It's hard to have good strategy games without a keyboard but that's exactly what Koei have achieved. Well-loved governor Lui Bei is our hero attempting to rescue the love of his life, Daio Chan from the evil warlord Cao Cao in the land of Xu.
Sounding alarmingly like a Japanese Soap opera based in a feudal period of China's history Kessen II is not just a strategy game. A vast amount of cut scenes makes gaming action seem more like gaming inaction - you'll need to be prepared to watch the lavish story too.
Over 100 cut scenes add drama to the narrative, you are never too far away from the next story sequence. In fact after playing for thirty minutes you may wonder when the narrative stops, but regard it as tuition and a gingerly paced learning curve to lessen your frustration at the endless animation.
There is a breath-taking amount of activity at ground level with 500 soldiers on the screen at once. You have the ability to zoom in and get stuck in yourself or adopt a 3D view and watch the whole army scurry about beneath you. Choose a formation, think strategically and leave the soldiers to carry through your requests. Command and control from afar or right down to troop level.
Magic Manga-like characters join foot soldiers and cavalry. Conjuring war wizard magic gives you the best way to defeat the enemy. Tornado, Lightening and Meteor attacks from the magicians join the increased number of weapons and tactics for the troops from the first release of Kessen. There are 30 new stages including, sieges, sea battles and stampedes making this is a major advancement to the original title.
Impressive characters and an orchestral score in keeping with the story are joined by gorgeous graphics. Kessen II is visually astounding, but planning phases have been relatively ignored and while simple and easy to use they remain basic and rather ugly in comparison. Unfortunately not only are the graphics in the strategy stage limited but also the decisions, perhaps we'll see that area improved in Kessen 3?
Kessen II is a game for thinkers not doers. Sometimes it feels like there isn't much to do, you need patience and there is not much in the way of instant gratification. But if you have a serious amount of spare time on your hands there are plenty of rewards to reap. With more battle and real time elements in Kessen II than the original, Koei are definitely not far from a decent strategy game without a keyboard.Overall score: 5 out of 10
Players: 1 or 2
Recommended Price: £34.99
Available: NowBuy Kessen II for the PS2 from Amazon