Review: Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce (Sony PS3)

Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei
Genre: Hack ‘n Slash
Release Date: 2/16/2010

Koei is good for nothing if not ensuring that we will always, without fail, have a copy of Dynasty Warriors to play. They are developing a bad habit of releasing a game, then releasing that same game for another system with “additions”. Dynasty Warriors 6 was released on the 360 and PS3, with a later version for the PS2 – a prior generation system – being released with a few token changes. Since the 360 version was terrible, I had no interest in trying one with worse graphics and no hard drive support. In Japan, they released a special version of Gundam Musou (aka: Dynasty Warriors: Gundam) for the PS2 after the 360 and PS3 versions were out which had more suits and modes, which itself was made irrelevant less than a year later after Gundam Musou 2 was released. In short, despite the fact that they make some of my favourite games of all time, the company’s business decisions are frustrating at best and infuriating at worst. Maybe it’s karma that the company is having some financial difficulty.

At least this time around, instead of stuffing a next-generation game on prior generation hardware, they’re upscaling a previously released game. They released Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce for the PSP less than a year ago, and it was criticized by a lot of people – including me – for being an overly ambitious effort that was done in by not allowing full online play, not to mention being a DW game on the PSP, something that’s never worked properly. When I reviewed the game in May of ’09, I basically said it HAD to be on a modern system so that it could incorporate either the PSN or XBox Live.

Koei, never one to pass up an opportunity to crap out another DW game, has granted me my wish, fixing the biggest issue I had with the game. Now, the question is: did it fix anything else?

So much of the PSP version of this game made the transition that I should probably just copy and paste 75% of my initial review over here. In fact, this is almost a carbon copy of the PSP game that I would actually call it a naked port. I’ll say this off the top: the ONLY differences between the PS3 and PSP versions of Strikeforce are the fact that some controls are changed (due to the PS3 having more buttons), the game supports AI teammates, and the fact that the game now supports internet play. Oh, wait, I’m sorry, they added in cameos by Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden. Hooray, that’s EXACTLY what I had in mind when Koei and Tecmo merged. If you were a PSP gamer that was looking to see changes between the two games, that’s all I’ve got. Not even five-hundred words into my review, I’ve probably saved you $50. If you have no experience with Strikeforce, I’ll touch on the gameplay here, but more detailed explanations of mechanics can be found in the review of the PSP game I linked before. With that said, online play is a huge component of the game, so let’s talk about it here.

When going into online mode, you have a choice of either doing a quest of your own, or doing someone else’s quest, depending on who initiates it. When I went into online mode, even just after release, I was doing quests at a good ten levels less than most of the people I was playing with; at this point, I’m well, WELL behind, so playing with people online is actually beneficial because it helps people of a lower level get better materials which can be used to get better weapons, chi skills and items in the shops. The problem with that is that it also means that getting the final hit on bosses is hard unless you’re overpowered, and the final hit is the only one that really counts. When playing with other people, I noticed that their movements were often very laggy, but it didn’t affect how the stage progressed; in other words, enemies weren’t affected, but my partners were warping around due to inconsistent connections.

One problem I had was that it was very hard to communicate with my team. There’s no headset support, so communication is limited to using the L2 button to give orders. This works about as well as one can imagine, especially when playing with strangers, where it’s just an excuse to make the characters sprout the same four lines over and over and over again. Come to think of it, considering the average stranger, maybe not having a headset is a good thing after all. Regardless of this, if you enjoyed the PSP version of Strikeforce and are only looking to add PSN or Live play, this is probably worth your money, though I’d wait on a price drop first.

I mentioned the addition of AI teammates. To be fair, this goes a great distance towards mitigating the balance issues created by the PSP game, which was meant for four players and didn’t have a sliding scale to handle one player. In this, you can control up to three computer teammates with the L2 button, giving them specific orders to take out officers, common soldiers, and other orders. It actually works fairly well for what it’s worth.

