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Koeinalia - A Compendium of Koei Knowledge - SNES

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Hi all,

I have posted this on another forum in the past, but the text is completely of my own creation and I retain full ownership. I thought it would be a good idea to publish it here too just in case any other sites disappear in the future. Please do not share in any other forums without my consent.

The SNES Era
This is the second of a two-part series documenting and ranking the US licensed Koei games for the NES and SNES. I played through all 28 games this year (ed. note - this was written in 2019 ), so, while they’re still fresh in my mind, I’ll try to give anyone who may be interested a look into these often unfairly neglected games.
I suggest you read the ranking of NES Koei games before starting with the SNES era, if only because four of the games overlap both systems and will be discussed only cursorily here: Nobunaga’s Ambition, Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2, Gemfire, and Uncharted Waters.
I don’t think there are any truly bad games on this list, just one that is better played on the NES (Uncharted Waters) and one on a different system (Romance of the Three Kingdoms 4, PS1). The three modern military games (PTO, PTO2, Operation Europe) will clearly be of interest to a small demographic. The two Aerobiz business simulation games likewise are for people who already don’t get their fix of working for a large corporation. In my opinion, Brandish is the only truly polarizing game on this list: some people turn it off after 5 minutes, while others power through and end up really loving it.
My ranking here is admittedly more biased than in the list of NES games. Firstly, there are more than twice as many games, and secondly, the games themselves are much more varied. Along with the usual turn-based offerings, there is an RPG, an RPG/maze crawler, a port of one of the most popular PC games of all time, two business simulators, and three extremely well-researched WW2 simulations. Therefore, take this list as an informed survey of the games and use it to choose where to begin your exploration of the Koei SNES library.
The Ranking
1. Uncharted Waters: New Horizons



Let’s put aside Civilization for a moment, since I don’t consider that a “real” Koei game since Koei was just the publisher. Would you believe that a 24-year-old Koei game has its own actively maintained fan website complete with a user forum? Uncharted Waters: New Horizons is really the crowning achievement of Nintendo Koeidom, with such immense depth of character, gameplay, and replayability that you could spend months exploring this game and still want to come back for more.
Part of the replayability factor is that there are six different protagonists with different quests and storylines, some of whom will encounter each other during the course of the game. One is João Franco, the son of the Portguese duke who was the hero of the first Uncharted Waters, Leon Franco. There is a female Spanish pirate, a British privateer in service of King Henry VIII, a Dutch cartographer, a deeply indebted Italian adventurer, and a poor Turkish merchant.  Each protagonist has a different goal; for example, Otto Baynes, the Brit, is tasked with destroying the Spanish Armada, while Ali Vezas much become a prosperous trader and eventually locate his lost sister.
It’s an open world, so you can fart around and sail to different ports for fun or trade, or just be a pirate, but in order to advance the game plot, you need to build Fame by trading, piracy, or by accomplishing tasks for various individuals (i.e., adventure Fame). As your Fame increases, you interact with more important people on your journey to eventually fulfilling your main goal and winning the game.
The game path isn’t unduly prescribed, however, and exploration for its own sake is encouraged and necessary in order to find new ports and meet new characters. Unlike the first game, NPCs in this game actually interact with the heroes and help move along the storyline.
A lot of the same elements from the first Uncharted Waters are carried into this game: buying ships, recruiting mates and hiring a crew, discovering and trading with ports all over the world, sailing around the globe (although thankfully more easily than in the first game), sea battles, and so on. There are new features, however, like sword battles between ship captains, gambling at ports, fortune tellers, additional skills and abilities of your mates, and even a Round Earth society where you can study or invest in geographical studies and increase your Luck level.
In fact, the only criticism of the game I have is that there may too much detail and too many options of what you can do, which is daunting to an inexperienced player.
Graphics: Excellent, crisp graphics.
Music: Superb music by Yoko Kanno of Cowboy Bebop fame.  One of the best parts of the gameplay is just enjoying the soundtrack.
Gameplay and strategy:
It really depends on which protagonist you choose and how quickly you want to plow through the game. The FAQ is incredibly detailed.
You’ll like it if: You like RPGs or adventure games. Even if you don’t, just give it a fair chance and I think you may be surprised.
Easy win: Otto Baynes’ quest seems like the easiest path to finishing the game.
Want a challenge?: You can make up your own challenges to prolong the game, like trying to discover a Kangaroo, Dodo, Stellar’s Sea Cow, or Wooly Mammoth (!) or find Niagara Falls, a moonbow, or Popul Vuh. Or try to find all the ports on your own, or achieve World Domination, something that is apparently possible but I’ve never tried myself. Beating the game with all the different heroes should also take quite a while.
2.  Nobunaga’s Ambition: Lord of Darkness

