It's a fact that ninety-five percent of the gaming population blow off the Dynasty Warrior games as "the same thing over and over." The ironic part about these statements are that the very same people who lament DW games are the same ones who buy FPS after FPS, or every annual installment of Madden NFL. At the core of our hobby is one simple truth: gamers only want the same crap they've been playing with a new coat of paint. Similar to how EA Tiburon iterates year after year, slowly refining the concepts of Madden by adding new features while improving what was already there, the team at KOEI's Omega Force works on each Dynasty Warriors game with equal care. To the average gamer, the nuances are lost, but to the fans, each title is a completely different experience while still being in the same vein.
Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce is the latest title to be released in the series, and this time it is exclusive to the PSP. To the casual viewer, it looks to simply be a rehash of all the other games but in reality, it features quite possibly some of the biggest changes to hit the core series in a few years. The first thing you'll notice is that instead of just picking a chapter or a level, you start in a city where you can talk to various shop keepers and people (I'll get back to this later), as well as access side missions and story line quests. It feels like Omega Force took a few ideas from Monster Hunter, and it's for the best. Once you start the quests and begin killin' dudes, you'll notice that most of them now drop items that you can collect to beef up your character. By far the biggest change is that your character can fly.
Yeah, you read that right. Your character can fly around...sorta. The team at Omega Force realized that the Dynasty Warrior games were already over-the-top in pretty much every way possible, so they rolled with it. Just like the previous games, you have both a health bar and a special bar, but this time when the special bar's full and you activate it, you turn into some sort of super hero straight out of Dragon Ball Z; you get new clothes, your character glows, and yes, your hair grows and turns blonde. While in your Super Saiyan mode, you can dash in the air for an extended period of time.
What's that you say? What good is flying if you've all the enemies are on the ground? Funny you should ask, because now some of the enemies can fly as well. Not all of them, mind you. It'd be awfully silly if knights and archers flew, wouldn't it? Boss characters and mages seem to litter the skies, waiting for you to take them down. With the new gravity-defying focus on movement, Omega Force has done a very smart thing and made levels take advantage of the changes. Stage exploration is now much more vertical and platform-y than ever before, and there are even multi-level boss fights.
All in all, the changes added to Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce were great enough to pull me in and keep me entertained for a lot longer than I was anticipating. Even though the game can get retardedly difficult, the core mechanics kept me interested enough to try it again when I'd lose, and there's enough customization in terms of equipment that by simply changing my weapon I'd have to change my complete battle style. As a Dynasty Warriors fan who's been disappointed in the past few outings (Dynasty Warriors 6 and Warriors Orochi 2, specifically), it's good to see that KOEI and Omega Force still have good ideas.
Reviewers Note: Unfortunately, I was unable to try out the multiplayer functionality, which is one of the big things that KOEI has been focusing on in the marketing for Strikeforce. With that in mind, this review is for the single player only, but know that the multiplayer mode allows for up to 4 players to tackle missions together.
ESRB:T for Teen