It's not actually a terribly complex system - in fact, it strikes quite a nice balance, giving players plenty of things to tinker with but never descending into the stat-heavy nightmare of which all too many Japanese games are guilty. Most importantly, the menu systems are responsive and nicely designed, generally giving you all the information you need to make a decision on the same page - so, for instance, you can see at a glance which materials you don't have in stock when you set about forging a new set of weapons.
No, Strikeforce's problems aren't in the village - they're out on the battlefield. Here, the game's attempt to ape Monster Hunter's system of fairly short quests designed for co-op play leaves it feeling barren and lifeless by comparison to previous Dynasty Warriors games. Gone are the huge battlefields, swarming with enemies - instead, the game offers up a selection of tightly enclosed and surprisingly small arenas, populated relatively sparsely with foes and mini-bosses. Gone too is any sense of strategy or tactics; already a fairly anaemic part of the franchise, the strategy here is entirely replaced with button-mashing arena combat.
Despite this, the game is a relatively decent fit for the PSP. The smaller arenas mean that each battle lasts fifteen minutes or so, with some clocking in at well under ten minutes - perfect for a quick blast on the Tube or in a waiting room. The game also offers the option of installing 300MB of data to your memory stick, which reduces load times significantly.
There's also no question that it comes into its own when you manage to find someone to play co-op with, as many of the stages are innately designed for co-op play. But if anything, this only makes it all the more disappointing that there's no support for online multiplayer - like Monster Hunter, this works over ad-hoc local Wi-Fi only. This may be fine in Japan, where opportunities for local multiplayer on games like this are more commonplace, but for the rest of us, it's likely to mean that the most entertaining aspect of Strikeforce remains untouched.
And yet in spite of its failings, Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce is compelling, and the reason is simple - the Dynasty Warriors format, in which your balletic hero hacks and slashes his way through wave after wave of enemies, is great fun, and even a few missteps can't break that. The shorter-format missions and lack of major loading delays are perfect for the PSP, while for those who are lucky enough to have plenty of PSP-owning, Dynasty Warriors-loving friends, the co-op is a huge bonus.
Yes, it's a button-masher, but nobody does button-mashing quite as well as KOEI with Dynasty Warriors, and Strikeforce gets more important things right (great animation, fluid controls, good weapon variety, PSP-sized missions) than it gets wrong. This is far from a reinvention of the series, and it's not the great marriage of Dynasty Warriors and Monster Hunter KOEI was aiming for, but it's still a perfectly enjoyable portable addition to the series.