The fourth in the Nobunaga’s Ambition series and third released on a Nintendo console, Lord of Darkness is a solid entry in the turn-based strategy genre. Like Nobunaga’s Ambition II, there is the concept of “Body” Points (called “Governance” Points in this game), which allow multiple actions per turn in each state (fief). In addition to the usual domestic agricultural, economic, and citizen loyalty concerns, the daimyo must amass, train, and equip armies in order to defend one’s own territory and expand to conquer Japan.
Each state has a Skill level: at 100, gold can be mined; at 250, rifles can be manufactured; and at 500, warships can be built. I find it much more effective to conquer a territory and take advantage of its already-developed skill than to invest large amounts of money to build up one’s own state’s Skill. Plus, you can buy or capture rifles and warships are an unnecessary luxury. A visiting Western scholar can also increase your Skill level.
There is also the concept of Culture, which affects tax revenues to some degree. Culture can be increased by educating your generals or by hosting Tea Ceremonies by a visiting Tea Master from actual Japanese history. Tea items can also be purchased or acquired in battle, and can be bestowed upon your more disgruntled generals as a quick way to get full loyalty. The Tea Master is a bit of a snob and will often criticize your abilities or Tea Items, so I find it easier not to bother with him at all, since an individual state’s Culture level really isn’t that important.
There are the standard seasonal occurrences and periodic misfortunes like epidemics, riots and blizzards to contend with. There are more random events in this game than in the previous two, and I find it quite harder to gain traction in this game.
In summary, this is a solid entry with good game mechanics that has lots of replay value.
Graphics: The same layout as Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2 on the NES, but upgraded for the SNES era. The battle map also has the small-hex design with a nicer wrapper.
Music: Excellent. The main theme is appropriately imperial, the sound effects are great, and battle music is crisp and full of anticipation.
Gameplay and strategy:
There are two scenarios: The Warring States and Nobunaga Surrounded by His Enemies. Both can be played Demonstration mode (watch the computer play itself), in Multiplay mode, allowing for up to 8 players, or a one-player Historical mode with a set high level of difficulty and which purports to follow real historical events closely.
Ignore Skill and Culture for the most part. If you occupy a territory with 80 Skill, however, you may as well develop it to 100 and mine for gold, and possibly sell the mine to a prospector.
Battles are won by rifles and cavalry. Protect your rifles since they are very effective and also extremely expensive to replace. One good strategy is to bring just enough troops to keep the battle on the field, where you can use your guns to full advantage. If you bring your full force at one, the enemy will retreat to the castle immediately, where your rifles are not effective and the enemies’ rifles are deadly, since the enemy can shoot through walls and you the attacker cannot.
Cavalry attack by charging is the second-best attack on the field, and the best way to attack in a castle siege.
When you’re just starting out, it can be useful to make repeated sorties into a stronger enemy’s territory, or even conquer then abandon a neighboring state to wear down your opponent until you are strong enough to occupy the new territory while having enough troops remaining to defend the old one.
The citizens are much more prone to rioting in this game than the previous iterations. Sometimes it’s just best to let them have their tantrum and then appease the territory with a gift of rice.
You’ll like it if: You liked Nobunaga’s Ambition II or Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2 for the NES.
Easy win: Nobunaga has the most territory in the second scenario, but, as advertised, he is surrounded by his enemies. Shimazu and Date are both good choices due to their geographic location. Daimyo (easy) mode.
Want a challenge?: Asai in scenario 1 is in a real tough starting spot. Higo in the West is a really weak daimyo. Kono and Utsunomiya are both surrounded in scenario 2. Emperor (hard) mode.
3.  Rise of The Phoenix

In 211 BC, a meteor supposedly fell in Dongjun, with the inscription “The First Emperor will die and his land will be divided." A year later, this first Chinese Emperor, the Qin Shi Huang, died while on a tour of his Empire. In the power vacuum, two main rivals appear from relatively modest backgrounds during the Qin dynasty.
Consider the story of Napoleon, who rose from languishing as a minor non-commissioned officer in the mid-1790s to Emperor of France within a 10-year period. In a similar tale, one of the men, Liu Bang, was a minor officer in the Qin dynasty whom would later rebel against the empire. In 207 BC, the last Qin ruler would surrender to him, and he became the first Emperor of the Han dynasty in 206 BC.
The other, Xiang Yu, was a nobleman of the Chu State who took advantage of the widespread unrest at the time to help defeat the Qin dynasty, most notably at the 207 BC battle of Julu. At the time our story starts a year later, Xiang Yu has lost the race against Liu Bang to defeat and accept the last Qin dynasty ruler’s surrender. He is now the ruler of the Chu state and in a battle for power against the Han dynasty which he would lose in 202 BC at the battle of Gaixia.
Rise of the Phoenix lets you choose from four scenarios in the period from 206 – 202 BC and play as either Xiang Yu or Liu Bang. Your objective is to defeat your main rival and any other rulers of independent states.
The reason I like Rise of the Phoenix so much is that it’s very approachable for a beginner to turn-based Koei games, but has deep complexity in resource, troop, and city management. Gameplay is quick and battles don’t seem interminable like in some other Koei games.
The two main strategic considerations are your troops and their generals, and cities. Cities are either independent, under your direct control, under an ally’s control, or controlled directly or by an ally of your opponent. Cities provide a source for new troops, food, gold, and are useful as supply routes if linked together. However, in order to take new cities, you must defeat any defending army and then Claim them. They will either allow you in or refuse, in which case you can forcibly try to enter them, which the citizens obviously aren’t happy about, and their Loyalty and Support will plummet.
The ruler has a Respect statistic, which increases from city development, holding feasts, and giving money to people in cities. It lowers from unfavorable actions like forcibly entering cities, raiding them, and drafting troops. If you act like too much of a jerk, cities and generals will abandon you.
There are two turns in each month, with two phases in each: the Move phase, and the Planning phase. The Move phase allows different types of troop movement and the option to attack neighboring armies (with reinforcements if available). Planning involves city-related actions, military organization options and some diplomacy tactics.
Unlike most Koei games, troops don’t need training, but will suffer greatly from low Spirit. Even worse, if you get stranded near hostile cities and cannot pay or feed your troops, you will hemorrhage soldiers on each turn, which can quickly turn catastrophic. You can beg your allies for supplies, but they often will leave you hanging. Arms will help your troops perform better in battle.
Battles take place on either the field or the castle. The battle sequences are the best part of the game, with great graphics and cool tactics like night attacks, scaling the castle walls, shooting projectiles with catapults, employing archers, and using battering rams.
Overall, I think this is a really fun game that moves faster than most of the Koei strategy franchises. I definitely recommend giving it a try.
Graphics: The little spear-holding men resembling armies are adorable. The castle battles, in particular, are well animated, with nice touches like the men cheering before battle. The menus and terrain are run-of-the-mill SNES Koei fare. There are two separate ending sequences for the game after victory, both of which are quite good.
Music: The battle music is rousing, but the main theme during movement and planning is pretty average.
Gameplay and strategy:
Figuring out what you’re trying to accomplish before moving troops around, especially over long distances, is critical. Movement is costly and it can take many turns to get to your destination.
There are a lot of negative seasonal events that will slow you or your opponent down. Plagues in particular occur very often.
Go for the red or white armies, not the allied pink or light blue ones. They are a waste of time unless you need to turn a city for resources or strategic reasons. Take out your opponent first before worrying about independent blue armies unless you don’t have a choice in the matter.
City management is much more important than army management. Armies need sufficient gold and food, which only can be had at cities, but there’s a delicate balance between keeping support and loyalty high in your city versus getting the supplies you need.  It’s best not to force your way in or raid, unless it’s early in the game and you’re desperate.
Attacking without a significant numerical superiority or with low stamina is usually a bad plan. It usually ends up in a costly stalemate that requires you to build all the way to full strength.
There’s no point in giving allied troops and gold or food if asked. It does nothing for you and they likely won’t be as kind when you need stuff.
You’ll like it if: You want a gentler introduction to Koei strategy games or have played Gemfire multiple times and want to move on to something different. However, given the depth of the game, there’s a lot to like here for seasoned Koei fans.
Easy win: Xiang Yu is a stronger ruler overall, with 100 skill and stamina, and high intelligence and charm. As you might guess by the name of Scenario 1, Xiang Yu’s Glory, it’s a pretty easy run for him. In Novice mode, I suggest an all-out scorched earth strategy, raiding and forcing your way into cities with abandon, stripping them of people and resources, and launching an all-out attack on Liu Bang. The citizens will loathe you, but there’s not much they can do about it.
Want a challenge?: Liu Bang has weaker stats than Xiang Yu, except for his 99 charm, but has more divisions, so playing as Liu Bang can be tough in hard mode. However, Scenario 4 starts with Xiang Yu literally surrounded by troops at Gaixia and with Liu Bang attacking him on the first time. Good luck with that!
4.  Romance of the Three Kingdoms 3: Dragon of Destiny


