February 10, 2001
When I review a game I usually know what to score it. A good game gets a high score, a crap game gets a low score. The problem with Kessen is that it's a great game, but seems more suited to a PC then the latest console system. The game, which is being publisjed in America and Europe by Electronic Arts, was actually developed by Koei, the same company that developed the excellent Dynasty Warriors 2. Same theme, totally different gameplay.
Kessen, translated from Japanese to English, means "decisive battle" and is exactly what you get in this game. Epic battles, a great storyline and some awesome cinematics. Anyone who knows Koei's past titles such as Romance Of The Three Kingdoms or Nobunaga's Ambition will know that they are the master of strategy games in Japan. When it comes to ancient wars in China and Japan they have then genre licked. Kessen is the developers first attempt to draw back people into their games by stripping out a lot more of the fiddly management and focusing more on the battles and personalities of the soldiers. It works remarkably well, and has seen this game top the charts in Japan and earn enough praise for Electronic Arts to publish the game in America and Europe.
The idea behing Kessen is quite simple. You are in charge of a massive armie and must defeat the enemy. You have to plan the attacks and control the movements on the battlefield. Keeping an eye out for surprise attacks or flanking moves is a necessity. Between the battles you have to talk to your generals and solders with decisions to be made about their everyday lives on the battlefield. Each conversation will have results with morale as well as their personal lives so treat them carefully. One potential problem with this game, as opposed to other console games, is the amount of reading and information that needs to be digested in order to fully appreciate the game.
Kessen was one of the first Playstation 2 games displayed when the system was announced almost 2 years ago now. Everybody will remmeber the screenshots with hundreds of horses charging accross a field. Well as it turns out those screen shots weren't mock-ups. They are of the game in action, and it look absolutely stunning. As the horses run across the battle field thier feet kick up the dust creating and eerie and frighting look to the battlefields. There are also plenty of cinematics throughout the game which are quite often pre-rendered and all of excellent quality.
If you want to hear what great sound is in a video game then listen to Kessen the music has an epic feel to it which help set the mood for the massive battles perfectly. The sound effects from the horses to the battling soldiers are also perfectly suited to the game. It's a shame then that in such a historicly feeling game the Japanese warriors all speak English! Sure, Electronic Arts have probably done this to ensure there is no backlash, but seriously a serious game, with links to actual historical events deserves better then the mediocre English dub that is provided.
Kessen is a strange game. One the one hand it's absolutely stunning to look at and it's technically marvellous while being very detailed. On the other hand the game doesn't quite seem suited to a console. If you like detailed strategy games, and I'm not talking real-time strategy in the vein of Red Alert folks, then this game is definately a worthy purchase. If you are more into arcade styled games then this probably won't suit your needs.