KOEI's Dynasty Warriors franchise has grown rapidly over the years and last year saw the release of a PSP title called Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce. It was a rather new take on the traditional format of the game and while gameplay was fairly similar, a lot of aspects had been altered. One year later and the game is now set to be rereleased onto the PlayStation 3 and the XBox 360.
Despite keeping the same name a few things have been changed since the PSP version. One of the biggest changes is obviously with the online component. PSP users had to use AdHoc multiplayer, but now for the first time Dynasty Warriors will be playable online on a home console. However, as a major drawback, split-screen is not being included in the game at all. This will probably come as a huge disappointment for fans of the previous games.
For those that haven't sampled Dynasty Warriors before, the game sits nicely in what can be described as the Hack & Slash genre. Players fight for a large army and their actions will heavily affect the outcome of the battle. Combat has always been rather fun, but there has always been a sense of repetitiveness behind the game. While providing a lot of entertainment there are generally a lot of niggling problems too, and in the past there have been frame rate issues and draw distance problems.
Strikeforce looks to move away from the main-series titles though, and as previously mentioned, there have been a fair few dramatic changes, including the addition of allowing players to actually perform aerial combo strings. Among this is also the introduction of a secondary weapon, as all characters have their unique weapons and now may equip a secondary weapon of choice - something that invariably improves on the game by not allowing it to become too stale when a battle draws on for a while.
Aside from this, characters now have a more RPG style aspect to them. Improving character's stats has always been possibly in previous Dynasty Warriors games, however Strikeforce allows the equipping orbs and manipulation of Chi to allow for further customisation of characters. There is also a rather nice visual change to characters when using a new feature known as Awakenings, which cause the character to physically change.
With a demo recently being available it's possible to see just quite how drastic the gameplay changes are. The first and most obvious thing to point out is that the game actually has more of a campaign feel to it, with the ability to return to a safe area, where the player can store items, buy items and upgrade and create new weaponry. It's a very different feel to a Dynasty Warriors game and overall feels very RPG like. However, more strange is that the stages are set up more like a dungeon and the player must traverse various areas and defeat boss-like enemies. It's vastly different from its predecessors in this respect.
While combat has become a lot more intricate, it has also become a lot more confusing at first glance. Being able to switch weapons in combat instantly and chain combos together is a very nice addition and while it does make for a lot more variation in the gameplay, it feels like its trying to do a lot more than just be a hack and slash. Especially with regards to how the levels now split themselves in sections with criminal loading screens between every zone - hopefully this is something that's rectified in the final version as they completely detract from the experience, even if they are quite short. The Aerial combat, while different, has a super hero quality to it and as such loses a lot of the historic ideology the game had in previous versions. Simply put, air dashing consistently may as well be flying.
When Strikeforce was released on the PSP it was met with a lot of mixed reviews, but Dynasty Warriors has never been one of those titles that truly excels amongst the masses. While fun, it lacks a lot of elements to make it a must buy game, and while Strikeforce has broken away from the traditional approach in the series it hasn't necessarily looked at really improving the game vastly. Instead, where certain changes have been made for the better, others seem a bit unnecessary. It's quite hard to say whether this title will really be successful on the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3, and while the demo experience is certainly a strange one, it's quite possible that the full game may be a good step in the right direction for the Dynasty Warriors franchise.