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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By: KOEI
Developed By: Omega Force
Genre: Action
Players: 1-4 (Versus/Co-op)
Rated: T (Teen)
Release Date: February 16, 2010
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By: Anthony Cara

March 5, 2010 - What’s this? You say Koei has made another Dynasty Warriors game- shock and awe you must be deceiving me. This comes as a surprise shock to gamers worldwide right? YAWN!

Well if you thought Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce was just another Musou game (an abbreviation of the Japanese title that acts as a collective term for Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, etc.) - you are certainly in for a colossal surprise. DW Strikeforce is an exciting new spinoff that takes an old IP to new levels of online chaotic multiplayer with a great deal of interesting RPG elements and classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms inspired hack and slash combat.

Still, as is often the case with the Musuo games for every step they take forward, they take a few more back. Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce is essentially Dynasty Warriors with a massive injection of Monster Hunter and a great deal of Shonen Anime inspired cheese-ball battles. For all of its innovations, the game’s engine remains largely unchanged, and unfortunately in this case it appears painfully clear that the vintage Dynasty Warriors 2 style game play is not very well suited for Monster Hunter style action.

By now, fans of the Musuo games are already very familiar with the story, but I will give a highly truncated version here. The Dynasty Warriors story is a highly fictionalized version of the classic Luo Guanzong historical/fictional mythical/epic The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. At first, China is united under the Han Empire. There is a brief, unpleasant rebellion headed by some chaps with yellow scarves (or turbans depending on your translation) but ultimately brave warriors and brilliant tacticians from Wu, Shu, and Wei band together to stop the threat. Soon after, the Han falls and a new evil power steps in- this time it is Dong Zhuo and his invincible Warrior Lu Bu who threaten the land. Once again, everyone bands together and both are stopped. At this point, Dynasty Warriors takes great liberties in order to give everyone from each kingdom a decent, full length Story Mode. History is somewhat ignored as battles become more a “what if X and Y happened” rather than strictly following classic tale. The games have been surprisingly accurate as they strive to faithfully recreate certain key moments and facts (who was on whose side, who killed who, when and why did X happen, etc.).

Now, throw all of that out, insert a full cast of Dragon Ball Z characters, pointless crossover missions involving Ninja Gaiden characters, and crazy magical giant stone monsters and you will have a decent idea of what Strikeforce is all about. In this iteration of the DW series, rather than each and every warrior having a unique story, there is simply one basic story for each kingdom that plays out between chapters and is further expanded upon in a series of short missions.

The game play of DW Strikeforce has added so much on top of the simple Dynasty Warriors engine its easier to discuss the basic flow of the game from character selection to game completion! Like all Dynasty Warriors games, you begin by choosing your character- and vicariously, your kingdom. There isn’t too much pressure here, because you aren’t choosing someone you will be stuck with forever. Essentially, you are choosing who you will be first. As the game progresses you unlock other officers of your kingdom and can switch between them at any time. Once you have beaten enough chapters of your kingdom’s story you can even switch forces. Unfortunately, (and this is a huge step back from much earlier Dynasty Warriors games) you are unable to create your own warrior. This is rather disappointing since the online RPG hack n’ slash experience seems rather fitting for customizable characters. You are still able to customize your chosen warrior in various ways. While they are married to their primary weapon, their secondary weapon can become whatever you choose. Furthermore, as you unlock them you can choose different outfits as well as new “Chi” bonuses for your characters.

Chi appears on your warrior as colorful bracelets or anklets and they add various unique stats and abilities. They are obtained at the academy (far left, and likely the first NPC you will encounter). I strongly recommend your earliest Chi bonuses to be for movement effects since there are various areas you will be unable to reach without being able to jump high enough or float long enough. Many of the “General” Chi abilities have team effects that don’t really help much in single player mode, since your AI controlled team mates are already unstoppable, un-killable slashing machines. Musou abilities are strong, but all of the ones that I have seen take up two slots and severely limit your options.

While you are in town, you can also purchase orbs, create or improve weapons, buy supplies, store supplies or exchange common materials for more rare ones. Orbs have effects very similar to Chi but are actually attached to weapons rather than your character’s arms and legs. Both Orbs and Weapons can be created by combined very specific ingredients that can be obtained by killing enemies, breaking open crates, or completing certain quests. You are also given the option to trade online with other payers. The method for powering up weapons is slightly more interesting. You can choose whether to increase an ability or add a new one, and from there you are given point totals in certain elemental attributes- fire, water, wood, etc. Each material has its own numeric value and you can use whatever combination it takes to add up to at least that amount. In other words, to satisfy your fire requirements, you can add 4 long shards, 2 pieces of leather, or one bone crown. The idea is to get as close to the necessary total without wasting too many points or using too many hard to find materials. Before you leave town, you may also want to pick up some items. In this game you are allowed to carry 5 different items into battle (and ten of each). These come in handy as they can heal, charge fury, or apply a temporary stat bonus to your character. All that’s left now is to head to the request board.

The request board contains your filler missions. The man who stands to the right offers you the story progressing quests, but he only does so after you complete enough of the request board missions. Occasionally, a random NPC will appear and offer you more unique quests- ranging from the Nan Man campaign to crazy crossover shenanigans with Orochi and Ryu. The missions, both request and story, are considerably shorter than traditional Dynasty Warrior battles. Depending on how (or how well!) you played previous Musou games, a battle could last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour (unless of course you were maxed out in level and just headed straight for the commander!). It’s best to think of DW Strikeforce missions as micro battles. In a few short quests (ranging from 5-20 minutes at most) you accomplish as many objectives as you might in one lengthy traditional Musou battle. Oddly enough, the maps on these missions all have load screens between areas. Thankfully, with the game install option, these load times are next to nil, but since they are completely foreign to the Musou experience, they take some time to get used to.

