|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Koei||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Koei||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 5, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Strategy titles are usually best left for the PC. There's something about the mouse and keyboard that lends itself to the genre. Typically consoles do much better at FPS and heavy action titles. Remarkably, Nobunaga's Ambition: Rise to Power breaks the mold. This game is a historical based strategy simulator for the PS2 that combines deep and varied gameplay elements with simple tools and controls. The resulting fusion of complexity and simplicity makes it a title that stands out from the crowded game store shelves. It's nice to see that the PS2 still has a lot to offer.
Rise to Power marks the series' return to the U.S. Koei employed the production services of Kou Shibusawa. Some of you may remember that Mr. Shibusawa was responsible for many other solid history-based Koei titles; namely Romance of the Three Kingdoms and P.T.O. As such, the game's production values are very high and it shows in a polished title that is very playable.
Set in the 16th century, Nobunaga's Ambition: Rise to Power has players take the reins as daimyo of one of the warring Japanese feudal states during the Sengoku period. This era in Japanese history is absolutely perfect for videogames, and Koei has taken advantage of it with this title. Most players will probably choose to be Nobunaga Oda, "The Fool of Owari." However, you can choose to be any of the minor or major daimyo that were ruling during the era. The initial strength and geographic location of each daimyo will determine just how challenging the scenario will be.
Nobunaga Oda came to power after the death of his father Nobuhide. His control over his lands is precarious and many of his retainers see others within the Oda clan as being more capable and better suited to lead in Nobuhide's place. As a result, the perils that beset Nobunaga, and subsequently the player, stem from internal ambition and external aggression. The question that remains is: will you have the political savvy to establish yourself as the legitimate leader of the Oda clan in the eyes of your people, your retainers, and your daimyo peers? If you cannot successfully consolidate power, then you will be oft plagued by rebellion and outside forces that encircle your fief like vultures over the sick and wounded.
Luckily, you will have myriad tools at your disposal. You will be tasked with the seasonal management of state affairs. There are eight seasons per year, and you will construct facilities such as garrisons, temples, stables, farms, markets, smithies, and the like that will help to project your power abroad and stabilize the economy and legitimize your authority within the fief. In addition to building facilities, you will also be in charge of the further development of existing structures. Through the commitment of money, time, and resources you will be able to increase the productivity of your lands and the satisfaction of your subjects.
Helping you with the fief's governance is a retinue of officers. These men are delegated authority by you. Every time you issue a command to them, it will cost you a command point. You have a limited number of command points available each season, so it is important that you use them wisely. These officers have different strengths and weaknesses. Officer statistics and abilities are divided into six categories. Each officer will have ability scores or specific skills and rank in each of the following: politics, leadership, intelligence, charm, skills, and rank. What these scores and abilities determine is how each officer should be used. Some officers are capable political negotiators, while others should be used to lead troops into battle or to handle your domestic affairs. Once you have used an officer in any particular season, they won't be available to you until the following season. So it is important to play to their strengths.
Your officers will remain loyal to you as long as you reward them either with gold or by bestowing items of value, rank, and titles upon them. In this way, officers can also be educated over time and some of their initial deficiencies can be vastly improved. However, intrigue within your circle of retainers is a way of life during the Sengoku period. As a result, it can at times be very difficult to retain an officer in your employ. Be careful in whom you confide and to whom you reward, as sometimes it can come back to hurt you. If an officer does decide to part ways he will become a Ronin and seek a new lord to serve. Internal intrigue often will frustrate even your best efforts.
Officers aren't the only way to get results, however. If you maintain low taxation, low crime, and a bustling and vibrant fief you will be able to contract with dealers. Dealers will buy excess foodstuffs from you and provide your armies with guns, cannons, horses, and rare items to improve your chances for success. You can also deal with other daimyos to help solidify your position. When first starting out, you will most likely be a minor daimyo in need of alliances and protection. If you can successfully negotiate with your peers, you will be able to invade your enemies while still covering your six. In fact, if you can get on extremely friendly terms with certain neighbors, you will be able to go on joint invasions to bring your enemies' lands under your control.