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Kessen II (PS2)

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    • More +
      30.08.2012 09:54
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      A great mix of action and strategy

      Kessen II is a sequel to the first Kessen game. It has moved away from pure strategy, and your generals now take personal part in the battles, adding an action element. It is still an innovative and unique game.

      Set in the time of the Three Kingdoms in China, Kessen 2 covers the war between Liu Bei and Cao Cao. You play the game through first as Liu Bei, and then it opens the ability to play as Cao Cao. Once you have beaten both new difficulty levels open up, as do two bonus battles, which gives the game good replay value. The game is very even handed in its presentation of the factions. Both sides demonise the other but come across as intelligent and "good guys" when you are playing them.

      Before the battle you make a decision on how to prepare your army and manage your empire, e.g. training generals, recruiting soldiers, sabotage or working on PR. You then choose where you will place your troops on the battlefield and a starting battleplan.

      Once the battle has started, you have two modes of play: an overview mode where you can assign and change unit objectives, or playing a general directly to use special abilities to turn the tide of battle. You have to balance these - ignore the overview for one general and your troops will get overwhelmed in other locations, but if your generals never use their specials (and they won't unless you tell them) you'll also lose. In overview mode you have a free hand to control the troops and few battleplans survive first contact with the enemy - it's not unusual to see what the enemy are doing and promptly change your entire order set as the battle starts.

      The controls are easy to learn and the tutorial works well. A sub general coaches you through the first battle, introducing the controls at a reasonable pace.

      Graphically the game is impressive, although bloodless. The spells and special attacks are dramatic and the troops are individually animated. The use of sound is very good and the voice acting is generally excellent. One thing I didn't like was the use of actual video for Dao Chan's messages to Liu Bey, since it stands out very oddly on an otherwise computer-animated screen, particularly since the actress does not look like the sprite. Otherwise the cut sequences between and during the battles are very well done and blend well with the flow of the game

      The general's strengths are the most important aspect of the game, which unfortunately can overshadow the tactical aspect. Each general has special abilities and the historical realism of Kessen has been sacrificed to add spells and magic. This cuts both ways - Kessen 2 is more dramatic and the generals play more of a role, but the strategy aspect has been reduced. Formations are less important (I used two for all my troops for the entire game) and troop type does not seem to play as great a role.

      In general, this is an interesting combination of action and strategy play, with good replay value, and highly enjoyable.

      (An update of my Ciao review)

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    • More +
      25.04.2005 10:40
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      This is a review on the game called Kessen 2. It is from the creators of Dynasty Warriors. The game has the same officers from Dynasty Warriors, and Romance of the three kingdoms. It is set in the same time period, but has its own story line. It is the sequel to Kessen, which some people say is a load of crap as there is not much battling. Kessen 2 is created by KOEI, who also created Dynasty Warriors, Mystic Heroes and all that.

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      What makes this one so different?
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      What makes this game so different to Dynasty Warriors and Romance of the three kingdoms some people might say? Well it has a completely original new story line, and different game functions and different game play, which make it much different to the other games.

      There is a battle system on this game and a strategy system, you get to do both, and have special abilities within the game. Makes the game what it is, gives it it’s originality.

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      The Officers
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      The are 3 kingdoms in this game, which is SHU, WEI and WU. You get to control SHU at the start of the game. SHU is the innocent empire that starts up because the leader of WEI whom is called Cao Cao kidnapped his girl friend Diao Chan. During the game you get to hire new officers, if the opportunity accurse. There are other ways that you can get new officers which sometimes you just get a new one which is part of the story line, and also if you fight certain battles you win the trust of other officers that have their own small army.

      You get to control WEI once you have completed the SHU campaign, and it will have a different story line to SHU, pretty much the opposite, Cao Cao’s ambitions is to take over China and rule it himself, but Cao Cao is really up tight sometimes as he kills peasants and anything in his way to gain his goal.

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      Is their strategy to this game?
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      There is 2 parts of this game, there is the battle portion of it and then there is the strategy part. The strategy part is the long one to do, but sometimes it has to be done. You can change the route your unit is going in the strategy map, so you can get out of danger, or tell them to charge into the opponent, so you will fight them. For each unit, they will have so much morale, which can increase before each battle.

      Before each battle, you will have to decide what to do, your officers will say like you can recruit more troops, hire this certain officer etc etc. Then after you have decided that, you will go to the strategy tent, where you will decide your battle strategy. So many of your officers will make their decisions, then you will pick one of their options that will be more convenient for you.

