This may sound strange, but Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce is the most evolved version of Dynasty Warriors since the series started. You still push through waves, smaller waves this is a PSP game, of mindless troops. However, Koei tried to make Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce more like a stylish action game. Characters move faster, have evasion tricks like air dashes, and if you find the right raw materials extra abilities like a double jump. Collect the right equipment and you can air dash into enemy bases like a comic book superhero. Kind of makes walls and destructive doors useless. To mesh with the new moves Koei added some platforming elements. One level has poisonous bogs you need to sidestep and floating platforms to hop on. For the first time ever in a Dynasty Warriors game (excluding the PsOne fighting game domestically renamed Dynasty Warriors) I did more than mash the attack button!
I started Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce with Xiahou Dun who has two weapons: a powerful staff and a swift sword. Press circle and you can switch weapons on the fly. Similar to Monster Hunter your adventure begins in a town, which acts as a base. The townsfolk are happy to craft items like elemental gauntlets, but you need to hunt for materials first. Your run of the mill solider frequently drops goodies like ore which are represented by shimmering blue crystals. I only had money at the beginning so the items I could purchase were limited to like health recovering meat buns and elemental bombs.
I ordered one meat bun to go and headed to the notice board to get a mission. Dying doesn’t always mean game over in Strikeforce. You’re allowed to die three times in the first mission before having to restart it. You wont need that many lives, but you have them anyway. In my first mission I crushed some bandits, earned some cash, and brought supplies back to the base. Finishing the stage netted extra gold for Xiahou plus a handful of materials drops. Since materials were limited I had to choose what to buy. Should I get an augment to increase his stats? Or a character ability item? I opted for gear that gave Xiahou a double jump and as a fashionable bonus made his foot glow. You have four equipment slots to use, two hands and two feet. Some items are only for your hands and others for your feet.
The item that dons elemental attributes for your musou attack takes up both arm slots. Equip one of these to dish out water, fire, or electricity damage when you use a musou move. When the musou bar fills up you don’t use your ultimate attack right away. You go through a Dragon Ball Z style transformation first. Xiahou’s awakening form turns his skin turns blue, his hair white, and one of his eyes glows. It’s a tad over the the top, but mild compared to the other transformations. Just look at Xu Zhu. He’s like the genie from Aladdin.
The musou attack used to be a crowd control move, but I haven’t found myself swamped with soldiers. Spiked tanks, flying mages, and lion statues that shoot lasers are greater threats than the brainless troops. The most challenging part (and I use the word challenge loosely) about Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce isn’t numbers it’s waves of unseen bullets. Stoic artillery cannons fire wind bursts and floating eyeballs shoot stun beams. You may not see them while air dashing through an area, but they can still hit you. One battle takes it a step further with three mages raining energy blasts while the ground erupts with waves of lightning. Unfortunately, a full musou meter can’t protect your from projectiles shot from off screen attackers.
Back to the grind. Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce is a grinding game. You’re supposed to replay missions to stock materials, gain gold, and to build your character into a killing machine. Except you start the game as a one man army…. anyway! Unlike Phantasy Star Portable and Monster Hunter there isn’t rare loot to fight over. Materials are common and there isn’t a way to tell what you get until after you pick it up. Also, Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce is a brawler, it’s Koei’s first grind it up beat ’em up.
Food for thought:
1.) Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce has tons of characters available from the beginning. Before settling into one you might want to try a few first since items and gold don’t carry over even between the same factions. If you want to start a new character you have to do it from scratch.
2.) I would like to see the future Dynasty Warriors games on consoles as fast as Strikeforce. It’s hard to believe that Koei created a more action packed and fluid fighting game on the PSP than the PlayStation 3.
3.) I haven’t played Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce the way it was meant to be played — huddled in a McDonalds with three friends. I wonder how many people outside of Asia will get the full experience and play Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce with a group without Ad Hoc Party.