Review by Foxtail

"A definite improvement over VIII, but it leaves something to desire."

I'm a big fan of the Three Kingdoms games, I first started out with Romance of the Three Kingdoms VI. At first I didn't quite understand the gameplay mechanics because I was pretty stupid when it came out (and I was more into action or side-scrollers). Then the Playstation 2 and VII came out. Having a better grasp of strategy games, I gave it a go. I was instantly hooked on the series along with the Dynasty Warriors line. When I heard VIII was coming out with better improvements, I jumped for joy that you can actually have people get married and have sworn brothers! On top of customization with the New Officers and unlockables. And finally, IX came out. I had heard they got rid of the Officer Based gameplay and went back to Ruler-Based. That disappointed me a bit, namely because I like the Officer-based gameplay. I felt more connected with the heroes that way. So I shyed away from this one until I read the message boards at all the other different things you could do. Enough jibber jabber! Here's my review of Romance of the Three Kingdoms IX!

Graphics (6/10): I have to admit, I like the 2-D details and everything, but this is the PLAYSTATION 2! It wouldn't hurt to incorporate better graphics, I'm not saying completely change it to 3-D. Just take it up a notch and increase the size of things. The map layout is definetly a step above the previous ones however. All of the cities are spread out across a giant map of China. Thankfully, the cities are spread out enough to destroy the thought of an overcrowded map. The portraits of the officers have also been refined and given details, but I didn't like how they gave Zhuge Liange facial hair again (I thought he looked much better without it in VIII). Other than that, there isn't much cause for complain besides Koei's decision to keep the graphics a little outdated. But DO NOT let that shy you away from playing this game. Even though an army looks like teeny tiny weiners hopped up on opium.

Sound & Music (8/10): I really liked the music that was created for this game. My major beef was the main screen music, it just sounded very awkward and delayed. But that's the only bad song in the entire game. I'm glad at they keep making their music much more influenced and closer to actual chinese songs (even though I've never heard them myself, I imagine it something about 2 levels higher than the music in this game). The music to put it simply, is beautiful. However what keeps it from getting a 9 is the battle music, I didn't feel like fighting with the tunes they gave me. Deep down I just felt like working on peace instead of duking it out with Cao Cao, Liu Bei, or Sun Jian (and countless other rulers). Although the music is beautiful, they need to work on the battle songs.

Now the sound effects.. well, there really isn't a huge amount of it. You got the roar of an army, probably some sword clanks in there somewhere, and that's probably about it. They also need to work on that in future installments. But once again, it's hard to have detailed sounds when the graphics are 2-D (the animation comes to mind as a problem). What that does is detract from the game a bit. However, the music does make up for the lack of sound effects.

Gameplay (9/10): Now here is the real prize of the game. The gameplay is probably the greatest of strategy games I've seen on a console. You can build your city up or wage war with legendary rulers and re-write history (Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein sold seperately). There is simply a huge amount of things to do in the game that will eat up your time. There are treasures and items to be found, secret officers to unlock, lands to conquer, and events to reveal. So to put it simply, if you like this series, say goodbye to your life (as with every other installment before this one I assume). Now they did change several things from VIII, as I said before the biggest change was that they went to Ruler-based gameplay from the Officer-based one in VII and VIII. Meaning you pick a kingdom and play as THAT kingdom, not an individual officer. They got rid of the AP system (thank god) and now using officers doesn't require energy but how much money you have and how many officers are available. It's fun but I also liked just playing as a single officer wandering around China, giving my services to whomever I wish and watching how things turn out. You can't do that now, so you're forced to become a big role in the war. That was disappointing but I soon got over it. Another change for the better was that they added more female officers in, so now you don't have to create every female officer that's use-able from scratch. But several of them have to be unlocked, although it's great that they finally added Zhen Ji, SunShang Xiang, Zhu Rong, and some others.

Now the strategy part is very realistic, if you go to war (which you have to sooner or later), soldiers eat up your food like no tommorow and it's very expensive at that. Morale has a much stronger point now, if you don't build a unit's morale up enough before attacking, you'll lose that entire unit to low morale (I once lossed a unit of mine that about 22,000 soldiers because of low morale). Warlords are also not as god-like in giving advice, Koei decided to make them more human by making them give bad advice from time to time (and with a very stupid officer, all of the time). And as always, there are several ways to a solution and an ending (there are several endings, the best one is very hard to get and I have yet to get it). Open gameplay when executed properly like this game, can make it a great journey into the game world. And history too, because of this is based off of Chinese history in case you didn't know. But don't play this game and then claim to know everything about the Three Kingdoms, read the book first. I've got a shortened version (it's hard to find the big complete version where I am) and it's a great read. And best of all, if you're still in school, you can get good grades for doing reports on the book, so there's a tip.

Story (10/10): As I said before, this entire series (and Dynasty Warriors, Kessen, and Dynasty Tactics) are based off the Three Kingdoms era. You can really learn a lot by playing the game and reading the novel. But if you're not a fan of history, I guess this wouldn't be very entertaining to you. Either way though, it's very interesting and a good way to diversify yourself.

Replayability (9/10): Of course this game is going to have great replayability! It has Challenge Mode, Story Mode, create your own officers, and collecting tons of items and events. So no doubt this will keep you occupied. The only downside (which is why it didn't get a ten) is that it can be fairly hard to achieve certain goals. And sometimes you will get tired of it after non-stop playing. It's still great though.

Difficulty (8/10): This game is hard. If you do not manage things very well or think them through, you WILL lose. It's like a very important game of chess, you have to think ten moves ahead of what you are thinking about doing or else you risk humiliating defeat.

Buy or Rent: This is a tough part, because if you're a big fan of the series, buy it. It's certainly worth the money. But if you just like strategy games or this caught your eye, rent it first. With every game though, you should rent it first so you don't waste 50 bucks on a brand new piece of crap.

And there you go. I hope you enjoyed reading my review of Romance of the Three Kingdoms IX. Now go and conquer China so they stop whatever.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/07/04

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