Romance of the Three Kingdoms

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a game by Koei
Genre: Strategy/War
Platform: NESNES
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 3 reviews
User Rating: 9.0/10 - 2 votes
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See also: Romance of the Three Kingdoms Games
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Romance of the Three Kingdoms

What's a warlord to do? Your northern neighbor's invasion force has just crossed your border, one of your generals has decided to defect, and now your slimey southern neighbor wants to marry your daughter. Toss in pestilence, plague, floods, a rebellion or two, and an order of rice for 500,000 people, and it looks like this month's going to be a bummer. Welcome to Second Century China.

A Classic Scenario

Koei's Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a strategy role-playing game that's based on a classic novel from Chinese literature. The characters and events in Romance of the Three Kingdoms are as famous in China as King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are in Europe.

In the Second Century, China was a country divided into three kingdoms with 58 warring states. Your task is to unify the states, whether they want to or not. How quickly do you think you can pull the country together? It only took the Chinese 100 years to do it!

An Epic Challenge

You must conquer your enemies, but Romance of the Three Kingdoms is no shoot-em-up. This game emphasizes brains over brawn, strategy over thumb-blistering action.

The game covers a period in Chinese history from 189 280 A.D. You can play five different scenarios. Each scenario is so complex, it's like getting five games in one. In addition to playing with 58 states, you'll encounter 255 characters and you can play at 10 different skill levels. Up to eight players can play a game or you can challenge the computer. Players take turns in order, but the computer randomly selects the states you can play.

Better set aside a hefty chunk of play time, Romance is a monster. Needless to say, this game isn't your typical video game fare.

The Masters

You play one of 16 Masters. Each master rules several states and commands a brain trust of generals. It's up to you and your cohorts to conquer the remaining states. Masters and generals are rated according to 15 characteristics including IQ, military prowess, charm, loyalty, and luck.

ProTip: When you're learning the game, it pays to choose a strong Master. Cao Cao has the highest characteristics ratings. Liu Bei is another good choice for beginners.

What You See

All the action takes place on three screens: the Main Display, the Map Display, and the Battle Display.

The Main Display enables you to conduct the internal affairs of your various states. The Map Display shows you a map of China with all the states numbered and color- coded by ruling Master. The Battle Display shows the terrain of the state being invaded and enables you to position troops, conduct a battle, and monitor the outcome.

A Turn for Every Season

Don't think you can just fight your way to the top. Neglect the well-being of your states and neighbors may overrun you or your people may just decide to kick you out.

You start each turn at the Main Display where you use 15 commands to rule your state. Among these are War, Give to bestow gifts to generals and peasants, Develop to plant fields for rice, View to spy on other states. Train to build up the army, Diplomacy to negotiate deals (including marriages) with other masters, and Trade to buy rice and weapons.

  • If your state doesn't have any critical needs, spying on enemy states is a good strategic move. The information you gather may not help immediately, but it can prove invaluable when one of your other states is ready to wage a war.
  • It's a good idea to use the Give command once in awhile to reward your people and your generals. It reduces the likelihood of rebellion and keeps generals from defecting to the other side.

Each state has basic resources which include Gold, Rice, Castles, Horses, Metal, Population, Soldiers, and Land Value. You'll need to build up all of these to keep your people loyal, beef up your a defenses, and conquer enemy states.

If your state doesn't have Metal, try to trade with a merchant for metal weapons. These can mean the difference between victory and defeat in battle.

Strong Arm Tactics

Want to quickly convince a neighbor to join your side? Conquer him. Choose your attacking generals and allocate gold and rice for the campaign. Position your generals and their armies to attack enemy castles and hide your gold and rice.

Hide your rice well, and use the Move feature's Divide command to leave a rear guard to protect your supplies. An army travels on its stomach; it your enemies capture your rice cache, snap, crackle, pop -- you lose!

Next, your opponent sets his defenses. Now, use the Battle Display to begin the war. Maneuver your forces for the attack. When you get close enough to engage the enemy force, you can fight with archers, charge with calvary and foot soliders, or launch fireballs. A brief animated sequence appears to let you know the computer is refereeing the match. You'll have to defeat several armies to win a campaign.

If you fight with lire, assess your location and judge the wind direction. Don't accidentally surround yourself with fire and don't let the wind blow flames back onto your army!

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is probably one of the most complex strategy role-play games around. It's almost impossible to finish a scenario in one sitting, but don't worry you can save your game. This is a captivating game that combines elements of entertainment with education into hours of gameplay. Want to make history? Try a little Romance.

Download Romance of the Three Kingdoms


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
  • P-200, 32 MB RAM

Game Reviews

  • Manufacturer: Koei
  • Machine: Super NES

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to third century China... Based in the later Han Dynasty, this hard-core strategy title is brought to you by the folks who all but invented the genre, Koei.

The Han dynasty is on the verge of falling into anarchy as three noble kingdoms, the Wei, Wu, and Shu families, war among themselves for control of the country. The game includes over 450 special officers for the player to attempt to enlist and control, and they've added 24 - that's right, 24 - new skills to each character's abilities. We guess that's for anyone who thought Romance III didn't have enough stuff to keep track of.

Looks cool though, and one thing you can say about the series is that the sound and graphics just keep getting better. At 24-megs, this one's a monster.

If you think political turmoil in China is a 20th-century phenomenon, Romance of the Three Kingdoms will convince you otherwise. The fall of the Second Han Dynasty in the second century provides the background for this masterful exercise in Eastern political machinations. You'll discover that politics in the ancient Far East was a volatile combination of the sword and subtlety.

In the chaos that follows the disintegration of the dynasty, dozens of warlords are vying for control of China. By wise administration, negotiation, and sometimes aggression, you seek to develop and strengthen your province, and, ultimately, your claim to the emperor's throne. In second century China, succession was more a matter of natural selection than hereditary privilege. Although this may not have been the most stable form of government, it did mirror the dynamism of Chinese society during the first millennium.

To accomplish your ends, you'll have to recruit loyal and able generals and train your troops. War, however, is not always the best answer. Negotiations and alliances are also important weapons in the art of governing. And you must concern yourself with keeping your subjects happy, so the provincial economy ranks high on your list, too. After all, people who aren't eating well make poor soldiers and great dissidents. Romance of the Three Kingdoms offers five different scenarios from consecutive historical periods. One to eight people can play, each assuming the role of a different warlord. If you've played Nobunaga's Ambition, also by Koei, there won't be any surprises here. Both games feature a variety of characterization and flexible game play. There are also ten levels of difficulty, making the game suitable for a wide range of players.

With Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Koei continues to set new standards for Nintendo games. It goes far beyond that of the usual action-oriented video-games. If you're tired of slashing and zapping, try your hand at weaving a few threads in the rich tapestry that was ancient China.

Snapshots and Media

NES/Famicom/Dendy Screenshots