PS2: A Retrospective, Part IV

October 20th, 2010 Marc N. Kleinhenz

On October 26, 2000, the Sony PlayStation 2 was launched, delivering not only one of the single best software libraries to the world, but also cementing a slew of features as commonplace items in every system hence: backwards compatibility, online gaming, multimedia functionality. That none of these was originated by Sony itself is a testament to the console’s legacy.

To commemorate the occasion, TotalPlayStation has gathered some of the best and most influential journalists, from either in-house or outside publications, to discuss one of their most cherished games from the PS2’s long lifecycle.

Ten authors and ten years in ten days. Let the celebration begin.

Author: Scott Rodgers [TotalPlayStation Sports Editor]
Game: Kessen II
Release date: September 26, 2001

Kessen II doesn’t make a lick of sense. As someone who has read through every word of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it is kind of insulting to think that this is how some people could have been introduced or reintroduced to the source material.

But, holy cow, was it fun.

Most know the RotK lore from the Dynasty Warriors franchise, but the two could not be more different. Whereas DW is based on hacking and slashing, fighting officers, and running from Lu Bu, Kessen II requires that you control an entire army. From its movements to its placement to its officers’ special abilities, you are required to control every detail of the battlefield.

The story would appear, on first blush, to be a form of fan fiction. Liu Bei and Cao Cao are going head to head – great. Makes a lot of sense, right? But what are they fighting for, exactly? Land? Power? Prestige? Well, all three, but the swerve comes in the fact that Diao Chan is Liu Bei’s love interest, and she also protects the Mandate of Heaven. Oh, and Cao Cao’s best officer is Himiko, an obscure Shamanic queen. Xun Yu is also a woman, for whatever reason, and she has feelings for Cao Cao. Because of this, she has it in for Diao Chan, and there is a hilarious – yet awkward – love triangle that bastardizes the history and the lore of RotK.

Cao Cao’s army is obviously much, much larger than Liu Bei’s. Where Liu Bei holds the advantage, however, is that Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhuge Liang, and Zhao Yun are easily the second through the sixth best officers, respectively, in the game, behind Himiko. That lends itself greatly to helping the player, as you have to complete Liu Bei’s story mode before unlocking Cao Cao’s. Without having this imbalance to counter the sheer size of the Wei army, it’d be very easy for the AI to just overwhelm the player (which it still sometimes does).

After scraping by and leveling up your units throughout the story mode, the two groups are roughly even by game’s end. And when the final confrontation takes place, Liu Bei’s army is actually superior to Cao Cao’s. The only difference is that Himiko is basically a one-woman wrecking crew, a la Lu Bu at Hu Lao Gate in the Dynasty Warriors franchise.
When you unlock Cao Cao’s story mode, it’s as though you have turned on cheats. His army is just so massive; you thump Liu Bei over and over. Of course, it’s suicidal to rush any one officer into battle against the “Three Brothers,” but with the Wei army at your fingertips, you can pit three or four officers against one “sibling” and systematically pick them off.

With its twists and turns, fan service appearances, and complete disregard for history, Kessen II provides a fantastic experience. The RPG elements of leveling up your officers give a constant sense of growth (though you’ll curse and throw controllers to see the magician on the other side use spell after spell, killing not only your army, but your morale), and watching the map turn green or red, depending on your affiliation, is satisfying – unless you’re a Wu fanboy. In that case, enjoy your one or two appearances and turn away while the demolition takes place.

Despite all this, though, I have to say that my favorite thing about the game was not necessarily the story, the characters, or the gameplay, but, rather, simply engaging in battle and just observing the results. (It really showcased the power of the PlayStation 2 – and this was in 2001.) Koei’s games are renown for their ability to have hundreds or thousands of combatants on the map, and Kessen II was no different, save for the removal of button mashing, which allowed the player to become a spectator of epic (quasi) historical scenes.

Nothing drove this home more than the dueling mechanic. When challenged to a duel, your warrior’s fate is completely out of your hands. It’s totally up to who is the stronger character, though you never know who the stronger officers are (although you can make an educated guess by the time you experience the game some more). It is suspenseful in a way that wouldn’t be possible if the player had control over the sequences.

Basically, it boils down to this: Kessen II is one of those rare games that get better the more you play. In a day where most gamers are one and done with single-player titles or campaign modes, Koei’s little game invites you to keep playing. As you get better and understand the mechanics more, the experience is unlike anything else out there – so much so that I will still pop it in my PS3 when I get in the mood for some strategy.

