Basically, this game contains the first major changes to the battle formula Dynasty Warriors (DW for the rest of this) has had since the second one. That alone makes this an interesting addition to the DW series. The additions are nice, however, all the problems remain, and Strikeforce adds a few new ones.
Story : DW is based on a real era in Chinese history called The Three Kingdoms. In it, three kingdoms (Shu, Wei, Wu) are all fighting over ancient China. You can control a character from one of the three kingdoms, and then go about uniting the entire country. Some of the battles are based on actual battles, some are made up (as they have to, since all of them die out in history, and the game wouldn't be a lot of fun if the game ended in defeat no matter what)
Koei uses the real era very loosely, and a lot of the stuff that happens just does not happen in history, and some characters are portrayed differently. This is really no different them most games that steal from real life, so you can't fault them there. Hell, your characters turn into DBZ inspired characters and fly around. History isn't a big concern.
The game does a decent job of explaining what's going on, but it's really just an excuse to go to a battlefield and murder dudes. To be honest, this game treads very familar ground, and the majority of battles play out just like they do in previous DW games. Which brings :
Gameplay : The biggest change in the game, and really, the biggest change for the series since the second one.
You start the game in a hub, which has shops for all the stuff you can make, a storehouse for storing materials and such, a marketplace to buy items (think temp buffs and healing items), an exchange where you can trade materials for other materials, and a shrine for changing kingdoms/characters. This also has your mission board, where you pick stages and go kill dudes. The town basically acts like a hub, or home base.
The main change in the game is the way battlefields are handled. There aren't gigantic battlefields where you fly around on a house murdering officers and then charging the commander anymore. Instead, the battlefield is broken up into areas. There can be anywhere from 3-10 areas in a single battlefield. Also, the number of enemies in any given area is much less then you are used to from previous entries. The big, large scale battles are gone in favor of a more you-against-the-world type deal. You can have up to three Ai allies, but their AI is not much better then in previous DW games, and they are usually only good for distractions/meat shields.
This is at odds with everything DW has been for many, many iterations, and is a puzzling direction to take. But then, you find out this is a straight out port of a PSP game, and it all makes sense. The same laziness that pervades the main series on the consoles continued with the port.
Despite this or maybe because of it, the graphics are still bad, and slowdown is rampant. When you go into fury mode (a modified version of musou) there are times where the game will slowdown, even if there is nothing on the screen. If you get thrown into a corner and the camera gets behind you, expect 10 FPS until you get out. It's ridiculous, and a problem Koei has never seemed willing to fix. It's still here in SF. When you get a bunch of dudes on the screen and an officer or two, expect more slowdown. Fun, right?
This is all wrapped around a new combat system. The DW6 and forward combo strings are here, meaning pressing Y after a different number of X attacks will not yield unique attacks, which is how the system worked pre-DW6. The X string and Y string are their own separate strings, and they do not interact. Easily one of my biggest complaints. Taking things away from a fairly mindless battle system is not a good idea. The "new" in this is that you can now dash, float, hover, and combo in the air. You can get a bunch of dashes and jumps, and along with your main weapon and a sub weapon you can choose, you can get some interesting air combos going once you get a hold of the battle system.
This brings some depth to a battle system that's been the same for many games, and is always welcome. The sub weapons I mentioned earlier are also welcome. Every character's main weapon is set from the start, but your sub weapon can be whatever you want it to be. Xu Zhu using a fan? Go for it. Sun Shang Xiang rocking a gigantic club? Do it. There are no restrictions, so anyone can use any sub.
On top of this, your character can use orbs, and chi skills. The chi skills are equipped to your arms and legs, and provide various bonuses. Some add jumps and dashes, some increase stats, still others provide bonuses when you are in fury mode. Orbs are the same orbs we've been putting into weapons/equipping on dudes on and off in DW games for years. They provide bonuses to whatever weapon you have, and these combined with the chi skills allow you to create some interesting set-ups.
All these chis, orbs, and weapons are crafted with materials you find on the field, similar to something like Phantasy Star Universe. Different dudes drop different materials, and you can find them in boxes and off siege weapons as well. You use these and some gold to make everything you use. Since you find materials in set places, this means there is no randomness to the equipment. You don't need to run through a stage picking up weapon boxes hoping the weapon spawns desirable stats as you have in previous games. You just make what you want. Simple as that.
Your other option for materials is to use them to upgrade your weapons with special attributes. Increasing stats, or adding passive abilities is the name of the game here, and go along nicely with all the other choices you have. You really can customize your character more then any other DW game here. It's a very nice addition, and a good direction for this series to start moving toward.
The game is finally starting to show some life after being fairly stagnant for many games in the series, and this game is a step in the right direction. The amount of customization brings a lot of life back into the game, and the changed combat is at the very least interesting, even if you don't consider it better. The new boss monsters are a nice change, even if they are completely at odds with history.
The slowdown is a problem that really needs to be fixed, and as the graphics are piss poor, there is no excuse for how it is. The lock-on camera during battle is fairly bad, and the smaller battlefields are a terrible choice. This game is a PSP port, and it acts like it.
That said, it's a good purchase for DW fans, as you can get a glimpse of what will probably end up being the future of the series, or at the very least, another spin off like empires.