Malik (4/20/04)

Destiny of an Emperor (NES)

From Capcom

This review originally was presented on lazy.GEEKS (5/31/03)

Right now there is a big increase in the number and style of games dealing with the Three Kingdom era of China.  One good example is Dynasty Warriors 4, which give the era a action filled approach, and which is currently doing quite well in the game stores.  There is also the long lived Romance of the Three Kingdom series which approached this part of history by putting you in a strategic position.  Well, one game that almost all of you probably missed is one of the greatest to cover this era; Destiny of an Emperor.

First off, I'll say it now;  Good luck trying to find this game.  It was pretty rare in its time, its hella old, and it never had too much of a following, be it cult or mainstream.  However, if you do find it, you'll be treated to a unique approach to the RPG genre.


Ever heard of Romance of the Three Kingdoms (the book or games), or Dynasty Warriors series, for those of you with no intellectual curiosity; then you get the point.  All of those games, and several more all come from the Three Kingdom era of Chinese history.  Long story short...Han Dynasty fell, a cult-like group known as the Yellow Scarves tried to conquer, they get kicked around, three kingdoms are formed (the Wei, the Wu, and the Shu) and a lot of people fight, betray, die, and do some pretty ingenious things...oh, and Lu Bu messes up everyone he gets close to.  The parts that matter are everything up until the Three Kingdoms are formed...then just the Shu Dynasty matters (you are Liu Bei in this game) and that Lu Bu will mess up everyone (he's in this game and ready to kick some arse).  Anyways, if you need more story, read the book (Three Kingdoms, that is) or play Dynasty Warriors 4 for a quick and simplified run-down.  This game does far better than DW4 though in telling the history of these times.

Game Play

The game plays a lot like most RPGs, but with a few additions.  First off, you recruit your generals as you journey to restore the Han Dynasty.  You can hold 7 members in your main forces (party), so you constantly have to keep pushing people out of your party and putting new ones in to fill the gaps. I know some games have done this, by this was one of the first to have hundreds (yes, hundreds) of unique generals that you can freely move into and out of your party as you play.  Another unique twist to this game is that of the generals in your party, one will stay out of battle and be the tactician.  This is the mage of your party, but not the mage at the same time.  Since a tactician is supposed to offer strategy to the whole army, he is the one who formulates the magic like tactics, and then the different fighting generals in your unit can use the tactic.  Pretty much this means that anyone can use (I'll just make it simple and say) spells, and your spells pool is formed from one persons wisdom, and thus all you must do is place the smartest man as the tactician and you're set...well, sort of...the enemy armies has tacticians too and a lot of intelligence (ever play an RPG with pretty lame A.I. for the enemies?...well, this one game makes up for all of those game that will ever be made).  The enemies will know not just use powerful spells, but will also be smart enough to concentrate their attacks on your weakest general (picking off your generals one by one instead of focusing on your tank and doing nothing).  Also, since we are on a whole army style kick with this game (generals, tacticians, and all that fun stuff), I should mention I found rather interesting.  There are no hit points (HP) in this game.  This game has soldiers instead.  They pretty much work like HP, but it gives the game a more realistic feel to say that it is hard to kill Liu Bei simply because he has a big army, not because he as an individual has more stamina that all people currently living in the world.  One last innovation of Destiny of an Emperor; the All Out battle (your guys will just fight whoever the hell they feel like in a quick free for all that will wrap up battles with pesky bandits in no time), which is a good way to get the repetitious battles over quickly.  I mean, most fights are fun when your battling a famous general, but the battles with mere bandits are a little pointless.  Especially when you've become the leader of the mighty Shu Dynasty.

Ok, now to the technology parts of this game...which should be overlooked when it comes to classic RPGs...but people tend to complain when the eye/ear candy is ignored...


...well...keep in mind this game is really old; to be precise, it hails from 1989...a time of yuppies, cells phones of a much larger size, more mini-vans, fewer SUVs, credit card debt for the wealthy, not just for the poor, and older technology.  So all of you who think a game is good only if it's pretty, get over it; this is an old game and it looked pretty good for its time.  The still pictures used for some small cinematic moments look pretty good and you can tell who each person is without problem.  Most important about the graphics, you could tell what was going on, and when a game is this good, that is all that matters.  Also, the portraits for each general look pretty nice considering there were so many generals to have portraits for.


...first I go on about the video, and now you damned technology fanboys need audio...well, the sound effects are a little weak, but back in the 80's, few of you probably remember, RPGs simply did not have many sound effects.  Back then, a RPG did not need good audio (or video for that matter) to sell well, because in Japan it only needed a good story and game play and in the U.S....well, it wouldn't sell no matter what because it was an RPG.  Anyways, back to reality; the music in this game is pretty well done.  It definitely has a MIDI sound to it, but that is only because 8-bit NES couldn't really do any better.  But the music sounds like it is from ancient China which is better than Dynasty Warriors 4 did, and the choices of songs fit the moment.  Peaceful for crossing the land, a little intense for fights, and sort of mysterious for dungeons.  Needless to say, if you don't like 8-bit music, you'll hate this and want to turn on the radio or whatever, and if you can put up with 8-bit music, you'll find this music appropriate and well orchestrated.


Well, to keep this somewhat short, I will stop here.  If you can find it, and if you can put up with an old game with poor visuals (for today's standards anyways), music that fits the mood of the game, although it is MIDI style, and playing a slow, clunky system like the NES (don't get me wrong...I love the NES...the "slow, clunky" comment was for those who should experience a good RPG but are afraid of low-tech), get this game and you'll be playing for a nice looooooong time (this game is really long).  My score:  8.75/10