      You can edit some strategies within battle, like changing your unit formation, which could give you the advantage of battle, or loose the advantage, depending how you use this. You can also do other things which can make your battling better, but it can take a while to win a battle, so you will need some patience.

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      The Battles
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      In battle mode, you will be able to control your officer of choice, depending what unit you choose is depending on what officer you control. Each officer has certain special abilities, which can bring advantage to the game. Like some have ones that will increase the morale of your troops, which will make them, fight for longer and harder.

      When you control an officer, you will be able to move him/her around on their horse, and attack other troops with their spear. Sorcerer officers have no weapon, and don’t ride a horse; they float around and punch enemy troops.

      The only way you can loose a battle is if your leader looses his entire morale, and looses the fight, or sometimes is if your leader is resorted to retreating, which can happen in some battles, depending on the rules of battle.

      There are two types of battle, there is the ground battling, which is the basic of battles, then there are water battles, which are much harder. The water battles means that your morale can go down much faster, because you fight on boats, and you can get surrounded which means you cant escape without being pushed back into battle, and enemy officers can start attacking you with their arrows, which shoots your morale right down, which means you have probably lost the battle, so watch out for them. The land battles are easy to do; there is a good chance you will win the battle.

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      Other
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      The playability of this game is not bad; it can get boring after a while, as most battles are extremely long. The game can get repetitive also, which puts disappointment into the game. But it is good for a while, if you like the whole strategy aspect of it like I do, then you will like this game.

      The game is not really addictive, but it is certainly playable, you will want to play it, but only like 1 – 2 missions a day, as it takes up a lot of your time, which means you could be doing better things with your life.

      The game is very original, It is the first game that is like this, with the strategy, the battles, the strategy within the battles, very good for you hardcore strategists out there!

      The graphics for this game is very good, but not the best, it have good detail when you are on the battlefield with all of the enemy troops, and your troops, with the officers, looks very real.

      The background music for this game is good, it is mainly oriental music, as that is the kind of music you would expect in that period of time.

      The game is done in English, it is done with voices which makes the game better, also you will have subtitles, which you can change the language of in the options section of the game.

      The game is quite difficult, because you will need quite a lot of patience and also need to have the mind to do the strategy of it all, so I would say this is suitable to people who have the mind for strategy and can wait. The game gets harder the further you get into the game.

      The game is very good value for money, it is only £10 - £20 now, it was the best strategy game of its year, and very good for strategy players. I will give this game 3 star * * *, because it is hard for most people, and you will need a lot of patience. I recommend this game to most people if they have the mind and time to play this game.

      Thanks For Reading!

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      • More +
        16.05.2004 04:08
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        • "Those cut scenes"

