Koei’s simulation titles might not be for everyone (and in some instances arguably repeat themselves over and over) but you can always depend on their quality of execution. If you enjoy the targeted genre, whether it is tactics or action, these titles always fit the bill and respectably, the company always returns the favor with extended titles in those series. The Playstation 2 continues to see love from Koei, releasing a title, Nobunaga's Ambition: Rise to Power, that fills the current 2008 strategy void on home consoles and fits the bill for any gamer who likes a little thinking with their gaming.
Of course, domination is no easy task and players will be knee-deep in management in order to build up a thriving land in order to raise the means necessary to form alliances, crush enemies in battle, and balance foreign relations, all while keeping the people under your current rule happy and willing to give lives for the good of the nation. While the course of the game boils down to three key elements – gold, food, and troops – maintaining that triad of lifeblood is deceptively deep and comes packaged with a ton of other sub-elements such as officer loyalty, flood protection, and construction just to name a scant few. No matter how you boil it down, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Rise to Power is 100% strategy and anyone who even remotely enjoys strategic elements and management will find a lot to love in this PS2 update of the series which dates back to the days of the NES.
Decisions need to be based on the aforementioned key elements in order to ensure survival: gold is needed for construction and relations' gifts, food is needed to keep the troops battle-ready, and troops are needed to attack and defend territory. In most cases, building up one of those elements negatively affects one or more of the others, so being a successful ruler depends on the player’s ability to balance out those assets all while not using means which anger citizens or other rulers. Facing off against other daimyos’ actions and fixing the aftermath of random “acts of god,” continually keep players on their toes and should create a unique game play experience almost every time the game is played.
Fortunately, foreign rulers aren’t too keen on allowing another daimyo to just come in and claim their land, so players get to put their troops to use and engage in a real-time 3-D battle engine that operates like many of the popular RTS titles on market. Battles allow for up to 24 units simultaneously (12 per side), allowing for some major-scale battles if players have the means to pump a massive amount of troops into war.
If you think the strategy stops on the battlefield, you’re dead wrong. Troops can be assigned to spearman, cavalry, cannon, rifle squads, and more, each featuring a distinct quality that is extremely useful in some situations and not so great in others. Destroying enemy foundations is a key element of battle as well. Players select squads and direct them in a “point-and-click” fashion in an attempt to either eliminate the opposing leader or completely siege their enemy HQ; however, players must keep a sharp mind because the enemy will be aiming to do the same.
The title allows players to tackle seven different scenarios that begin in 1551 and go as far as to the years following Nobunaga’s death in 1582, so there is definitely no shortage of game play. The title also features an officer creation mode to place custom elements into scenarios and a very detailed tutorial mode will shape up newbs into warlords in just a short time, so while on the surface the game is nothing more than continual reading and menu surfing, the game has a lot of content and depth buried underneath it.
If you’ve ever played any Koei simulation title on the Playstation 2, you’ll know what to expect in the game’s presentation. The character stills all come across as majestic and vivid and the menus are full of small details that make the text a little more bearable to surf through for hours on end. Aside from buildings and foundations, though, the battlefields and maps do lack any sort of detail. While understandably, due to the “eye in the sky” view of the camera, the people look like working ants, generic environments for the most part aren’t much of a treat for the eyes. Thankfully, the management and battle situations should be enough to take your mind off of the sights and hook it with the title’s game play.
The sounds could have been pulled from any other Koei simulation title, but they are used when necessary and bring in the essence of battle to your eardrums. The prologues to most of the game play elements feature some nice narrative so it’s sad to see spoken dialogue is for the most part omitted from the main game play. Thankfully, a powerful score moves the game along and provides fitting accompaniment whether the player is managing territory or in the heat of war.
Overall, the controls are exactly what you would expect from a game based on menus and the scope of controls carry over nicely to field navigation, which is easily handled by the analogue sticks. While occasionally it can be tricky to pinpoint exact locations on the battlefield (especially when you’re trying to select a moving army), a go at the tutorials will have players managing the controls second nature.
While the title probably won’t sway the minds of gamers who don’t go out their way to play strategy titles, it hammers out everything a strategy game should be and contains enough scenarios and random elements to keep players glued to it for quite some time. Koei brought in its big guns for Nobunaga’s Ambition: Rise to Power in producer Kou Shibusawa and composer Kosuke Yamashita and it really shows in those elements of the game. With a few minor issues aside, the title should prove an engrossing entry into the strategy field and a welcome addition to Koei’s long line of simulation titles.
Nobunaga's Ambition: Rise to Power is rated T for Teen by the ESRB and contains Alcohol Reference, Mild Language and Mild Violence.