that can forge weapons using materials you've picked up in the field, a chi master that allows you to learn new passive abilities, and an orb shop that can infuse your weapons with effects.
All in all, Strikeforce is a Dynasty Warriors game, at heart. It has all of the familiar characters you know and love, the repetitive beat 'em up style gameplay, and the same story you've heard a million times. It may not be for everyone, but it's easily mindless fun. It's a good game to play with friends, but I just can't shake the idea that it would be even more entertaining with LAN play, at least. It passes with addicting gameplay, a hardcore but forgettable soundtrack, and high replayability. If you've been looking for something to do to let off steam or just want to cure your boredom, Strikeforce won't disappoint.