Strikeforce's often overwhelming difficulty when playing solo makes the game seem tailor-made for cooperative multiplayer. You can jump into a lobby with up to three friends via the PSP's wireless ad hoc mode and play any mission just as you would in the single-player campaign. Playing with friends makes the objectives much easier simply because your enemies have to deal with multiple targets. It also makes boss fights less stressful because when more people are fighting, it's more likely that one of you will succeed. However, more important than evening out the difficulty curve is the simple fact that this Dynasty Warriors game is just more fun when playing with friends. As a nice bonus, there is free downloadable content that features some extra multiplayer-focused levels and integrates directly with the existing mission structure.
Every battle is easier with a friend or three.
It's unfortunate that successful design elements, such as the well-implemented multiplayer component, are bogged down by some other poor presentation values. Actually, it seems as though every good design decision in Strikeforce is met with an equally questionable choice elsewhere. For example, while the environments are physically varied and reward exploration, blurry textures and repeated layouts make it difficult to navigate because many areas look the same. Having enemies to deal with on three different tiers helps break up some of the monotony typical of button mashers by forcing you to jump around and find alternate paths, but it can be frustrating when you can't even find the turrets that are taking free shots at you.
The music that plays during the town sequences is particularly soothing, yet battle themes throughout the game are forgettable, while sound effects are dull and generic. If you have an extra 300MB on your memory stick, an install option virtually eliminates all load times. This is great for a portable game where your play time may be limited. However, the game inexcusably makes pausing particularly difficult. Pressing the start button brings up a menu that obscures the action and allows your enemies to continue attacking you while you rifle through the options to reach the pause button. This extra step seems like a huge oversight in any game, let alone on a portable console that you might have to quit playing quickly.
With five story chapters for each kingdom and plenty of unlockable characters, outfits, and treasures, Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce offers a lengthy hack-and-slash experience. Despite some questionable design decisions and the obligatory level grinding, there's still a fair amount of fun to be had here. If you've got a friend or two with copies of the game, you'll get that much more value from the experience.