-Koei (2000)





Fierce, battle-hardened Japanese men with long names command their armies for control of Japan.

My Thoughts

Kessen is a fairly historically accurate strategy game that takes place during the 1600s, a time of great changes in Japanese history. I studied this period in a Japanese history class and also wrote a term paper on Hideyoshi Toyotomi, one of the commanders in the game, so I have a soft spot for this period of Japanese history. Actually, I enjoy almost any Japanese history, but I know Toyotomi and Nobunaga, in a manner of speaking.

In Kessen, you command your Generals who command your armies. You see a large map with all the encampments and positions of your men. You tell them where you want them to move and which opposing armies to fight. Watching the miniscule armies plod about the map isn’t terribly thrilling. Once everyone starts battling though, then you get to see some great battle sequences.

Watching your armies fight is entertaining. You get close-up cut scenes of all the action. You see your men run into battle, swords swinging.  Then you see them all get wiped out by your opponent’s riflemen. Crap. One of the opposing Generals decides to attack with his horse brigade. Ha, the fool is attacking one General who commands the mighty arrow-launchers. The fusillades start flying, taking out over half of the riders. The possibilities of different combat scenarios are plenty, with swordsmen, riflemen, bowmen, horsemen, cannons, fusillades, and ninjas. As you watch more and more of the fighting it will all start to look the same though, so you may opt to skip the cut-scenes altogether to move things along.   

You can also command a General to fight another General mono-a-mono. Before the fight, the Generals will each say some over-dramatic speech or phrase about how they’re going to kick-ass. Some of their battle cries are pretty good, though. Something you will notice though is when the Generals are swinging around their swords and spears, the weapon will pass right through the horns of their helmet. They must be wearing those mystical power helmets.

You are also able to influence opposing Generals and have them join your ambition for conquest. It’s a nice idea, but it just feels pre-determined on who is going to join you and who is going to leave. The battle plans are similar in this respect. You can switch armies around, equip with new weapons and such, but you really don’t have to. The pre-determined plans work just fine, give or take some losses.  However, you really do need to think about the movements of your armies on the battlefield so you’re not moving swordsmen into cannon range all the time.               

Between battles the game has a History Channel style presentation that explores the details and gives an in-depth narrative about the happenings of the time. The narrator is even a History Channel guy, to give it that documentary feeling. The rest of the voice acting is very good too, though it would have been nice to have a “Japanese language w/English subtitles” option to get that more authentic Japanese feel. 

One thing I really like about this game is when you complete the game the way history is written, you can go back through the game as the opposing side and see how history may have been, had the victories been reversed. It’s a pretty cool way to replay the game. It’s still narrated by the History Channel guy too, giving the alternate reality a historically accurate feel.

This is a fairly solid strategy game that will give you an excellent history lesson on Japan and the great men who shaped it. 

Score: 7.5       


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