The third, and best, of the first four Romance of the Three Kingdoms games on the NES and SNES. I have read that RotTK VII is the best of all 13 games (as of 2018), but I haven’t tried it out for myself. If you’d like to read the historical context for the games, please check out my NES Koei writeup.
There are several improvements in this first game made specifically for the Super Nintendo. Probably the best in terms of ease of gameplay is that each ruler has different types of officers who can only perform certain tasks. In Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2, there were de facto civil officer generals since some generals really sucked at war and were therefore most useful as administrators in territories not on the front lines. In the sequel, the game makes the military vs. civil officer distinction explicit. Civil officers focus on domestic development and diplomacy, while Military officers fight. There are a smaller number of Generals that have higher War and Charm stats, and Advisers, who must have higher Political and Intellect states.
The reason that gameplay is simpler is because Military and Civil Officers can both execute certain commands for up to 6 months, allowing for longer-term strategy and fewer decisions each month. Governors and Advisers have superior stats, but can only execute a command for a single month and are therefore best used for targeted, limited actions like searching territories for free officers or items, diplomacy, visiting the merchant, or moving from one territory to another.
Each city can be developed in the typical ways: economy, agriculture, and flood control. Unlike previous games, investing in flood control will improve harvests by better irrigation, but that means that there are three separate factors to develop in order to maximize harvests. It’s not clear to me which one impacts agriculture the most out of land development, cultivation, and irrigation, and you can waste a lot of turns trying to bump them all up.  Focusing on economy instead gives you a consistent increase in cash money to buy whatever you need, including extra food.
The Main command menu is easy to figure out, with lots of Military, Development, and Personnel commands similar to previous games. As mentioned before, normal officers can execute some Development commands and Military commands (Train, Rally) for up to 6 months.
Periodically Searching territories often yields free officers and useful Items to reward officers with and raise their stats, or use as bargaining chips in diplomatic negotiations. Diplomacy is a key part of earlier scenarios, when you are often surrounded by enemies. You need to make some allies to get them off your back for while and launch joint invasions against mutual rivals.
Unlike RotTK 2, battles only take place on the field and within the walls of a fortified city. It’s an isometric view with the typical mobility considerations since you may need to scale the walls of the city or just wait a few turns to break the gates open. In addition to cavalry, infantry, and crossbow units, you can employ ships in some territories. I’m not convinced that ships are worth the price and time to build since they have such limited use. Crossbow units can shoot firebolts if they are trained enough, which is pretty cool. There are also tactical measures to undermine the enemy, and you can request reinforcements to join the battle. Overall, the battles are fast-paced and enjoyable.
The reason I like RotTK 3 so much is the gameplay is intuitive and there are many scenarios and rulers to try out. The game is well-balanced and the computer AI puts up a good fight in both planning and on the battlefield. It’s a little less accessible than Rise of the Phoenix, however, and may not be the best choice for a first-time Koei player.
Graphics: I like the world map and the menu graphics. The world map changes during different seasons, like in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Lord of Darkness. The battle view reminds me a bit of Syndicate, surprisingly.
Music: Quite good. Different seasons and areas have different themes. The battle music is a little too frantic for my tastes, though.
Gameplay and strategy:
As mentioned before, focus solely on developing the economy and you can buy whatever food you may need. Train and rally troops as much as possible and get some horses and crossbows if you don’t have a good amount already.
Alliances are key to surviving in early scenarios. It’ll be hard to get started if you just wait around until you have enough troops to battle other territories. There are some advanced strategies regarding trading items to take advantage of your neighbors or winning battles by food shortage that people discuss in detail on the GameFAQs board. You’ll also have to poach officers or recruit them carefully after battles in order to build up your officer base.
Advisers are useful in battle for finding enemy traps and sabotaging the enemy, and there are a lot of different terrain types that are useful for setting up defensive positions to take less damage. As with previous games, charging with the cavalry and simultaneous attacks are very powerful, while duels can remove an enemy officer from the fight. Firebolts are great for lobbing over city walls.
You’ll like it if: You liked Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2, which is also quite a good game, but this is a definite improvement.
Easy win: In scenario 6, Three Kingdoms Fight Decay, as Cao Rui, Beginner mode. You have a lot of safe territories in the north, so it’s just a matter of moving all your troops to the front lines, training, rallying and equipping them while developing your other territories, and battling for the south.
Want a challenge?: Advanced Historical mode seems to be the toughest. There are a lot of different scenarios, so I’ll suggest Kong Zhou in scenario 1, who has one territory and no other officers, and
Yan Baihu in scenario 2, stuck between two enemies with just one other officer and average stats. You can also create your own officer with sucky stats to challenge yourself.
5.  Civilization


