Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce PSP Review

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The PSP’s biggest success to date is Capcom’s excellent Monster Hunter games, which are absolutely huge in Japan and currently being groomed to do the same thing here in the coming year. Koei, it seems, has been taking note of this in their latest Dynasty Warriors title for Sony’s handheld. Combining the huge scale, epic battles of their flagship series with the mission-based RPG collectathon that is Monster Hunter is a strange idea, but, as it turns out, a brilliant one nonetheless.

Stale isn’t exactly the word to describe the Dynasty Warriors series, as it insinuates that it is a dead, lifeless bunch of games. Far from it – they’re too much fun to be classed as “stale” – but they’ve certainly lacked a creative spark as of recent. As awesome as it is to rend literally thousands of enemies before Lu Bu shows up and kicks you squarely in the three kingdoms, fans of the series have been doing that for quite a few games now. They’ve always been the absolute definition of mindless fun, but Strikeforce brings an element of compulsiveness to the proceedings. What we have here is a very, very dangerous beast indeed.

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Initially, things seem business as usual. The usual presentation – from menus to the ridiculous guitar solos of the soundtrack – and the usual line up of characters to choose from. Jump into battle and you’ve got your usual combination of light and heavy attacks to dispatch the usual hordes of enemies. So far, so Dynasty Warriors. You can lock on with the L button and using the R button allows you to dash along the ground or through the air “Crouching Tiger” style and a move half-inched from Koei’s Gundam spin-off.

The new features in Strikeforce are the ability to carry two weapons at once, switching between them whenever the situation arises, and the new “Powered Up” form. Filling your “musou” bar in normal Dynasty Warriors games lets you unleash a devastating area attack, but here does something a little more spectacular. Using it transforms your character into an over the top, glowing version of themselves, letting you use extremely powerful strikes and, in the case of some characters, throw fireballs around. It isn’t something you’ll find written in Romance of the Three Kingdoms – it’s certainly more “Toriyama” than “Guanzhong” – it does add to the over the top nature of the series.

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Another new feature is the village hub that you find yourself in between missions. Lifted wholesale from Monster Hunter, it is home to a bunch of shops that let you micromanage aspects of your character – such as chi abilities, allowing you to be stronger, faster and even take FLIGHT, upgrading and building weapons from resources gathered in battle and purchase obligatory items like health potions and the like. The village can be upgraded by acquiring officers who have various stats and winning battles, improving the quality of goods available to you. Everything here is kept fairly simple, but it is enough to add a bit of refreshing depth to the otherwise constant combat.

COMBAT – the very foundation that Dynasty Warriors has been built upon. A few risks have had to be taken with the tried and tested formula to make things more suitable for the PSP system, and for the most part, they’ve paid off. Rather than trying to shoehorn the expansive and time consuming battles of the home console games, Strikeforce has taken a more focused approach. Smaller arenas are a bit at odds with the gigantic fields of say, Dynasty Warriors 6, but each mission can be completed in a much shorter amount of time. It may lack the feeling you’re leading the charge in an epic, historical battle, but that’s not something you want to burden yourself with when you’re on a train, or the toilet.

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If you’re in a situation where you have a couple of friends to hand, and they happen to be in possession of a PSP and their own copy of Strikeforce – presumably when you are NOT on the toilet – the co-op mode is a definite highlight. Like almost every game ever made in the history of video games, tackling the missions with up to three other friends is excellent, and in this case clearly the main way the game was meant to be played.

The missions get very, very difficult in a hurry and seemingly lean towards multiple players dealing with the amount of enemies thrown at you, which is why it is a shame that Koei only included support for local Ad-Hoc multiplayer, forgoing any kind of online play. Getting several friends together with PSPs is hard enough, never mind relying on all of them to have a copy of Strikeforce. Third party tunnelling software aside, it isn’t the most convenient multiplayer experience in existence, but for those of you with the opportunity to try it, it’s well worth the effort.

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Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce is an excellent move for the series. By simplifying, no – by streamlining the huge battles into something more bite-sized, adding a depth and a Phantasy Star Online/Monster Hunter style structure to the hack and slash gameplay, but at no point taking away the things that make Dynasty Warriors so fun.

This is for all of you gamers and journalists who have found the series “dull”, “repetitive” or even “boring” in the past. It is for all of the fans who have wanted a new spin on their beloved series, without losing sight of why you’re a fan to begin with. It may not be the most original game ever made, but it has cribbed the best parts from its peers, and no one bollocks Quentin Tarantino for that. This is a step forward for Dynasty Warriors, in every way. A more focused, deeper and addictive Dynasty Warriors. Isn’t that what we’ve all always wanted?

8/10

by

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Version tested: PSP

Developer: Omega Force

Publisher: Koei

Genre: Hack and Slash

Players: 1-4