There are some franchises that get to a point where either abandonment or innovation is required, and we believe Dynasty Warriors reached that point quite some time ago. We’ve seen far too many carbon copies over the past few years, and despite trying for something new with Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, most fans are still looking for the next big step. Well, perhaps we’ll get it with Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce for the PSP, as new details and information have come to light, and they indicate a definite upgrade and revamping. It’s a little surprising that Omega Force would issue this fresh entry on the handheld and not the PlayStation 3, but here’s hoping that if they make another DW for consoles, it’ll take a cue from Strikeforce. Sure, they’ll keep the same foundation – a third-person action, hack ‘n slash format – but there appear to be a variety of appealing changes that may resurrect your faith in the repetitive franchise. And hey, maybe the North American gamers will even enjoy it!
First of all, even though we’re focusing on the differences, we’ll start by saying that several familiar faces will be returning. If you’ve played some DW installments in the past, you’ll probably remember names like Lu Bu and Zhao Yun, but this time, the restrictions of previous entries are gone. For example, even though all the playable characters typically have a weapon of choice, you won’t be limited to that one weapon; Lu Bu and others can pick up any number of deadly blades throughout the course of your adventure. Tired of Zhao Yun’s spear? Fine, go find yourself a sword. Furthermore, you can switch to a secondary weapon at any given time during combat, which should help to refine and streamline the combat. It reminds us a little of being able to switch between our guns and sword on the fly in Devil May Cry, and this is exactly the kind of depth and fluidity that a new Dynasty Warriors needs. And if you think that’s where the enhancements end, think again.
How’s about taking to the air to unleash your superhuman fury from above? In Strikeforce, you’ll actually be able to hover in the midst of bone-crunching combos, which elevates the fighting to yet another level (forgive the pun). Combine this with the diverse weapon selection and the ability to switch between two weapons at any given time, and we’re suddenly very intrigued. Our only question is: how will this translate to the PSP button setup? Omega Force had better not make the mistake of poorly mapping these multiple commands so it injures our fingers; we’re going to need a deep and accessible control scheme, and sometimes, that can be difficult to come by on a handheld. We’ll just hope it comes out okay, and for the time being, we’re satisfied with the news that this combat ought to be fresh and fun. The level design is going to be different, too, which is yet another breath of fresh air, especially when we remember the flat, open, and mostly drab landscapes in previous Dynasty Warriors iterations. According to a recent hands-on session conducted by IGN, we can expect “interesting, multi-tiered levels,” and that’s another big bonus. After all, how many times can we run through the same uninspired and lackluster levels?
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the disappearance of the Musou gauge, which typically fueled a character’s special attacks. This time, you’ll get a Fury gauge, and it’s only similar to the Musou feature in that you have to fill the gauge in order to become a more devastating instrument of death. But rather than simply unleashing new combos, a full Fury gauge will let you transform into an altered state, which instantly boosts the character’s inherent statistics and let you wreak havoc for a brief span of time. All of this is great news, but to top it all off, the PSP’s Ad-Hoc option gives you a chance to play with up to three other players, and DW has always benefited from riveting multiplayer action. As you progress through the missions with a few friends, you will have to work together in order to lessen the strain; if a group of archers has you pinned down, you can have one buddy attempt to swing around and flank them. Other times, it may be a good idea to stick together and concentrate your combined fury (or, Fury) on a particularly difficult foe.
Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce is scheduled to hit store shelves in North America on March 24, which could be excellent timing. It drops after the Killzone 2 and Resident Evil 5 mania (even though it comes close to RE5’s March 13 launch date), which means you may want a solid handheld title after indulging in other next-gen greatness. And remember, as far as we can see, this isn’t necessarily “just another DW.” There may be enough here to entice a lot of action fans, even if they’ve long since lost interest in the more Japanese-oriented series. We suggest giving it a chance.
1/19/2009 Ben Dutka