I’m really torn on where to place Civilization in this list, or if it should just be a completely separate item since it’s not a “true” Koei game. Originally developed by Sid Meier and released for the PC by MicroProse in 1991, Koei was the distributor for the Super Nintendo version in 1995.
Do I really need to give a description of one of the greatest strategy games of all time? Really, if you haven’t heard of Civilization before, go look it up for yourself.
I’m putting It in fifth place on this list since the user interface isn’t nearly as good as the PC version, and the graphics resolution and map are scaled down, presumably due to graphics limitations on the SNES. Still, it’s a pretty good port of one of the best games of all time and at least it has mouse support. You’d think they could have figured out a use for the L + R buttons, though.
Graphics: Decent. I assume they did the best they could.
Music: It’s Civilization music!
Gameplay and strategy:
It’s an open world, and there are two very different game winning conditions, so it’s really up to you on how to approach winning.
You’ll like it if: You want to play Civilization and don’t own a computer.
Easy win: Chieftain mode, 3 civs, channel your inner Genghis Khan and defeat all rival civilizations.
Want a challenge?: Emperor mode, 7 civs, be the first civilization to emigrate to space.
6.  Brandish


Here’s the point in the ranking when things start getting really subjective, and what better place to start that trend than Brandish!
There’s a backstory about an evil King Berebus of Berimya who brought a stone dragon to life. The dragon was killed but turned the king into a monster and his tower and kingdom sunk underground. One thousand years later, the bounty hunter Varik, and sorceress Alexis have some kind of backstory and meet on the edge of the huge crater of the ruins of Berimya. Alexis attacks Varik, but both fall into the hole and are separated. You start the game in the ruins as Varik, but Alexis will cross your path several times before the game is over.
Let’s get this out of the way: the visual way you traverse through mazes is very unusual. You can configure the walking pattern to Lateral, where left and right on the D-pad slide you to the left or right without changing the perspective, and the Left or Right button must be pressed, then the D-pad, to rotate in place 90 degrees either left or right. In Rotate mode, the button settings are swapped, so just pressing left or right on the D-pad rotates you in place. Sound confusing? Well, it is, which is why most people play for a few minutes, throw their hands up in confusion or dismay, and move on to the next game. I promise that if you give it a chance, though, you’ll get used to the perspective and can enjoy what’s a really-made action RPG.
There are five stages with multiple levels to traverse through: Ruins, Tower, Caves, Dark Zone, and the Fortress. Within each stage are many different monsters and some tasks to perform or puzzles to solve to advance. You can attack without weapons, which increases your Arm Strength (offense and defense), various types of swords and other weapons, and also magic spells. Weapons are either limitless or have a certain number of uses before they crumble. Your magic and health can be increased by potions, or by standing in place and recharging for a time, which leaves you open to attack.
There are tons of items, weapons, and armor to be found in the mazes, or purchased or sold in shops, and secret walls that you can knock down with sledgehammers. There are also nasty traps like pits, spikes, teleports, and even health and magic poisons that you may accidentally imbibe.
Brandish is an excellent game that has a bad reputation due to the whole rotational perspective issue. There is a sequel for the Super Famicom that has an English patch for those who fall in love with the first one.

Graphics: Really good with smooth animations and cool-looking monsters and bosses. The glowing walls in the Fortress are notably gnarly.
Music: Excellent, but perhaps a bit repetitive during the maze crawling.
Gameplay and strategy:
Curiosity is rewarded and complacency punished often during the course of the game. Often, things aren’t what they appear to be!
Item management is a large part of the game. Finding the three “Dimensional Boxes” give you lots of extra room, but you still need to keep an eye on consolidating various identical items and selling unneeded weapons. Buying weapons in shops is pretty pointless since you can get plenty of weapons in the mazes, but you may want a sweet armor upgrade or some steel balls or sledgehammers.
The map screen is invaluable for figuring out where you are in each level (do I really need to tell you that?)
Warp Magic can be found very early in the game and helps out a lot in certain situations. Fire, Freeze, and Heal are nice to have too. Make sure to take some hits from monsters with magic attacks to increase your Magic Endurance and don’t neglect your Arm Strength.
The sub-bosses you’ll encounter during the game are tough! Different methods may need to be attempted to defeat each one.
You’ll like it if: You like action RPGs, killing coelocanths, T-Rexs, and guys with flamethrowers, and aren’t easily disoriented.
Easy win: There’s no easy way, but lots of level grinding can’t hurt.
Want a challenge?: Don’t use any FAQs to figure out the various puzzles or difficult maps in the game. Additionally, there is at least one dedicated speedrunner for Brandish who posts on Youtube (Osse101). It looks like if you can get down to under 1 hour 15 minutes, then you’re in the top echelon on Brandishists.
7.  Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2


The first of four games that are essentially the same on the NES and SNES. Refer to the NES guide for details on the game. It’s still quite a good game, hence its rank on this list.
The manual has a very odd look and someone decided it was necessary to include a basic pinyin pronunciation guide.
Graphics: It’s pretty clear that Koei spent as little effort porting this to the Super Nintendo as possible. It’s basically NES graphics.
Music: Likewise with the music.
You’ll like it if: You don’t have an NES and want to play this game.
8.  Liberty or Death