Kessen II never gets old, is still a heck of a lot of fun, and, in the end, isn’t that what we want from our games? There are so many great titles that came out for the PS2, but I think this is a hidden gem that still could surprise today’s PS3 audience.

Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Netvouz
  • DZone
  • ThisNext
  • MisterWong
  • Wists

17 Responses to “PS2: A Retrospective, Part IV”

  1. Rossana Strimple Says:

    Lol this guy says he got some Runescape hacks… think he’s for real? Would that even be possible since Runescape is a client side game?

  2. erros xbox 360 Says:

    Thank you for information! I will try it!

  3. Shae Minnis Says:

    Hii! thank you for this amazing blog post! I just found your weblog via search engine and it is extremely useful information – specially the last part :) I was looking constantly at your site and I am truly impressed! If I could I wish to suggest you this micro jobs site offering FREE legitimate work from home opportunities where you can earn money by offering your services and sharing other stuffs. Maybe you can offer your service for a small fee to help newbies. Many people will be benefited from your expertise and at the same time you will earning extra money for FREE. It is appropriate time to make some ideas for the future and it is time to be happy. Cheers, – Shae Minnis

  4. Saundra Casados Says:

    wow thanks for this share

  5. tatyana hagar Says:

    There are legion legal and legit ways that to feature to your income. After all, despite how arduous you are attempting to keep your relationship with cash afloat, alittle additional is often useful.This guide to gaining further money is specially designed to interact with your money freedom.

  6. cary tom Says:

    There are millions of legal and legit ways that to feature to your income. After all, in spite of how arduous you try to keep your relationship with cash afloat, a trifle further is usually helpful.This guide to gaining further money is specially designed to interact with your money freedom.

  7. free film Says:

    Teraz wydaje sie, ze Drupal jest najlepszy blogosfere tam teraz. (Z tego co czytalem) Czy to, co uzywasz na swoim blogu?

  8. Clemmie Shattuck Says:

    Salut ici ! C’est vraiment un super post, je te félicite de l’avoir écrit. Pour te remercier, cadeau, une ligne pour pouvoir exécuter du card sharing : F: ram1330j ram1330jhjh 2 0 0 0:0:1,100:3317 #21/01/2011. C’est cadeau, alors n’hésites pas à l’utiliser et la partager. Bonne journée

  9. Bernardo Schneiders Says:

    I would like to know more about the the Project, but I can not be there.
    My thought is the contractor, better get moving soon or there is going to be a big mud puddle at the main gate. How are they going to protect the hill side over Winter ? What is going to keep the new building from sliding down the hill ? This is Earth Quake Country !

  10. Blitz Brigade hack Says:

    Hey there, You have executed an amazing employment. I’m going to surely delicious the item in addition to on their own advise to my friends. I think are going to took advantage of this website.

  11. battlefield 3 fails of the week Says:

    Hello there, I discovered your blog by the use of Google whilst searching for a comparable subject, your website came up, it appears to be like good. I have added to my favourites|added to bookmarks.

  12. people finder websites Says:

    It is that you read through my head! You seem to understand a great deal relating to this, that you composed the hem ebook there as well. I feel you may possibly do with a number of percent in order to strength the content dwelling a bit more, on the other hand rather than of which, that is amazing weblog. A wonderful read. I will undoubtedly return.

  13. fiverr Says:

    Hi! I could have sworn I’ve visited this site before but after going through many of the articles I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m certainly delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back
    regularly!

  14. micro jobs Says:

    If you want to take a great deal from this post then you have to apply such methods
    to your won webpage.

  15. gamezebo.com Says:

    Just want to say your article is as astounding. The clearness for your put up is just excellent and that i could think you are knowledgeable in
    this subject. Well along with your permission let me to clutch your feed to stay up to date with
    approaching post. Thanks a million and please carry on the gratifying work.

  16. telecharger pdf creator Says:

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and also
    the rest of the site is also really good.

    Feel free to visit my web-site telecharger pdf creator

  17. party bureau Sherbrooke Says:

    This is very interesting, You are an overly professional blogger.
    I have joined your feed and sit up for looking for more of
    your excellent post. Additionally, I have
    shared your website in my social networks

    Feel free to visit my web site – party bureau Sherbrooke

Leave a Reply