I've put about 10 hours into the game, playing mostly Kotaro Fuma (bad-ass chaos ninja with flying sleeve attacks).
Here's my initial take on it :
If you like Dynasty Warriors games, this is a safe purchase. It is above the DW5: Empires game that came out, as there is actually some storyline.This is the best SAMURAI WARRIORS game YET. The indoors missions from SW1 were frustrating, and you were easily lost. Also, there was no integration between the inside and outside world. You could completely master the outer battle, and then it transitions indoors to have you fail due to time / getting lost / annoying traps. Thus far, the indoors scenes are part of the outdoors, and the maps are easily readable. The "traps" in the game are more ambush based rather than having tiger-traps indoors, volleys of ninjas and exploding jars.
There is a shop you can go to between missions to upgrade your weapons (they use a slot system) as well as abilities (+dex, etc), learning skills(dex,life,attack increases more easily when you level, etc), as well as special abilities (like items have more effect, elemental attack upgrades etc). Sofar I've only noted that each of these can be upgraded to level 3, and as you go up, the cost increases. For example: Dex1 is ~400g, Dex2 is ~800g and Dex3 upgrade is ~1200g. The shop only has 6 at a time, and since theres about 12 different slots for each (ability, skills, special) you're not guaranteed to get 1,2,and then 3 right away. This makes your leveling up gradual as you can't put all your eggs in one basket. If I'm not mistaken, there is one more category; it escapes me at this moment ( I think it's a one-level skill column, like adding ability to see items / crates on the minimap). Since there is 4 columns of 12 plus your own characters "special ability" (Fuma can use dodge during an attack sequence) this gives you at least 49 skills to either learn (from defeating officers) or buy at the shop. And 3 levels for 3 of the 4 columns.
Your characters start off with the following moves : ( i changed my controls from defaults, moved the LB,LT, RB,RT and LB,RB around, these are how I have it set up)
X - light attack
Y - heavy attack
A - jump
B - musou (bullet-time-adrenaline-mode)
LT - block - recenter camera behind char
LB - evade
RT - special stance
RB - map mode change (zoom in / out)
Right joystick - ACTUALLY MOVES THE CAMERA!!!!
They actually let you see which combinations of moves you have during the game in a flowchart which helps take the "buttonmashing" away from it, should you want to actually CONTROL your fighter rather than having them spaz all over the battlefield.
The special stance lets you do special moves. With Fuma he can use his killer sleeves to grab an opponent (including officers!) and throw them away, bowling any enemies over in the process. He also has a summon fireball attack where he shoots forward 4 fireballs in a square config.
The evade is WAY handy, it lets you roll away from being cornered.
Jump is also a double-jump (for ninja chars like Fuma) so you can access "ninja paths" (secret passages in the map).
The moves now are based on character level, so as you advance your character will learn moves independant of weapon selection.
Your character can also have a horse as well as a bodyguard, and the skills and specials apply to them as well.
Mounted combat is much better; musou is actually useful (as opposed to the DW mounted musou attacks which were lame). I stole a horse from an officer who set people on fire as I charged through them! (damn I *want* that horse in my stable)
Your bodyguards are much more useful, as you can assist them in leveling up by letting them kill officers, or sharing a musou attack with them (red lightning will link you two when you can do it and you're close enough to each other).
There's ~25 characters in the game; I'm looking forward to the rest of it.