        Back in 1999 many of us were keenly anticipating the arrival of the (then) next generation consoles. Each month that passed brought with it a few new snippets of information. Then the images started to appear and one of the very first was a scene of dozens of warriors, some on horseback, engaging in an almighty battle. It turned out that this was from ?Kessen?, one of the initial launch titles for the Playstation 2. Set in feudal Japan, ?Kessen? was a real-time strategy game, a battle simulator if you like, featuring over one hundred 3D characters on screen at any one time. Basing the story on Japanese history it included some spectacular animation and was an impressive early display of the power of the PS2. The sequel, released early in 2002 and cunningly titled ?Kessen II?, shifts it?s emphasis to China but developers Koei have abandoned their usual formula of recreating historic battles and have instead opted to create a fictional plot which in turns allows them to be much more creative. ?Kessen II? focuses on three Chinese kingdoms and features a story rich in the themes of love, honour and power. As events unfold battles break out and you?ll need to plan out strategies and watch as your army carries out your orders in real time. During the battle you are able to command troops and generals to move around the battlefield and attack enemy troops. Amongst other improvements ?Kessen II? now features the ability to display 500 characters on screen at any one time. The story is told through a series of cutscenes. At specific points you?ll be given a choice of options and your selection will drive the story in certain directions. Sometimes these may seem minor choices such as do you train existing troops, recruit more or develop new weapons. Sometimes they will be more critical decisions such as who your
        army should attack. Sooner or later your actions will result in a battle and this is where the real meat of the game lies. You?ll be given a choice of three strategies before the battle and asked which to go with. Once you?ve made a decision you?ll be taken to a map of the battlefield. From here you?ll be able to watch the battle play out, your troops following your orders according to your choice of strategy. At any time you can take command of any of your generals on the field and implement one of a range of moves from simply rearranging the units formation to organising a charge at the enemy. Magic plays a big part in the story and certain generals are able to cast elemental spells such as lightning attacks, meteor storms or even earthquakes. Although these may be limited to begin with new and more powerful spells can be learnt as the game unfolds. Battles are not won simply by killing your enemy but by reducing their morale to zero although the two often go hand in hand. As such is possible to be hugely outnumbered and still win. Naturally the opposite is true. Win the battle and it?s on with the story. Lose and it?s game over although you can just continue from the last battle. Most of your orders are selected from on screen menus and although you can take direct control over your generals, your hand to hand fighting skills are limited to slashing a sword at your enemy. Otherwise the menus are intuitive and you can easily cycle between troops (having eight different units each involved in a different battle is quite common) using the shoulder buttons. If you caught the series Time Commander, shown on BBC 2 last year you?ll have a very good idea of how the battles look. You can observe a map of the whole battlefield to keep track of your troops or you can zoom into one particular troop and take direct control of one of your genera
        ls. It all looks rather impressive with your troops, some on horseback, some on foot, hacking and slashing away at the enemy. During the battle there are three main screens you can access to give you an idea of how things are progressing. There is an overall battle map so you can instantly see all your troops, ascertaining which are engaged in battle. This clearly shows the layout of the battleground using coloured blocks to indicate the positions of all troops. To check on an individual unit you can select the one that you?re interested in and zoom in on them. This is the most impressive view and it?s probably where you?ll spend most of your time during the battle. It?s also the best view to get a true feeling of the epic battle being played out. The animation of the troops is excellent although the surrounding areas do tend to look very repetitive and ? well, boring, initially consisting mostly of open fields. Play on and a little variety becomes apparent as you lay siege to castles and fight navel battles, each of which requires a different strategy to deal with your surroundings. Perhaps the most impressive graphical flourish is to be found in the execution of the elemental spells. Think of the summons animations from the later final fantasy games and you?ll have a good impression of how they look. A swirl of light effects and the camera pans out as a meteor takes shape or a tornado starts to form and build before unleashing itself on the enemy troops. Personally my favourite of these is the earthquake where a gaping chasm opens under the feet of your enemy only to close up drastically reducing their numbers. The orchestrated music is dramatic and goes some way to impress the feeling of a huge war being played out. The trouble is that no matter how good the music is when you?re listening to it for hours on end it will eventually get a tad repetitive. It could