A Koei turn-based strategy game that doesn’t involve old, boring ancient Chinese or Japanese history and where you can beat those bloody Limeys and kick them out of ‘Murica? Sounds great!
You can play as either the American or British Commander-in-Chief, and to emerge victorious, you must eliminate the entire enemy force without being killed or captured or having your entire army defeated. In addition, you will also lose if more than 2/3rds of the politicians at the quarterly Governmental Vote of Confidence vote for your dismissal.
Each quarter starts with the Governmental Phase, first with the aforementioned Vote of Confidence. You may then award a certain amount of promotions (useful for raising loyalty), then a display shows your total available money to spend, which is based on number of states held, foreign aid, and other sources. This budget will be used to pay officer salaries, increase fleet numbers and purchase Hessian mercenaries (on the British side). You can make a request from both your Navy and War departments regarding placement of fleets and requesting additional regiments. All or a portion of any remaining money can be distributed to your districts during the Allocation phase, after which the Governmental Phase is complete.
In the semimonthly Command Phase, each district gets a turn during which you can take care of domestic and military affairs. Similarly to games like Nobunaga’s Ambition 2, each district officer can execute multiple commands based on available Body Points. Available commands include raising district support; sending goods; buying food, guns, powder, or cannon; bribing or recruiting generals and spying on enemy districts; and military matters like drafting and training soldiers, re-forming regiments, and, of course, going to battle.
Unlike some other Koei games, strategy in battle is much more important than sheer quantity of soldiers, even if they are well-armed and highly trained. Each side has many talented generals, so cavalry and cannon must be protected and employed judiciously. Mobility as well as bridge building is important for the attacker, and the defender can make good use of the terrain and entrenchment to fortify itself. Sometimes you’ll get a surprise and critically wound an excellent enemy general, and generals are often captured when trying to flee.
There are the typical quarterly events like smallpox outbreaks, heat waves, and storms, but also larger historical events, like the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the publication of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, both of which increase Support levels in American districts, and the defection of Benedict Arnold.
This is an underrated game by Koei, and is more accessible than many due to the subject material. My only major complaint is that the American side is too easy, and the British isn’t much harder once you know what you’re doing.

Graphics: Average but nothing special. To be fair, there’s only so much you can do with maps and hex battles.
Music: Appropriately patriotic on both sides. The battle music isn’t too bad either.
Gameplay and strategy: As the Americans, taking Boston is a good first step. After that, it’s just a matter of amassing resources and grinding away at the Brits, who are at a disadvantage in number of generals and who won’t get any help from France or Spain.
As the British, evacuate Boston immediately and get your Canadian troops in position to get below the Mason-Dixon line. Your best plan is to hold the line in Maryland and methodically roll up the South, starting in Florida. At that point, you can focus all your efforts on the North. American Revolutionary militia will never pop up in Florida, Alabama and Georgia, so they can be left empty once conquered. Hire as many of the 20 regiments of German mercenaries as you can as early as possible.
In the Government phase, don’t neglect your shipbuilding or you’ll be at a big disadvantage in sea dominance.
It’s important to put generals in each district of a state once you fully conquer it (with the exceptions above), or Loyalist or Revolutionary sympathizers will join the battle and create headaches for you.
In battles, if you’re lucky enough to capture enemy generals, it’s almost always best to imprison them instead of ransoming them for money. If you’re planning an attack on the coast, try to have your fleet there, as their attacks are brutally effective. Cannons are also important to soften up enemy troops before sending the cavalry and infantry in. Guerillas at nighttime and entrenchment should both be in your tactics inventory.
Bribery of generals with low loyalties can be very effective, so keep an eye out for them by spying. Recruiting allied but independent generals in neighboring states to be under your direct control is a must.
Re-forming regiments takes a lot of time but is very effective, and don’t forget to furlough generals with low morale.
You’ll like it if: Besides being a good strategy game, it’s not a bad way to learn about major figures in the American Revolution.
Easy win: It actually takes some work to lose as the Americans. Easy difficulty.
Want a challenge?: Playing as the British requires deft maneuvers early on and beating the Americans before they get too strong and get help from foreign powers. Hard difficulty. If you have a lot of free time, you can try to run out the clock by not winning before George III dies in 1820 while also not losing the confidence of Congress.
9.  Genghis Khan 2: Clan of the Gray Wolf

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The sequel to the NES game has more scenarios to choose from. In the first scenario, you start as Temujin, and must unite the Mongols to become Genghis Khan and unlock Scenario 4, World Conquest, which has the same political map as Scenario 2 but a slightly different set of playable rulers to select from. Scenario 3 is in the time of Kublai Khan, but the world map has the same territories.
A lot of the gameplay is the same as the first game. You still have the concept of governors, princes, and princesses that can be married to generals to make them fully loyal family members. The population is divided between army, artisans that produce specialty items, and construction laborers (masons). You can buy and sell your specialty products and food, and buy arms and mercenaries.
There are more types of troops, including cool things like samurai available to the Japanese ruler, nomads, catapults, elephants, and so on. Each category of troop comes with their own weapons, but can be fully armed by buying arms from the merchants.
The other significant improvement from the first game is that there is only one type of Body Points that must be consumed for making commands. Your Body Points vary by ruler and decrease with age.
Battles (if you choose to fight them yourself) are very straightforward. The best ploy is to attempt to confuse your opponent’s units and then charge with devastating effect.
My major criticism of the game is that it’s too easy and the computer AI doesn’t put up much of a fight. I wish Koei had at least added a difficulty setting. That does mean, however, that it’s a good starting point for less experienced players who want to play a turn-based strategy game without worrying too much about the details.
Graphics: The Eurasian world map is very appealing, and the animations are good. The battle screen isn’t the best, though.
Music: Quite good. Lots of different music for different regions, none of which gets too stale. Most of the sampled sound effects fit in well.
Gameplay and strategy:
This is one of the few Koei games where it’s much better to let the computer fight battles for you. As long as you have a sizeable numerical superiority, you will crush the enemy. Also unusual is that there is no choice of difficulty setting. Both these factors mean that the game ends up being fairly quick and not too difficult.
Raiding conquered territories of their specialty items can generate a lot of cash fast. You can also make money by keeping an eye on the market rate and buying and selling food when advantageous.
Alliances are very important early on, and make sure you spend time with your wife and family if you want more kids!
You’ll like it if: You would rather skip fighting individual battles, but still enjoy the strategy aspect of Koei games, or if you like sending elephants and samurai into battle.
Easy win: World Conquest or Scenario 2: Minamoto and Richard I have fewer enemies to contend with at the start and thus time to develop the economy and amass troops. Otherwise, in Scenario 3, Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan has a sizeable number of territories to start with.
Want a challenge?: World Conquest or Scenario 2: Genghis Khan, Salah al-Din, and Frederic I are in tough starting places.
10.  Inindo: Way of the Ninja



