Overview

If you ask me, the guys over at Koei seem to have hit a wall with all their latest titles. I say this because it seems like they all have hit their peak in terms of innovation, and haven’t been able to offer something new for the genre. Take the Dynasty Warriors series for example, which seems to send good games every time, but it just never seems all that fresh. Today we got a chance to look out Koei’s latest game in a series that I know has a very distinct fan base in the strategy realm and that game is Kessen III for the PS2. Can Koei ship out a winner with this game or is it one that we can we throw this one with a lot of the others into the big stack of average games? Read our full review to find out!

Gameplay

The Kessen series has been one with its fair share of up and downs and when I say that, I think most of the fans of the series will agree that we have still not seen the best out of this series. You can see the game has an amazing concept but just has not been able to fully put it all together into one complete working package. Is Kessen III the game to do it?

Similar to other Kessen games, the game takes place in the times of the ancient Japanese as you take the role of Oda Nobunaga, as he tries to gain power throughout Japan. The story takes somewhat of a backseat in the game, as it can be interesting at times, but the overall implementation of the story just isn’t all its cracked up to.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Kessen series, it is more of a combination of strategy and hack and slash action. The game allows you to first setup your plan of attack by getting your units in order and making sure you have everyone where you want them to be. From there the battles begin and you can at any time switch between units and take place in these battles. What’s different this year is that the battles are not as "epic" and grand as they have been in years past. I remember with Kessen II you would have some of the biggest battles I have ever seen in a video game, and now they have been kind of cut down to amp up the realism.

What I found odd about the game was that the strategy in the game was obviously there it just seems like you can bypass it. It’s like in the first person shooters, where you have some stealth sequences, but you just find yourself running through guns blazing anyways. In Kessen III I found myself using the same tactics no matter what battle I was taking part in and for the most part it worked. I wouldn’t say the strategy in the game is necessarily flawed, as it works beautifully when properly executed, but the game also in my opinion leaves loopholes open as well.

Once you figure out how you want to take your opponent out, you move down to the battlefield and engage the enemy troops directly. To put it in perspective, this game is no Dynasty Warriors. But on the same token the game really doesn’t need to be, as this is just one of the aspects of the game. I think spending the time and effort to plan out the battle beforehand could be quite gratifying, if things worked out as you initially planned. One thing though that should have been improved in the action was the AI, which is let’s say at a 2nd Grade level of thought process. They do the same dumb moves over and over again and this tends to make the game repetitive at times.

The additions to this Kessen game are just not enough to really move this game up the ranks. I always believed that the Kessen series was one of the most promising ones in the gaming realm, but for some reason the developers just have not figured a way to fully combine strategy with hack and slash action. The idea is definitely a great one but the execution still leaves us with a lot to be desired.

Graphics

Visually the Kessen series in my opinion has always been one of the less impressive looking series in Koei’s lineup, mainly because it always seemed to have things that hindered it. I remember the game seemed to have some frame rate issues in the previous games, and they have never had great environments. So can Kessen III provide a great graphical experience?

This year I must say Koei definitely made a very noticeable effort to improve the games visuals, but there still are things left to be desired. First let’s start with the environments, which in my opinion are the game’s strongest addition. The environments now play a much greater role in the gameplay, and therefore they have correlated in much more diverse and detailed environments. No longer do you have the same bland Japanese environment that all look the same, now you have a much greater looking Japan. On the same token the character models are still bland and lack much detail and the action still just doesn’t look all that great.

Overall the graphics of Kessen III are much improved over the other games but they still just don’t seem to have anything out of the ordinary.

Fun Factor

Even though the game is not perfect and the strategy can be limited, the game is just still a blast to play. It is one of the few strategy games out there that you can pick up and play and get the hang of it without even really having to try. With that being said, this means that you don’t have to read the manual and go through lengthy tutorial modes to get the hang of it. Instead, you can just begin playing and learn the ropes as you go. The game of course like said earlier does leave much to be desired but the easy to pickup gameplay is still entertaining.

Overall

Strategy buffs out there will not find much to Kessen III as the strategy in the game is quite limited. But if you are a fan of the series and really need a new fix of the game, this game won’t necessarily disappoint you, just don’t expect a revolutionary title with this one. If you have not played any game in the series I would definitely make this one a rental choice.

The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.