Review by DarkRider X

"Strategy 101"

Koei, the creators of this game, have always been a strong presence in the realm of console strategy gaming. Their games have always been very strong on number-crunching, though. This probably turned off the casual gamer, but the depth of games like the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series cannot be denied. That is why I looked forward to this game as soon as I had heard of it. It's the main reason that I got a Playstation 2 in the first place. So, did the game live up to the high expectations that I had for it? Read on...

Story: 10/10

The storyline of this game is fittingly epic, like the movie Braveheart. After the death of the ruler of Japan, two generals fight for control of the country: one who wishes to rule himself, the other who fights for the heir of the former lord. While I'm not even going to try and elaborate further on this magnificent story, I'll just say that it a far better story that is found in the majority of strategy games. The characters each have strong personalities. You will know your generals very well before the game is over. The story is historically accurate, making it that much more impressive.

Graphics: 9/10

The still pictures that you may have seen for this game, while impressive, don't really show just how good the graphics really are. The characters are smoothly animated and look amazingly realistic. All of the generals in this game are ornately armored. While I sincerely doubt the usefulness of such armor (one guy has two flame-shaped protrusions jutting two feet out of the top of his helmet), it does look cool and helps you keep from confusing the generals. Even the lowest foot soldier looks pretty good, although there's about ten thousand others who look just like him. Such is the life of a peon, I suppose. The only problem with the graphics are the extremely dull maps that you maneuver your units on. You also fight on the same green plain when two units clash. There are no weather effects outside of the rain in the opening cinema scene. That one little flaw is somewhat annoying. Are you trying to tell me that it's spring year round in Japan? Other than that, there are no major problems.

Music and Sound: 6/10

The biggest technical flaws in this game are in the sound. The music is somewhat...nonexistent. There is music, but it isn't very memorable. Actually, I don't even remember any music outside of the cinema scenes. The sound effects are good enough, but the death screams grate on the nerves after hearing it the first thousand times. The sound of the rushing calvary was pretty impressive, though. But the one horrid aspect of the sound is one that has brought many games down:

BAD VOICE ACTING!

In abundance, no less. While it's not Resident Evil bad, it's certainly not Metal Gear good. It's more like the game Grandia, where about 75% of the voices are horrible and the rest are just barely passable. Thankfully, the main characters voices, which you hear most often, aren't that annoying. The rest don't say much more that ''Riflemen!'' or ''Archers!'' but they just don't say it well. Also, in one situation that I can think of, the voice of the general in battle doesn't match up to how he sounds in the cinema scenes! Kessen II needs better voiceovers, or even better, the original Japanese voices with subtitles! That would certainly boost the game's overall Japanese feel.

Gameplay: 5/10

With all of the good graphics and the killer storyline, how could such a game not be a winner? Because there isn't a whole lot of game here. I have never played a shorter or easier strategy game. This is surprising because Koei is known for strategy games with steep learning curves and massive amounts of difficulty. It's almost like the game is nothing more than a showcase for the wicked graphical capabilities for the PS2. Anyone with eight hours to spare could easily beat this game. In fact, once you've done the pre-mission planning you don't have to pick a command again if you don't want to. The plan (which the computer makes and you can change, if you like) will ensure victory as your units fulfill their pre-appointed tasks. I suppose that means that the plan made is a good one, but I would have liked just a bit more interaction with my units. The fact that you can tinker with the types of soldiers in each unit does add a bit of variety, but only a bit.

I liked Kessen. I liked it a lot, in fact, but that doesn't change the fact that it has a good many flaws. I would recommend renting this game before buying it, just so you can see if the great plot makes up for the Forrest Gump gameplay. If you're into Japanese history or the whole samurai mystique, though...well, you probably already have the game!


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/11/00, Updated 01/25/01


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