Inindo is a hard game to classify. It’s nominally a historical-based RPG, but has a larger Nobunaga’s Ambition-type territorial map with multiple daimyos you interact with and fight for or against; it’s a series of training dungeons with fetch quests; it’s a game where you get to be a badass ninja and do all sorts of ninja stuff like spying and sabotaging. It’s one of the more obscure SNES RPGs, maybe because of its title.
Speaking of Nobunaga, he’s the villain in this game, and he is a really bad guy. He has destroyed the Iga people, who are apparently all ninjas, and you are one of the few survivors. As a young ninja, you stay in a hidden mountain village to learn Ninjitsu techniques. Nobunaga finds out about the village and his henchman seriously wound you, but leave you for dead after finding Nobunaga was betrayed by Akechi Mitsihude. The Elder finds and revives you, and you duty is to finish your ninja training and eventually defeat Nobunaga, who has secreted himself in the extremely well-guarded Azuchi tower in Omi.
There is a scene almost at the start of the game that determines with of the two endgames you will face. One involves a wicked European sorcerer named Nicolai whom Nobunaga has somehow hooked up with, and Nicolai’s demon buddy. The other involves a Nobunaga clone that must be defeated before the true form.
There’s too much going on in this game to give it justice, but I’ll lay out the major concepts. In the beginning, it’s more of a straightforward RPG as you clear out the first few training dungeons. You need to spend time on the open world map to visit various cities, but I recommend avoiding any random encounters there. After a certain level, you can recruit some buddies. Hattori Hanzo is a big score early on since he has Flight magic, letting you go back to all those cities quickly.
Talking to NPCs and people at the inn and teahouses is important as it helps drive the story along, and gives you the opportunity for quests like finding the tomb of Yoshitune or rescuing miners in a collapsed gold mine. Soon, people will tell you of daimyos who need ninjas for secret missions for spying and sabotage. Performing these will gain you the Trust of various daimyos and eventually allow you to join them in battles against other daimyos. I’m glossing over a LOT of the story, but eventually you will beat back Nobunaga’s territorial expansion and be in a position to infiltrate his stronghold at Azuchi castle. There will you encounter multiple extremely tough battle before you take on Nobunaga himself.
Good parts of this game include the variety of monsters, weapons, and characters you’ll encounter. There are neat optional side quests and fun things to do at town like gambling at the bingo parlor, visiting a fortune teller, or shopping for presents to give to daimyos to earn Trust (did you know daimyos really like bubble gum?). The difficulty progression is reasonable, but the boss battles are usually challenging enough to keep you on your toes.
Enemy battles require a lot of positional tactics. Assuming you have a healer, you should quickly place him in the back and arrange your other two characters in the best way depending on the type and number of enemies. There are some cool magic spells on both sides, and some weapons have a “critical hit” feature with a small probability of occurrence but that does devastating damage.
The main criticism of this game is that it’s very slow and takes too long, but it’s not that much longer than, say, Chrono Trigger. You need to visit the capital of every daimyo at least once and need to rest every 3 days while on the open world, which is a little annoying. The ninja Blaze attack in territorial battles is so overwhelming that the battles end up being trivial. Overall, however, if you like RPGs, this one is definitely worth a try.
Graphics: Could be better. Just a small step up from NES graphics. Some of the monsters look pretty awesome, though.
Music: Definitely one of the more unusual soundtracks on the SNES. Lots of trippy music, but some of it gets pretty old after a while.
Gameplay and strategy:
Way too much to get into here. The FAQ is extremely comprehensive.
You’ll like it if: You’re tired of playing the same RPGs over and over again, really like ninjas, or really hate Nobunaga.
Easy win: Oda Nobunaga in the final encounter is secretly one of the toughest final bosses in any SNES game, if not the toughest. He will also have one of two allies with him depending on the Endgame. You can cheese through this fight and some other earlier very tough bosses using sleep bombs, however.
Want a challenge?: No sleep bomb tactics. Also, there are at least a few people who have speedrun the game.
11.  PTO 2: Pacific Theater of Operations

The first of the three World War 2 simulations Koei developed. This game is deep. There are a whopping 10 scenarios to choose from, spanning the entire length of the Pacific Theatre. Three are Campaign Scenarios with broader winning conditions, and the rest are Short Scenarios with clearly defined victory objectives and a time limit. You can play as the U.S. or Japan, and even switch sides in the middle of a game.
There is a Monthly Conference to decide on high-level strategy, then turn-based Move and Plan phases. You have several fleets with aircraft at your disposal, along with submarines, and land bases with their own infantry posts.