If you have progressed far enough in the story (just a few battles) you will be able to put together you full AI “strike force.” You may select up to 3 previously unlocked officers to fight at your side. These officers will gain experience in battle without you having to control them so if you ever get bored of your current character, you can always switch to one of them and not have to worry about grinding to get caught up in levels. You are able to customize your allied officers in the same way you did your main character- and thankfully all items are shared so you don’t have to buy multiple copies of everything.

Finally, you are ready to go into battle. The game basically works like it always has. Square is your basic attack, triangle is a more powerful one, and circle is your super. In Strikeforce, however, things get a bit more complicated than that. By holding triangle, tapping it, or performing Street Fighter esque analogue stick+triangle combos, different special moves can be achieved. R1 acts as a speedy dash, and holding X allows your character to fly through the air (ugh!). Clicking in the right stick sets your target to a specific unit and flicking the right stick can switch focus or move the camera around. It is this last new control that proves most vexing but sadly necessary. As with most DW games, normal units are a breeze and it is the officers (and in this case giant monsters) that cause you the most heartache. Unfortunately, they cannot be dealt with in the normal strategic, hack and slash way. It becomes necessary to utilize the frustrating and poorly thrown together newly created game mechanics to tackle these foes.

The best example I can give is the first encounter with Lu Bu. Naturally, he has a giant stone monster with him which you must defeat. He is also flanked by Zhang Jiao and Diao Chan- both formidable opponents. You choose immediately to activate your special move with circle- but this isn’t the circle you are used to from the DW days…no…this is FURY TIME! For all intents and purposes, Fury is most easily described as “Super Saiyan” mode. Your character glows and becomes much more fast and powerful. Now what goes best with Super Saiyan mode? That’s right- fast and difficult to follow combat! Once you unleash your fury you will need to lock on to an opponent- which is no easy feat with the hopelessly dysfunctional targeting system- and then proceed to mash the jump, dash, and attack buttons as you follow your opponents into the sky and beat them senseless. As interesting as this is visually, from a gaming perspective it’s nothing more than a horrific mess complimented perfectly by sporadic camera movements and explosive blasts from a stone beast nearby. At any given time, you can choose to end your Fury immediately by pressing circle once more, unleashing a more standard Musou move that should be more familiar to fans.

For all of the amazing and innovative additions to the game, this combat system centered on insanity is the game’s only real flaw. It proves, if nothing else, that the classic Dynasty Warriors’ engine may need to be scrapped and a new one built from the ground up if they wish to continue the Strikeforce franchise. Having joined forces with Tecmo, they could try making their Monster Hunter style game with the Ninja Gaiden engine and slap some Three Kingdoms skins of the character models. Either way, trying to engage in frantic mid air fights with the current system makes as much sense as trying to make a platforming game with an MMORPG engine. One last note (and perhaps the most difficult complaint to articulate) is that ever since the Musou games made their way to the next generation (DW 6, DW Gundam, Strikeforce) something has seemed off about the game play. It seems like the controls aren’t quite as tight and the characters move about too quickly- perhaps this reviewer has spent too much time in the battle of Chi Bi and needs a Musou break, but I am not the only one who has noticed that Dynasty Warriors has not had the smoothest transition to the current generation.

As usual, the graphics are nothing too impressive. The game is filled with brilliant colors and some nice textures and lighting effects, but it is clearly not pushing the limits of the current generation. The music is the same hard rockin’ mullet flapping 1980’s cheese metal that we have all come to expect from these games- whether or not that is a good thing, I will let you decide…

The final and arguably greatest feature that Strikeforce offers is the online multiplayer. First let me preface this by saying I was horribly disappointed by the lack of split-screen co-op multiplayer. I have always counted on these Musou games for a quick and easy good 2 player game-fest, but this game inexplicably denies us an option we have grown to expect since Dynasty Warriors 3! Despite my initial reaction, after a few online multiplayer sessions, my sadness and disappointment almost completely washed away (almost…just almost). The game still plays much the same as the single player mode, except instead of 3 highly skilled AI team mates that can be somewhat controlled with R2- you have 3 real online buddies helping you. Sadly, the AI often proves a more skilled team mate, but getting to play with real people is almost always more fun! I wish the game offered a more sophisticated match making system, because every time I went online I ended up in a terribly unbalanced party. First, my level 12 warrior ended up in a room where 2 fully geared expertly skilled level 50s were looking to take on a 5 star difficulty Lu Bu. Then, my level 27 hero ended up matched with a bunch of level 5-10 players who might not have ever played a video game before, let alone this particular title. While it’s not always easy to startup an online gaming session, if you’ve got the PSN friends to put together a decent party this can prove to be an incredibly fun game (once you get over the learning curve).

With everything from upgradable/customizable weapons, online multiplayer, and an upgradeable town full of RPG goodness, Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce SCREAMS potential. Fans of the series should definitely pick this game up, but be ready to experience something very different! Opponents of the series should take this title seriously, the Dynasty Warriors franchise is clearly going in an exciting new direction. Having said that, I truly hope to see the series ditch the childish DBZ direction and bring back that sweet, sweet split screen!


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