        have done with a bit more variety. The actual battle sounds of steel on steel, the roar of the men in battle and the pounding of the horses? hooves do create a great atmosphere and one which is quite easy to get swept along with. So the game has its good points, mostly excellent graphics with impressive music and effects that combine to create a true epic quality. The PS2 joypad does a great job of coping with the assorted controls and thanks to the thoughtful layout it?s plain to see that you don?t always need a PC?s keyboard and mouse to bring an in-depth strategy title to a console. The initial training levels also save you having to plough through the instruction manual before getting tackling the game. The battlegrounds may be similar but they are impressively large. Fortunately the screen layout makes it fairly easy to keep track of all your troops and see how the battles are going. The learning curve is nicely balanced and despite all the controls you have to keep track of you never really feel as if it?s all getting too much for you. Unfortunately ?Kessen II? also has a lot that isn?t in its favour. Perhaps the biggest turn off for the casual gamer is that this is a dedicated strategy game. Even if you?re a fan of games like the command and conquer series this is a much slower affair. Whereas in those games you?re constantly attacking or defending your bases, in ?Kessen II? there are long slow periods. That?s not to say things don?t get hectic in the heat of battle but you are going to need a lot of patience and bags of time to get into this. And I?m talking hours before you even scratch the surface. Something that you will probably get bored of quite quickly is the cutscenes ? you?ll get a constant barrage of them. Although I consider myself to be a patient gamer I found these too intrusive. While they a
        re technically impressive it?s hard not to find the majority of characters annoying giving you even more reason to skip through them. Annoyingly you get them not only before and after battles but occasionally mid battle. An option to disable some of them would be very welcome. The reliance on the special moves is also an area of contention. While undoubtedly being one of the highlights of the game the use of magic mid-battle does feel a little out of place. However, overlooking this, the overwhelming desire to use up all your spells and special moves early on often means you?re left with little to do other than sit back and watch the rest of the fight play out. Yes, you can move troops around and still influence the game but exactly where and when you use these spells can make or break the fight for you. To be fair that?s something that you learn as you get further into the game by which time you?re starting to learn new and better spells but it does make for some frustrating early battles and is another reason why those gamers who do try it out may give up on it very quickly. Perhaps the only other major negative about this game is the lack of freedom. Things start to feel very restrictive when you are regularly limited to just three options such as, for example, when you?re trying to come up with a battle strategy. This restrictive feeling is present throughout the game even down to being unable to decide how many troops are in each unit (this is always pre-set for you and you cannot change it). It may be that I?ve been spoiled by the go-anywhere approach shown in Vice City and an increasing number of newer titles but I?m sure that greater freedom, while possibly making the game harder to get into, would make for a much more rewarding game in the long run. As it stands you simply don?t feel like you have absolute control and in a game where you?re supposed to be
        commanding an army and deciding on a winning strategy that?s unforgivable. Let?s make this clear. This isn?t a game for you unless you are heavily into tactical games. Most will probably find it too slow and drawn out to get into and playing the game can be a frustratingly linear task, which frequently only requires choosing one of three options and sitting back for another overly long cut scene. As it stands it?s hard to recommend this to most people. There are too many distractions to the main flow of the game. Most gamers will not get much enjoyment from this and even casual strategy fans may find this one of the tougher games to get into. Therefore it?s going to get two stars only. However, It?s worth pointing out that those few dedicated strategy addicts who are prepared to wade through the cut scenes and overlook the seemingly restrictive multi choice plot development will find an involving and sometimes addictive game perhaps more worthy of three or even four stars. You?ll need plenty of patience and an awful lot of free time on your hands to get the most from it but despite that it?s certainly a series that I will be keeping an eye on because there is no doubt a huge potential here. Although I have yet to try them I would point out that Koei are also responsible for the ?Romance of the Three Kingdoms? series and the slightly better known ?Dynasty Warriors? games that all deal with similar themes. However if you?d still like to try ?Kessen II? you shouldn?t have too much trouble picking up a new copy for less than £15. Thanks for reading. © Nomad 2004 Game information ------------------------ 'Kessen II' by Koei on Playstation 2 Elspa age rating - 11+ 1 Player Memory Card for PS2 - 131KB Min Analog Control Compatible : Analog Sticks Only Vibration Function Compatible Some websites worth a look --------------------------------------- Official Koei Website - http://www.koei.com/games/index.cfm Useful Hints and Tips - http://www.kongming.net/kessen2/

