Kessen is the first DVD PlayStation2 title--boy, what a difference a DVD-ROM makes! Kessen's fantastic cutscenes showcase the difference between the visual capabilities of non-DVD and DVD formats. That difference is analogous to the gap between analog television and HDTV quality.
The graphics are awesome, too. In a triple barrage, three rows of gunmen draw and fire their guns. Not everyone does it at exactly the same time, and the number of men goes back as far as the eye can see. The smart choreography makes the battle seem much more real. In fact, you actually can see other soldiers fighting as the generals duel.
The game's orchestral score is wonderful, and the sound effects also are great, with booming cannons, neighing horses, and clanking spears.
While all of the above makes for a very splashy presentation, it doesn't do much for the gameplay. Those who have found fault in the micromanagement of past Koei strategy titles surely will be disappointed with Kessen. It's often painful to see every single stat and try to improve them all in a set amount of time. Kessen goes too far in that every battalion has a morale level, called zeal, as well as a certain number of soldiers of different types. Each general has a different amount of loyalty to you, but it really doesn't affect gameplay, as far as we could tell.
Before each battle, you go through the political stage. Here, you can persuade undecided generals or enemy generals to join you in battle, or not to fight at all. That's a cool aspect, but the game basically tells you outright who will join you and who won't.
The pace of the battles is extremely slow, like in most other Koei games. However, the difficulty is not. Many times, you're given so many reinforcements that you just can't lose. Also, every single event involves a 20-second cutscene, with no obvious way to skip these. Sure, the triple barrage is impressive the first few times that you see it; but, after the 100th time, it wears a little thin. And you get to see a cutscene every time that your enemies do the same to you.
Unlike other RTS games, there's hardly ever any cause for alarm or stress--even if you're losing, you feel like there's not a lot you could do about it, anyway. --Todd Mowatt
- Fantastic cutscenes showcase the visual capabilities of DVD format
- Great graphics, score, and sound effects
- Too many statistics to manage
- Slow game pace
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