There's nothing quite like a classic.
KOEI TECMO America announced about a week or so ago the release of an iPad version of their classic hit Romance of the Three Kingdoms Touch Plus for iPad.
If you're not familiar with the series, or you didn't get to experience the SNES game when it came out, the entire drive of the game surrounds 'strategy'. You basically choose between famous warlords of Chinese history and do your best to conquer the other warlords (or befriend them) around you. What was always interesting about the game is how detailed it got during gameplay.
First, you choose which dynasty you want to start out in. From that point you can choose to be historically accurate or go the way of fiction. If you're historically accurate then the game flows with Chinese history (pretty cool, eh?). You also get the choice to accurately portray the lifespan of your warlord (have him die when he is suppose to) or just let him die when you kill him. If you're like me, you can choose to go 'fiction' and make your own wars the way you want them.
Pretty nice choices and the game hasn't even really begun.
Once the game starts, the gameplay can be compared on a shallow level to the game Risk. You can conquer lands around you that are unoccupied and set up military and towns. You can invade lands close by and take those over. That's about all the Risk comparison I can extend, as the game gets incredibly detailed and demanding from that point on.
Outside of conquering, you have to develop towns. Developing towns takes gold. By developing towns you earn townfolks' respect. By gaining their respect you get support for your military (you can recruit a bit better), the ability to sell food/buy food (very important for armies), and a better chance at employing other generals/warlords from other areas of the map. You can also do things like donate food to charity, which increased your town's happiness and stability. Once you lose your town then it's difficult to recover.
Shifting gears just slightly, the game also has a very good military feature on it. As you gain gold and food, you can recruit and build your military for each province. If you lose either food or gold then you don't really have the ability to recruit, which is something you need to win the game. You also have the ability to drill and prepare your military for battle. These things are basic.
The real beef to the military is the ability to have multiple armies combined together to invade one land. You can train and build troops under one general who can combine themselves with other generals and then altogether invade lands and destroy other armies. The worst I ever rained down on someone during a battle was 70k of soldiers versus 8k. Sure it was unfair, but it was fun to watch.
As for the battle itself, it's pretty simple. The board is spread out on a hexagon layout. You have all your armies with certain movement abilities and restrictions on the board. Advice.... keep your warlord at your home base the entire battle! Should your warlord get killed during battle then the rest of your troops will retreat. There's nothing you can do about the retreat, as it does make sense that a leaderless army will be confused and should run; so keep your leader safe.
The weapons you use during battle range from charges (where your army charges on another army; drilling your army helps this) , normal attack (back and forth -- turn-based almost) and several other options (like confuse). You can also break apart armies and join them. You can set armies on fire and locations. There's so much you can do during battle, but it's gravely important that you create some sort of strategy prior to going into battle.
With every good there is a bad and certainly there is a bit of frustration that occasionally reared its head with such a huge invasion on a small army. The A.I. in this game is incredibly smart. On more than one occasion I took my invading army into battle and the A.I. immediately retreated itself from the war. Sure, I took the land from them, but I wanted to completely wipe out that warlord. I ended up chasing the warlord's army around the board for nearly 20 minutes. Finally, I had to corner the warlord so that they wouldn't escape (surrounded several armies around them) and took them out with authority. Two things happened during this time period.
The first, by moving my armies out of their position to catch this group I left my other armies and lands open for invasion. Sure it's all part of the strategy of the game, but it's damn frustrating.
Second, some of my generals close by that left their lands had their lands taken over by other warlords. Again, I understand that this is the strategy I bought into for the game, but again it's frustrating to watch it play out.
Anyway, that was my huge complaint of the game, and it's not much of a complaint about the game as it is about my skill of decision-making. I know some of you are saying, "Why not just hang back, build up your armies and corner him naturally over time?" Well, if I did that then I'm giving him the opportunity to build up his army again and potentially be a formidable opponent. Strike while he is down and keep him down!
Other things the game instituted that I was very impressed with was the random natural disasters and diseases. Randomly during the span of the time period you're playing in you will have natural disasters happen on certain random provinces. You'll have things like locusts, disease, earthquakes, and floods randomly occur. These things damage your provinces; sometimes you lose a ton of people. It's tough, but it's an element of the game that brings just a tad bit more realism to the entire process.
In other words, I love it.
Now with all this said, I've read online that many people were a bit unhappy with the iPhone release. I can assure you that the iPad release is everything you want in Romance of the Three Kingdoms Touch Plus for iPad. It's easy to use (big buttons that you can touch with your entire finger is a huge plus for this game) and it runs smoothly like a cold beer down your throat on a hot summer day. Having the iPad case from Apple (the ability to make the sucker stand) helps an infinite amount. The only issue I ran into during this game, technical-wise, is that it kept saying that I was running low on memory. I even took almost all the apps on my iPad off the device and tried it and it still gave me the message. Of course, I continued through the message and nothing bad came out of it. So, I'm not sure what it was asking for, but it never became a problem. The autosave still did its work and all things worked out splendidly.
If I did want something added to this $15.99 game (good price point for the amount of entertainment you will garnish from it -- at least 8-12 hours) it's the ability to play online. I daydreamed about how much fun online play with Romance of the Three Kingdoms Touch Plus for iPad would be. Sit there for a second and imagine it. Yes, it's a great thing. Regretfully it isn't included and this game would have been damn near perfect had it been included.