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        • More +
          22.10.2001 14:58
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          When Kessen II's creators promised an even more dynamic, more dramatic strategy game, they were not kidding. The original Kessen was already a massive leap forward for the strategy masters at Koei -- after years of variations on the Nobunaga's Ambition and Romance of the Three Kingdoms theme, it was a sudden jump into an entirely new generation of 3D graphics and active, cinematic gameplay. It's surprising, then, to see the sequel pushing even further away from the company's strategic roots, incorporating more cinematic elements, more real-time gameplay, and even a dose of hands-on action into the historical strategy framework. It's a bit jarring, but then it's also good to see that Koei doesn't intend for the series to stand still. It's interesting to wonder where it will go in the promised next installment, though. Now that Kessen II has covered the Romance of the Three Kingdoms milieu (the fantastic version of third-century China portrayed in the famous historical novel and many Koei strategy games past), Koei will presumably go beyond its traditional stomping grounds in search of a new setting. For now, though, it's the Three Kingdoms world that makes the game -- the new emphasis on powerful magic and the use of heroic characters is perfectly in keeping with the theme of the story. It's an unusual synergy between presentation and gameplay, and it works to enhance what is already a solid strategy game. Gameplay Kessen, as you know if you played the first game (released here via EA), is Koei strategy for people who hate Koei strategy. For fifteen years or more, the company's bread and butter has been complex historical strategy sims, heavy on the political and logistic elements to complement the business of actual conquest. The Nobunaga's Ambition and Romance of the Three Kingdoms games were always excellent efforts, but their appeal gradually grew limited to a small audience of die-hard fans. Old
          -school Koei strategy demands a serious commitment just to contemplate success -- winning those games is an effort requiring dozens of hours. The Kessen series takes the historical setting of the classic games, pumps it up with a strong infusion of the fantastic, and strips down the gameplay into something a little more user-friendly. Kessen II's character design is strongly reminiscent of Dynasty Warriors' glorious excess, and like the Kessen before it, all but the most rudimentary issues of logistics, politics, and government are long gone. The spaces between battles are occupied with cinematic interludes and very simple options for army and officer development, while combat itself occurs in real time (albeit still on a massive scale -- no skirmishes here), and heavily emphasizes the involvement of individual personalities. For example, you can now take direct control of an officer, running about Dynasty Warriors-style and whacking the enemy troops. Certain special attacks (such as Raid) also now involve just a touch of twitchy control. This isn't a major factor -- use of an officer in this way appears to only affect enemy morale, not their actual troop numbers -- but it's definitely a step in a more action-oriented direction. The same goes for the introduction of magical attacks into the game, as befits the presence of characters like Zhuge Liang in the story. More on that in a little bit. The long and the short of it, meanwhile, is that this is another excellent effort at bringing the strategy genre kicking and screaming into the next generation. Like Konami's Ring of Red (also a fine piece of work), Kessen integrates realtime elements into its combat without completely embracing the skirmishy Blizzard/Westwood style, and it manages to move far faster and more smoothly the RoR ever did. The 3D terrain and individual troop representation do an excellent job of letting the player intuitively grasp terrain and posit
          ioning issues. Of course, those who actually liked all the logistics and political skullduggery that got thrown out with the bathwater have our condolences, but there are plenty of games on the PC catering to more conservative tastes. Graphics Viewed up close, Kessen II looks substantially similar to its predecessor. Just to get the issue out of the way quickly, the pre-rendered cutscenes are still flat-out gorgeous, Koei having somehow managed to build a first-rate team of 3D artists at the drop of a hat. The realtime character models of troops and officers are comparable in terms of polygon and texture detail, and there hasn't been a substantial increase in background detail (which was one of the visual failings of the first game). There are perhaps more troop types, and the new barbarian elephant cavalry look amazing (Whee! Elephants!), but again, the details haven't improved considerably. To see where Kessen II builds on the first game, you have to pull back and take the long view. The number of troops shown at any given time has increased roughly five-fold, which is even more impressive considering the amount of direct control you have over units and officers at any given time (like officers, you can grab a single army or unit and move it around the battlefield with the analog stick, in case you don't feel like letting the AI take the shortest route between two points). The framerate takes a hit now and again when the battlefield gets extremely chaotic, particularly in the aftermath of a magical attack, but by and large things move quite smoothly. And as eye-candy goes, those magic strikes are worth the price. They occur infrequently enough that they don't unbalance the battle unduly (particularly since battles may consist of three, four, or more separate engagements, while each side usually only has one magician), and they're certainly entertaining. Along with the tornadoes and lightning strikes you may ha
          ve already seen, there are meteor showers, ice storms, and a brilliant "Fissure" spell, which opens a giant crack in the earth to engulf the enemy. Magic requires a certain amount of strategy to use, too, with varying area effects and friendly-fire considerations to ponder. Sound Kessen II retains the fine orchestral score of its predecessor. When battles become genuinely fierce, with the troops on screen pushing the engine to its limits, the music grants the scene even more of that epic, Kurosawa feel -- the character design may tread a fine line between the fantastic and the genuinely silly (are the closeups on Mei Sanniang's cleavage entirely necessary?), but the soundtrack brings the game back into a more familiar concept. It sounds Epic (yes, Epic with a capital "E"), and so it feels Epic. A crude way of expressing the feeling, but if you've seen something like Ran or Throne of Blood to compare the sensation to, perhaps you understand what I mean. Again, however, the voice acting (which permeates the game, in both battles and cinematics) is a bit of a sticking point. Kessen II's voice not quite so silly as the dubbing of English into the original Kessen's medieval Japanese setting, but it still inspires a few misgivings. I don't necessarily regret the English dialogue out of typical fannish petulance ("Japanese is always better...war is peace...freedom is slavery..."), but because there were actors in the Japanese version that I'm genuinely fond of, and that I very much miss.. Makio Inoue, the voice of Captain Harlock. CAPTAIN HARLOCK WAS IN THIS GAME, DAMMIT. Not to mention Tooru Furuya, famous for the role of Amuro Rei (among many others), and Sumi Shimamoto, the title role of Miyazaki's Nausicaa. In comparison, the English voice cast can't help but fall just a little bit flat, although those with even a mild tolerance for most US voice acting shouldn't mind the game at
          all. Of course, maybe this is merely another form of typical fannish petulance, and I'm just moderately successful at fooling myself. Eh, stick it. Comments After all, even if you violently detest American voice acting, that should only be a minor obstacle to the enjoyment of a fine console strategy game. Kessen II builds on its predecessor by bringing the player even closer to the action, and it also manages to do something about Kessen's minor difficulties in the replay value department -- there are now more options between missions, more total playtime, and as before you can fight through a second campaign once the first is complete. Chalk up another success for Koei's big next-generation gamble, then, and let the betting begin on what theme Kessen III will embrace. More Nobunaga's Ambition, or something entirely new? We'll see soon enough.

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