The problem is that the game is still poorly balanced, even despite this addition. There’s just too much crap happening to keep track of. Half of the enemies you fight are either archers, sorcerers, or some other form of projectile tosser, and projectiles either do an abnormal amount of damage, or knock your character down. This means that an abnormal amount of the game is spent avoiding things from all directions, all of which can really mess you up. Even having three lives in most stages isn’t sufficient in most cases, as it’s hard to really get anything done when you’re either getting knocked down or a quarter of your health taken off every five seconds. What makes matters worse is the fact that the sorcerers are in the air, and the wall shooters are up on the wall. The game has a new kind of air combat (same as the last one) that lets you jump in the air and attack enemies, but it feels clumsy, and in the case of anything on a wall, it usually does more harm than good unless you come at it from the side, unless you like getting hit by five shots in a row, broadside. That leaves the other choice for taking on sorcerers being to lock on them, and take them out with a bow, once again unbalancing things in favour of bows.

Also hurting things are the fact that everything’s so condensed. Each stage is a few small rooms intersected together, which made sense on the PSP’s limited hardware but makes less sense on the PS3. Furthermore, every stage is quick; a half hour, tops, sometimes as little as ten minutes. Combine that with the fact that enemies never stop re-spawning – there are no gates that can be taken out like the regular games – and you have a game where the core feature – fighting lots of enemies at a time – is now something that gets in the way of advancing. This means that players have to balance killing enemies – and probably getting dinged up by bow users they can’t see – and getting materials with actually completing their map objectives. This hasn’t had to be done before, and while some may view this as a more tactical play style, I view it, in light of how the game actually plays, as a major annoyance.

One thing I do like about the gameplay is the fact that each weapon comes with special moves that can be done, depending on whether it’s the primary or secondary weapon. This is a really nice touch, and spices up the gameplay beautifully. If anything should make the transition to other DW games, this is it, because it adds some variety to the otherwise annoying control scheme.

It wasn’t just the gameplay that made the transition over to the PS3. The graphics seemingly did as well, because they look horrid. There’s constant clipping issues, backgrounds are bland, everything actually looks worse than it did in Dynasty Warriors 6 – which is saying a lot, that game looked terrible – and some characters, when you switch to their sub weapons, don’t even show them carrying said weapons around. For example, I equip Sun Shang Xiang with a bow and a great sword, and when I switch to the great sword, it shows her carrying the bow, but when she attacks, the sword mysteriously appears. And the voices, sounds and everything else are cut-and-pasted right out of the PSP game, where they were also atrocious. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore.

Thankfully, one thing that did transfer over – in a good way – was the ability to install the game onto the PS3. This was also available on the PSP, but it’s hard to justify installing a game that I believe was 1GB on a 4GB stick; on a 250GB hard drive, it’s much easier to justify, and the game hums when you install it. If not installed, the game takes a long time to load, so anyone with a smaller hard drive or using a 360 without one, beware of that.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Bad
Graphics: Dreadful
Sound: Bad
Control and Gameplay: Pretty Poor
Replayability: Enjoyable
Balance: Worthless
Originality: Awful
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Pretty Poor
Miscellaneous: Dreadful
FINAL SCORE: BAD GAME


Short Attention Span Summary

I said in my previous review of the PSP title that Koei should be commended for trying to aim high. Now that that game is on the PS3 – warts and all – I find myself angry at this lazy, half-assed port. At just over 1,600 words in all – less than half of my average – this feels like a mailed-in review, but it’s just in line with a mailed-in, half-assed game. When you port over a PSP game with a small enough list of changes that I don’t need a second hand to count them – and I counted liberally – that’s the rote definition of lazy.

Despite this, I look forward to a dedicated sequel, one that’s actually developed for the PS3 and not a handheld system. I look forward to this series, because it has potential, especially as a spin-off – yet another spin-off – to the main series. That, if anything, shows I am a hopeless fan of this franchise; the fact that I look to the future, when Koei’s shameful recent history should have broken my spirit by now.

The potential for the series is there, but this is now, and now sucks.

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