Nobunaga's Ambition: Rise to Power Review
Nobunaga's Ambition: Rise to Power box art
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

That leads us to combat phases. Combat is fairly simple; in order to be successful you will have to secure three basic resources. These resources are gold, food, and troops. Gold is necessary to build the facilities to equip you armies. Food is imperative to maintaining your militia during long campaigns. After all, you can't wage a prolonged siege with a ragtag bunch of underfed soldiers. Finally, and most importantly, you will need bodies. Large numbers of troops will prove to be the key to your success. Tactics are important, but human resources are indispensible. The best way to subdue your rivals is to go at them with an overwhelming advantage. This may also entail procuring the help of your allies to provide you with crack reinforcements.

Nobunaga's Ambition: Rise to Power screenshot

You will be able to wage war on any other fief in Japan as long as there are roads connecting your kingdom to it. Roads and connections are established by the development of your holdings and the fame and culture your empire has. After deciding to go to war, you will have to choose the appropriate officers that will carry out your orders efficiently. Your officers will have varied skills and special abilities. As such, you need to decide what kind of troops each officer should lead, how many they can lead, and how they will be best used in the battle. You can issue orders on the fly or while having the game paused. This makes the RTS battles very manageable and extremely straightforward for the console controls. Battles can be either pitched on the open fields or they may include overwhelming the enemy's keep. It all depends on the size and confidence of the opposing force.

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During battles, morale plays a huge factor in troop performance. It is important to maintain healthy units by resting them, giving them the honor of attacking first, taking out key tower emplacements, etc. All of these elements will factor into the overall ability and performance of your army. Additionally, it is important to use specific troops for specific tasks. Mounted cavalry is great for taking out infantry in a pitched battle, but if you have to siege the enemy stronghold then you're going to need pikemen that can take down enemy fortifications.

As the game progresses and you become more and more powerful and landed, you will also garner rank, titles, and daimyo classification. The more generous and politically agile you are with the bureaucrats and daimyos of the Japanese archipelago, the more quickly you will gain renown. You will start out as a minor daimyo (assuming you go for the Hard difficulty) and will work your way up the political food chain. The daimyo classifications encompass five total ranks. They are Minor, Major, Warlord, Conqueror, and Unifier. Each successive rank comes with a lot of advantages. For example, Warlords can build up to 20 facilities in their fiefs rather than just the paltry ten allowed to Minor and Major daimyo. Furthermore, Conquerors can participate in Kessen. Kessen are combat showdowns between rival Conquerors. They allow you to essentially go "all in." You can pit the entirety of your forces and lands against another in order to rapidly expand your power and influence. If you go down however, your defeat will be total. You will lose everything. It is a pretty awesome feature for the betting man and a great way for the developers to bring in the element of honor and risk.

Nobunaga's Ambition: Rise to Power screenshot

The game covers seven scenarios that represent key historical points during Nobunaga's ascension and decline. Each period will have a historically accurate quality that brings about new challenges. In order to help you with these challenges, you can create officers to help you in the conquest and unification of Japan. The officer editor is very deep and allows you to modify appearance, abilities, life cycle, and even homeland, father, friends, and enemies.

It is safe to say that the deeply strategic gameplay overshadows the overall presentation. Fortunately, the graphics are now in full 3D, but they definitely feel outdated. There are over a 1000 unique characters to choose from, however, so even if battles are a bit antiquated, the appropriate feel is still communicated to the player. The musical score is very well done, though probably a bit repetitive. Kosuke Yamashita is the man responsible for the composition of the themes, and they are contextually accurate and interesting despite the lack of selection. As I have alluded to earlier, the controls are quite well executed. The mapping of the key functions, the straightforward menu design, and the ability to pause battles makes everything very easy.

If you're someone who likes strategy and appreciates the Sengoku period of Japanese history, you should love this game. The gameplay in this title combines many different features in order to layer the strategic elements of the title. This game has a lot to offer those who are still ringing every bit of gaming juice out of their PS2. If you are looking for fast paced action, however, this is not the game for you. This is a title for those who are used to strategy games and like to take a methodical approach to interactive entertainment.

By Jonathan Marx
CCC Lead Contributor / News Director

RATING OUT OF 5
RATING DESCRIPTION
3.1
Graphics
This PS2 title doesn't shine visually, but the graphics are good enough to maintain the setting and player interest.
4.5
Control
The strategy title controls remarkably well on the PS2
3.9
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The musical score is impressive, but repetitive. The Japanese voiceover work just sounds cool.
4.2
Play Value
There is a lot of content and multi-faceted strategic elements that make this a lot of fun.
4.0
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
Screenshots / Images
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