30 Years of Video Games – Kessen (2000)

I’m waving goodbye to my 20′s and to celebrate I’m counting down 30 games from the last 30 years.  Join me while I countdown 30 great years of game memories.


The Playstation 4 is on our doorstep but it seems like only yesterday we were wowed by what the Playstation 2 was capable of.  Three dimensions weren’t enough any more and we were now people of discerned taste.  We were looking for frame rates, real time reflections, fancy lighting and as many on-screen characters as our eyes could manage.  And we were rewarded handsomely with games like State of Emergency throwing maximum carnage and maximum number of on-screen characters onto our screens and looking genuinely next generation while doing it.  Ultimately though it was the kind of game you find at launch, technically impressive but ultimately shallow. Koei’s Kessen too was a bit of a head turner, with plenty of on-screen characters, but unlike the former it was also a pretty deep game experience.

Of course coming from Koei you know pretty much what to expect from its work on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms  and its associated spin-off Dynasty Warriors.  While taking place in feudal Japan, Kessen adopts the strategy of Koei’s other games, sitting somewhere between the two.  You initially  take control of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa beginning with his campaign against the traitor Ishida Mitsunari playing all the way through his consolidation of power at the siege of Osaka Castle to unify Japan.  Missions take place during famous battles over that 15 year period.

The gameplay itself is a complicated beast that’s slow game pace will deter all but the most patient of players.  It is strategy is the strictest of sense of the word and if you’re expecting to be picking up a sword and hack and slash the thousands of enemies you’ll be sorely disappointed.  Instead you’ll be handing orders down to generals, deciding on high level tactics and analysing enemy forces to work out the way to best lead your side to victory. Think of it as controlling the general flow of the battle rather than the actual blow by blow action. It’s not always exciting but and while it isn’t as involved as your regular real time strategy game whereby you give direct orders to each and every unit it is probably the best feudal wartime battle simulator on console and a pretty unique experience.  That holds triple for those that have never been into PC gaming.

If you’re not interested in japanese history and don’t have the patience to sit through what basically amounts to a real time strategy game then Kessen will rub you the wrong way at every possible turn. But if either hearing either pricked your ears up it is still worth tracking down and playing through even ten years later.

Kessen had two sequels on the Playstation 2 and parts of its gameplay mechanic was emulated in the Hundreds Year War strategy-action title Bladestorm released on Xbox 360 and PS3.


Have a favourite game from 2000?  Tell us in the comments below.  Don’t forget to come back soon for the next game in our countdown.  Miss a year?  Catch up below.

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