That Dynasty Warrior’s power level is over 9000!!!
Judging solely on the lone fact that you actually clicked on the review link and are reading this sentence, you are likely a Dynasty Warriors fanboy. The franchise is your guilty pleasure, one that many are quick to condemn: How can you tolerate the never-ending death screams, the terrible voice-acting, the electric guitar riffs in ancient China, the combo-laden beating of identical-looking Chinese men with a giant stick, the same story repeated ad nauseum, the single button pressed endlessly for the same attacks, and the years upon years of installments that haven’t changed much at all? But you let those insults slide. They just don’t understand… but I do… completely.
[image1]If there’s one thing that Dynasty Warriors fans have wanted, dreamt about since the inception of the series, it’s been multiplayer online. And as much as the PSP version of Strikeforce is a great step in that direction, the handheld doesn’t really cut it. We want a console version, and this is it. Just the thought of Dynasty Warriors over Xbox Live and Playstation Network makes our button-happy fingers quiver with anticipation.
While Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce retains many of the franchise’s familiar characteristics (including some that have already been mentioned…), much has changed in the face of an online framework similar to those of Monster Hunter and Phantasy Star Universe. The usually sprawling continuous landscapes have been chopped into bite-sized, server-friendly chunks. Your home base has become a city with various stores and facilities and an area where you can accept story missions and side quests at your leisure. As you complete story missions through six chapters, you’ll eventually (and not surprisingly) unite all of China under the banner of your kingdom of choice.
Combat doesn’t stray too far from the “whack bad guys” mentality, though it has been reformulated to suit the now smaller spaces. Moves have been simplified to a basic attack, a power attack that can be charged, aerial strikes with an aerial special, a dash attack, and a frontal block. There are no real combinations other than stringing basic attacks with power attacks, but you can now dash and jump high into the air, even higher with the right chi skills.
[image2]This leads to a lot of flying fights with floating enemy sorcerers, irritating artillery, and gargantuan statues that breathe fire and rain down lightning. It’s supposed to be reminiscent of cheesy Chinese kung fu dramas (that you rent from a hole-in-a-wall bootleg store in Chinatown, but how would I know that?), but the focus on flight isn’t thought out thoroughly. Targeting bosses is a nuisance, even with the provided targeting system. Not only does it float from one target to another so it doesn’t lock-on, but it occasionally makes the camera more frantic than a lion dance. Since melee attacks aren’t reliable in the air and aren’t effective against annoying sorcerers, you’re practically forced to fill your only sub-weapon slot with some type of bow.
For better or worse, you can also activate Fury mode when your musuo gauge is full, transforming into what can only be called a Super Dynasty Saiyan Warrior. Your hair becomes all spiky and shiny, your body becomes its own burning nightlight, and your attacks become stronger (but the new hairdo is more important, right?). My only gripe is that, unlike your character in Fury mode, enemy officers in Fury mode can’t be interrupted by your attacks. Only more reason to shoot them with a bow.
Of course, the real reason to grind through every quest is for the items. Apart from finding the usual instant healing items in boxes, you can consume items using the direction pad as well, but the best goodies are rare materials. Building on the foundation of its brother offshoot Dynasty Warriors: Empires, enemies will occasionally drop materials necessary to create chi skills, orbs, and weapons, as well as upgrade city facilities once they’ve gained enough experience through officer cards you’ll receive in town. These cards can also create tactical special effects in specific areas, but you can only use four cards at any one time.
[image3]Defeating bosses and collecting items is the main motivation to join forces with other warriors in multiplayer mode, though your A.I. officers might make that a tough sell. You can order up to three officers to your side who serve as perfect distractions for enemy fire. If that weren’t enough, they share your equipment, they always follow orders, they don’t go off on their own, and they can’t die.
Certainly, players who have your back and can think for themselves are more skilled than any A.I. officer any day (in a lag-free online environment), but if they happen to die too many times, you will fail the mission. So no one can blame you if you pick immortal A.I. officers over those pesky mortal humans. The only clear advantage of multiplayer is being able to trade items for those rare materials and officers for them to earn experience while you’re away.
Reaching the ending and playing the online multiplayer of Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce depends more on your hunger for loot than your hunger for multiplayer. Finding that piece of Gold Cloth or Ancient Bangle to create that weapon you want makes the flying combat, the wonky targeting system, the repetitive environments, and even the mortality of online players tolerable. Of course, that’s not exactly what a game focused squarely on multiplayer is shooting for (or is it?). Strikeforce is a great step toward finally integrating the online universe with Dynasty Warriors and an unexpected excuse to lower your head as other gamers pass you by. You’re not hiding or hanging your head in shame, you’re just looking for items.