Is it that time already? Did KOEI release another Dynasty Warriors game where we head back to the tumultuous time known as the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” (~200A.D)?

I’ve got my spear, I’ve got my meat buns, and I’ve got thousands upon thousands of swarming soldiers ready to fall to my blade. Follow me as I swath my way to the end of the era, with the first Dynasty Warriors game that has been ported from the PSP to the PS3.

It’s that Same Ol’ Song and Dance….

Just like the game, I’m going to start off tough. The graphics are lackluster. Put beside Dynasty Warriors 6 for the 360, this game barely holds its own. Granted, the problems that nipped the heels of this series (slowdowns and draw distance) don’t rear their head as much, but there’s a reason for this.

This is a PSP game, through and through. The maps are little more than isolated rooms, connected with transition points and loading screens. The loading screens don’t take long, however the biggest maps have no more than eight or nine rooms, and there is very little variation beyond the fifteen designs. Along with smaller quarters, there are no moving armies, just soldiers that re-spawn out of thin air.

The worst part of the graphics is texture flipping while panning in city scenes. The shadows flicker from day to night as you look around which can make it hard to find things like item crates. That isn’t the only issue with the camera either – you can expect some awkward views and off-screen combat to happen. The only nice thing I can say about the visuals are that the models for the officers themselves are almost adequate, and their charged up modes are pretty.

If you’ve ever played a Dynasty Warriors game, you know what to expect from the audio. The music and sound are designed for those people who know better than to have the volume up. Music is in a constant loop with cheesy rock mixed with traditional Chinese instruments. The voice acting isn’t worth tuning in to – it’s not atrocious, but it doesn’t add anything to the overall experience. There isn’t one step up in this regard from a decade ago, and it’s pretty disappointing.

Don’t hate the player…or the game.

There have been some significant changes to the gameplay. Rather than counting on the standard ground combat or mounted warfare, it seems Omega Force is interested in letting us join the battle up in the sky, much like Dragonball Z. Ripped right from the cartoon, we have dash and air attacks, as well as a Fury mode that has officers glowing with power.

Surprisingly, it works well with the new target lock-on, even though the camera (and your officer) may lock onto a target that isn’t within your viewing angle. You can still dash and head towards the fray, working out your thumb muscles all the way.

Don’t feel like you need to go it alone, as you can choose up to three playable officers to follow you into battle. You can select from five commands (target officers, siege engines, soldiers, free mode, or follow). You don’t have to do it en masse either; you can actually give each officer specific orders which works surprisingly well. The added benefit is that these officers gain experience, so you can use this to break them in before switching over to them.

Between battles, you’re given a town that hosts an academy (chi powers), blacksmith (weapons), marketplace (consumable items), storehouse (material and item storage), exchange (swap materials), and workshop(orbs). As you complete missions, your town also gains experience. This progression unlocks additional weapons and items as well as some other nice-to-haves such as a gambling location, and expanded item storage.

I’m like coffee, ’cause I grind so fine.

Much like Phantasy Star Online and Monster Hunter, the game is designed to grind endlessly to get more items. In this case, it’s in the form of materials that are the currency for all of your upgrades. Each item has a value and an elemental alignment – each upgrade in the game has certain element requirements, and some (such as creating items and weapons) will need several specific components.

You collect these materials while out on missions by killing officers, certain key characters, and breaking crates. Completing the missions and any bonus tasks will also net you goodies. These materials can then be used as components to create orbs (weapon enhancements), chi skills (individual power-ups) as well as building new weapons or upgrading them.

Your character isn’t restricted to using just their own weapon either; every character has two slots – the first being their signature instrument of destruction, and then room for a second weapon. I’m not going to get into the finer details, but you should know that as long as your officer meets the requirements they can use any weapon in the game, and switch between their own and your secondary selection on the fly.

Did I mention you can finally play multiplayer? That’s correct, folks. They have finally included the ability to play with up to 3 friends online. Since the game is so light on the system, there isn’t any performance hit, however they did pull the split-screen play as an option. The problem with this is finding three people who would be willing to endure a grind-fest, and then buying four copies. When you have less than four people, you can’t fill up the empty slots with your officers so some of the missions become more challenging.

I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

There are three major storylines, and while you can also unlock special characters they don’t have their own five-chapter stories. You can’t just pick and choose at any time either; you need to unlock the other sides of the conflict before you can switch over. Once they are unlocked, you can then change sides and rest easy knowing your progress is saved where it was and you can switch back to that faction at any time.

Speaking of factions, Strikeforce offers crossover events with Tecmo characters to other Warriors games in addition to the storyline progressing missions. While it’s not a big deal, it’s kind of neat to see Katsumi and Ryu hanging around handing out some missions.

In a lot of games it’s the combat and the exploration that is the heart of the game – Strikeforce is surprisingly combat-lite in that regard. I found I was spending more time dealing with item collection and upgrades. This really tries to pander to the obsessive folks who get sucked into Monster Hunter style gameplay and item collection. There isn’t loot lotteries either, as all players get to pick up any dropped items during combat.