Friday, May 21, 2010

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Yokoyama Mitsuteru Shin Sangokushi: Tenka wa Ware ni

This one's a mouthful -- Yokoyama Mitsuteru Shin Sangokushi: Tenka wa Ware ni, released in 1992 for the PC Engine CD-ROM drive by Naxat Soft.  My Japanese skills are almost non-existent, so I'm not even sure how to appropriately abbreviate the title.  A little research indicates that Yokoyama Mitsuteru is actually the name of the manga artist who created the comic Sangokushi, one of many works inspired by historical events in second and third century China.  Koei's Romance of the Three Kingdoms game series is known as Sangokushi in Japan, so for differentiation's sake, I'm just going to call this game Shin Sangokushi.

The game opens with a fairly lengthy introductory sequence -- the images are not full-screen, and the animation is limited, as this game was released for the original PC Engine CD-ROM 1.0 card with its limited onboard buffering RAM.  But the visuals and music do a good job of setting the stage -- three rulers, one land, with tension and betrayal lurking in the wings:

As one might guess from the derivation, Shin Sangokushi is a strategy game in the vein of the Koei products, and it's probable Naxat Soft acquired the manga license in order to give its market entry some visibility.  On the main game screen, the player is presented with a map of villages, color-coded by fealty; the object is to conquer each village (not necessarily by force), managing community resources and military tactics to expand influence and eventually unite the three kingdoms of China. As the game gets underway, we can see that unrest is brewing in the streets:

But this is about as far as I got with any degree of coherence.  Shin Sangokushi is thoroughly Japanese -- there is NO English text beyond the Naxat Soft logo on the title screen, which means that my play session consisted primarily of trial and error menu selections, trying to make something interesting happen.  And I didn't really get anywhere -- there isn't even much graphic iconography to provide hints, as most of the labels are in Japanese text.

The CD-ROM storage capacity allows for occasional spot animations -- I was able to see and understand that floods and droughts were striking various villages, and see my investments (for such I presume the adjustable numbers strewn throughout the menus to be) yielding illustrated results in construction, education, and military training.  But in general I muddled through the extensively detailed screens, divining no clue as to what the various statistics on display might actually mean:

So in this case, I am truly and completely the Clueless Gaijin I half-jokingly claim to be, finding myself unable to play the game in any meaningful way.  Perusing the manual shows me I've only scratched the surface of what Shin Sangokushi has to offer -- for one thing, I never found my way to the hex-based strategy map sections of the game.  But as with any simulation worth the name, the game's statistics are complex, with subtle interactions -- poking around at random seems unlikely to yield much more information than I've been able to glean, and so I must concede defeat.

A working knowledge of Japanese is an absolute must for this one, so buyer beware.  Yokoyama Mitsuteru Shin Sangokushi: Tenka wa Ware ni is currently out of stock as I'm writing this, but may on occasion be available for purchase via this affiliate link.

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