The Monthly Conference has its own strategic element, as you must play various cards to help advance your proposals regarding topics like Foreign Affairs and Operational Goals.
Then there are the Move and Plan phases, where you issue various commands to your sea and land units, conduct surveillance operations, and execute specific commands to your fleet, or just move your ships to various objectives or back to base for repairs or refueling.
I’m really just glossing over the level of detail in this game, but I appreciate how much effort Koei put into designing it since it provides a truly rewarding and immersive experience for the group of people that are interested in this type of game.
Graphics: Fairly basic, but not bad considering how much information the game must convey.
Music: A little repetitive and generic.
Gameplay and strategy:
I’m not even going to try to get into strategy for this game. There’s just too much going on.
You’ll like it if: You enjoy naval simulation games for the PC.
Easy win: Playing at the Japanese in the Battle of Midway scenario, you only need to capture Attu and Midway islands to win. In the Final Days Scenario, the U.S. must capture Iwo Jima and Naha. Beginner difficulty.
Want a challenge?: Playing as Japan in the Final Days scenario, obviously. Advanced difficulty.
12.  Gemfire

The second NES port. No difference in gameplay between the SNES version and the old one.

Graphics: Koei put a little more effort into improving the graphics, but not much. Still, it’s an improvement.
Music: The music is the same as in the NES game, but a little more subdued and taking full advantage of the SNES’s improved sound capabilities.
You’ll like it if: Everyone should be up for a quick game of Gemfire.
 13.  Nobunaga’s Ambition

Since the original version on the NES was using the first-generation MMC1 chip graphics, Koei had to put in some time to update the graphics and music on this port, so it’s a marked improvement. Surprisingly, this game has mouse support. Why didn’t Koei do that for all the other turn-based strategy games?
The gameplay is the same as the NES version, but there are four scenarios to choose from, some of which allow you to start with multiple fiefs. Scenario 1 is the 17-fief map from the NES version, while Scenario 2 is the 50-fief map. In Scenario 4, Road Towards Unification, power is consolidated among fewer daimyos and Nobunaga holds a sizeable chunk of fiefs in the middle of the map.
Graphics: Just average.
Music: Koei put a little more effort into updating the music, but it’s still the same loops over and over again.
Easy win: Scenario 4 as Nobunaga is now the quickest path to victory.
Want a challenge?: Saito (Mino fief) in the 50-fief scenario is still terrible.
14.  PTO: Pacific Theater of Operations

The first PTO game has 9 scenarios to choose from, playing as either the USA or Japan. I’ll be honest, I haven’t played this game in much detail so I can’t comment too much on the differences between this and PTO 2, but it’s still a very complex game with both land and sea operations. The reason I’m ranking it lower is that it’s obviously an earlier game in the SNES lifecycle with worse graphics and sound than PTO 2. I wish I had more analysis to offer on this one, but that’s all I got.
Graphics: NES quality graphics.
Music: A slight step above NES quality sound.
Gameplay and strategy:
See the FAQ.
You’ll like it if: You want to try some different scenarios than what PTO 2 has to offer. In addition, I think it’s slightly more accessible than its sequel.
Easy win: In the last scenario (Okinawa Offensive), Japan is down to almost no fleet. As the Americans, you can get an easy win by sinking the DBB Yamato.
Want a challenge?: Play the same scenario as the Japanese. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to win.
15.  Aerobiz: Supersonic

What’s your first thought when I say “business simulation game”? Yep, pretty much what I expected. The Aerobiz games aren’t bad by any means, but they cater to a very specific market of people who come home from their 9-5 job and think, “If only there were a video game that would let me pretend to still be at work…”
You’re the CEO of a major airline and are effectively trying to maximize a large linear programming equation: how to be #1 in passenger totals for a year in a certain number of regions, while having built hubs in all seven regions and also being profitable for the year. This takes some careful strategy since you can blow out your passenger totals by slashing ticket prices, but then you won’t be profitable. If you are unprofitable for any given year or don’t achieve the victory condition within 20 years, you lose.
Airports have a certain number of landing slots, and you must bid to earn some. You only can have 40 routes total, so choose your locations wisely. You also need airplanes and they need fuel and maintenance, and your airline must advertise, so money management is key.
You can also buy business ventures in the hope that they will bring in extra cashflow beyond the capital investment.
Aerobiz: Supersonic has three historical scenarios, starting with the Dawn of the Jet Age (1955-1975), and then the Supersonic scenario (2000-2020), which was in the future at the time but now, sadly, we have almost eclipsed. Each scenario has different planes and different true historical events will occur that may influence your decisions. There are also occasional “Tourist Booms” and other various events, some of which are unfavorable, like Labor Strikes.
I recognize that this game is not going to appeal to most people, but I think it’s worth at least giving it a shot at least once in “Glider” (Easy) mode.
Graphics: It’s a business simulator, so I guess the austere graphics are appropriate.
Music: Quite possibly the most soothing music in any Super Nintendo game.
Gameplay and strategy:
Pick a major city like Tokyo or New York City as your home base or you’ll be way behind right away. Focus on international flights at first to get your hubs going, then interregional flights. Short distance regional hop flights are a bad use of your limited routes. Once you get your operation going, choosing strategic cities to expand to is really important.
Constantly monitor passenger levels and profitability and adjust routes, planes, or prices as best as you can. Don’t forget to do ad campaigns to drum up business.
You’ll like it if: You like airports, airplanes, solving multivariate logistical problems, or pretending to be a CEO.
Easy win: Difficulty Level 1
Want a challenge?: Difficulty Level 5 and pick a sucky home base.
16.  Aerobiz

The first Aerobiz only has two scenarios, fewer cities and planes, but it’s pretty much the same game as its sequel, but with different winning conditions. You must connect all 22 cities, show a profit for a given year, and transport above a certain number of passengers in a year that increases with higher difficulty levels. If you don’t accomplish this within 32 years or fail to be profitable within any given year, you lose.
Graphics: It looks even more businesslike than Aerobiz: Supersonic.
Music: Catchy, jazzy music.
Gameplay and strategy:
Same general themes as the sequel.
You’ll like it if: You loved Aerobiz: Supersonic and want to see where it all began.
Easy win: Difficulty Level 1 ( >2.5 million passengers in a year)
Want a challenge?: Difficulty Level 5 ( >4.5 million passengers in a year)
17.  Operation Europe: Path to Victory 1939-45


