In between a long period of yearly "warriors" games released by Koei, gamers finally get a Kessen sequel. Previous Kessen games were set in the Romance of Three Kingdoms, like the Dynasty Warriors titles. Kessen 3 makes a departure from the era. Instead it’s set in the warring states period of Japan, like Samurai Warriors. Where you step in the shoes of Nobunaga and take on the task of uniting Japan.
Besides the local change Kessen 3 has a major system change in the way battles are performed. Taking a cue from the Dynasty Warriors titles Kessen 3 lets you move around and battle in real time. You’re in direct control of a general and all the troops in his unit. The troops will follow your general and attack on command. The real time battle does take some time to adjust to because your rows or troops won’t always be in the best position to attack. Troops can easily get stuck if you move through a narrow passage or if they aren’t set correctly. During large battles you’ll have to switch between generals, too. By pressing L2 you can change into any of the other generals to set up back attacks or focus on an entirely different battle. Juggling control of all these things at once requires patience and is complex at first. Some fans of the series might actually prefer the old Kessen style of gameplay over live action. If you can put up with a few levels of learning you will be able to get into the game.
Being able to manipulate troops and special abilities in real time does give you a lot of options. If you wanted to charge into battle with one unit and then switch to another general and charge with that unit. You can move troops into whatever position on the map to plan out whatever attack you dream. As long as you’re willing to take time to do it. Since it is a strategy game, Kessen 3 actually requires you to plan your form of attack. Gamers used to more action packed games will need to realize how important positioning and troop selection is. Troops that follow you can do a support attack by pressing the R1. This combo can cause a hail of arrows if you have archer troops or you can call in a set of reinforcements if you have melee troops. Positioning is important because you don’t want enemy troops to outnumber yours and you want to surround them if possible. At times you will need to rotate back and forth to different units just to set them up for an attack.
All of that is just in battle planning. First you will need to select the type of troops you want. Do you want slow and powerful troops like spear foot soldiers or mounted warriors? Or are you going to be more tactful and use bombardiers and ninjas? With all of these different options battles can suit your play style. Other before battle planning requires you to select teams, equip armor and go through a set of menus just to do all of this. Early on, mistakes in pre-battle planning can cost an entire battle. So you want to be sure you select your generals and equipment carefully. Setting general’s equipment is one of the coolest features in pre battle planning. You can equip the generals with a large number of weapons and armor. These items can customize the look of a general, and better yet alter their attack or defense.
Each general from Nobunga to Koroku has their own level by acting in a battle. To counter using the same generals over and over Kessen 3 requires that you generals sit out of a battle to recover health. While this does encourage rotating different who you select, the game still prefers having high level generals rather than a bunch of mid level ones. The difference can really be seen when you have required generals in a battle. If it happens that you ignore a general for a while and then they’re thrown into a difficult battle you’ll have a hard fight on your hands.
Kessen 3 is an excellent showcase of the Playstation 2′s hardware. The game has impressive FMV sequences with lifelike character models and fluid motion. The actual in game graphics are nice looking too. The distant camera makes a skirmish look like an epic struggle. Also the well detailed, lower resolution battle graphics still look good and have little slow down. The environments in Kessen 3 are another treat. Even though they may seem long and barren they have an artistic feel to them.
Kessen 3 has twelve chapters to complete with multiple battles in each chapter. Even after you complete the game a new game plus feature allows additional reply. Even if it is a little more inaccessible, the new system in Kessen 3 is a welcome change. The blend of action and planning suits this title well.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 4
Kessen 3 has lots and lots of menus, which makes it very unfriendly to non native speakers.
Koei has a US release date set for February 22, 2005.
+ Pros: Breathtaking graphics and good mix of tactics with action.
- Cons: With so many options the game can be tedious and hard to get into.
Overall: The good mix of action, planning and jaw dropping visuals in Kessen 3 will please the majority of gamers out there.
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