Do you like the history of military theatre of the World War 2 in Africa, Russia, and the Western Front? I mean, do you really like it? Did the name of this game itself give you a warm, tingly feeling? Then you are the target demographic for Operation Europe.
Koei strategy games are notorious for barraging you with details and statistics, but Operation Europe completely carpetbombs you with a supply depot of historical data that will leave all but the most grizzled Koei veteran shellshocked.
There are six scenarios to choose from. In a given scenario, you can play as the Axis or Allied forces, each of which has predetermined goals to accomplish within a certain timeframe. The officers, maps, and weapons are all historically accurate, and there is an impressive level of detail of statistics to consider and monitor during the course of your operation.
In addition to military objectives, you must make sure your units are supplied by either supply units or friendly cities, and must be aware of things like troop exhaustion (which can bring mobility to a standstill), requesting airdrops or paratroopers, countermeasures to your enemies’ plans, repairing units damaged in battle, and many other considerations. It can be overwhelming to even try to understand all of the different data you have at your disposal, and will leave you consulting the manual frequently since the various info screens aren’t intuitive.
It helps to understand the capabilities of the weaponry you have on hand when conducting battles so you know if your battalion unit will get blown away or not. The first time I played, I didn’t know that the last digit of the battalion number represented what type of unit it was, and I did dumb stuff like send my repair unit into battle against the enemy’s anti-tank unit. Whoops.
I think Operation Europe is one you can skip without guilt unless the subject matter really interests you. There are just too many other better games to spend your precious time on.
Graphics: Not great and the UI is not user-friendly. The manual isn’t great at explaining things, either.
Music: Just plain awful.
Gameplay and strategy:
There’s a lot going on here, and it differs by each scenario. I’d refer to the FAQ if you want to tackle this game.
You’ll like it if: If you’re really into WW2 history, then I’m sure it’s a fun game. I definitely appreciated it more once I figured out WTF was going on.
Easy win: Pick the winning side of a lopsided victory, for instance, the Axis powers in the 1940 Invasion of France (scenario 1).
Want a challenge?: Pick the losing side.
18.  Uncharted Waters

The only two difference between this version and the NES version is that you can move sailors between ships when docked without making a visit to the tavern, and they added these extremely annoying NPCs at ports that stand around and constantly get in your way. Argh!
Graphics: The graphics are somehow worse than the NES version.
Music: Direct port, but slightly SNES-ified.
You’ll like it if: If you’re going to play Uncharted Waters, play it on the NES. Seriously.
19.  Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire


I’m not ranking this game last simply because I’m sick of Romance of the Three Kingdom games, but because it has two flaws that make it tedious to play on the SNES. The first is that menu selection is slow and it often takes a few selections just to do simple things. The second and lesser issue is that the territorial map is incredibly zoomed in and headache inducing. The PlayStation version doesn’t have these flaws, so go with that version if you want to try it out.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 3 is the best of the first four games. This sequel adds a new dimension of complexity that gets overwhelming. Officers now have certain special abilities drawn from a list of 24 different talent, including Arson and Weather (ability to change weather in battle). There are more classes of officers, more weapons, more Items, more methods of sabotage, etc. Personally, I think they went a bit overboard will all the new stuff.
There’s even a new type of battle: besides field and castle battles, there is a “final” battle, which is either decided by the computer with soldiers, or by a duel.
I don’t mean to completely shit on this game, as it’s still a great strategy game, just maybe one that requires more than the usual amount of patience. Plus, there are some nice improvements, like instead of worrying about development each turn, you can simply throw an advisor or general and money at the problem and just wait until the money runs out.
The computer AI isn’t as strong as in RotTK 3 and isn’t particularly aggressive.  On the whole, I recommend giving this game a pass and playing that instead.
Graphics: Other than the awful map view, not bad.
Music: The little noise you hear every time you make a selection in a menu gets annoying fast. The battle music is surprisingly funky, and the main theme is quite majestic.
Gameplay and strategy:
Most of the advice from RotTK 3 applies here, but a few tips:
Catapults are overwhelmingly effective in battle, so focus on getting the Technology level up in at least one city to get them built.
Raids, Arson and Plot can help weaken a city before you decide to invade it, and you can get foreign tribes to assist if you have the money.
Realistically, you can probably ignore a lot of options in the game when playing at Average difficulty and spare yourself some trouble.
You’ll like it if: You are a Romance of the Three Kingdoms series completionist who doesn’t own a PS1.
Easy win: Cao Rui in Scenario 6 (Clash of Wei, Wu, and Shu) has the most territory. Like in RotTK 3, move troops down and take out the South. Average difficulty.
Want a challenge?: Kong Rong in Scenario 2 starts out all by himself in just one city. In Scenario 1, Wang Lang is in a bad spot and Qiao Mao is all by himself. Pro difficulty.


Edited by Daniel_Doyce
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9 hours ago, Daniel_Doyce said:

@tigerwolf Username checks out 😄 Glad you liked it!

BTW, the Beat all NES games Contest in the Site Events and Contests subforum has a few Koei games left for this year...

Good tip, thanks! How on earth does this work? You beat the game, upload the evidence, then there's some sort of contest? I was looking at that and my tiny little brain was confused about how it worked

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12 hours ago, tigerwolf said:

Good tip, thanks! How on earth does this work? You beat the game, upload the evidence, then there's some sort of contest? I was looking at that and my tiny little brain was confused about how it worked

Go to the NES or (SNES) thread and see what games are still unbeaten for this year.

You can either pick 15 of the most difficult games and report them all as played within a day or so in a contextless post, or let us know that you're working on a longer game, then report back when you've beat it, with or without video evidence.

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