Kessen II (決戦 II Kessen Tsu?) is a strategy game loosely based on the Three Kingdoms period of China. It is the sequel to Kessen in name only; both Kessen and the later sequel Kessen III are based on events in Japan.
Unlike Koei's other games based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Dynasty Warriors and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms game), the plot of Kessen II is a heavily fantasized version of the novel. The last of the Han dynasty family, Liu Bei, begins a rebellion against the kingdom of Wei led by Cao Cao, with much of the game's events being based on the novel with alterations due to the different storylines. A significant change to the story involves a romance between Liu Bei and the character Diao Chan, being a significant factor behind Liu Bei's decision to go to war, and Himiko, a fictional sorceress created for the game.
In addition to the fantasized theme, Kessen II departs from its realistic predecessor. Koei introduces elements of magic, especially with the portrayal of notable strategists such as Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi as sorcerers. In battle, these characters are able to cause earthquakes, summon lightning storms and hurl fireballs.
The gameplay involves playing out major battles as the storyline progresses, with cutscenes between each battle for the development of the events and major characters. Before battle, players are given a choice of strategies to take, although they can manually control all units in the battlefield. All units are controlled by the AI unless the player directly intervenes, and battles between forces are carried out in real time. While in control of a unit, players are able to use special skills or magic spells to turn the tables, although enemy characters are also able to do so.
Liu Bei's storyline
The game begins with the player controlling Liu Bei's army. Liu Bei is an officer of the Han Empire, ruler of the Xu Province, and is trying to subjugate the rebellions breaking out all over the empire. Assisting him is disciplined officer Cao Cao, and his love, Diao Chan, a woman assigned to protect the Mandate of Heaven. This mandate bestows the blessing of Heaven on any leader who possesses it.
Shortly afterward, Cao Cao fosters a desire for world conquest. Learning that Diao Chan possesses the imperial seal, he assaults Liu Bei at the imperial capital, Xuchang. Diao Chan is taken prisoner, and Liu Bei flees the capital. During the assault, Zhang Fei's eldest daughter Mei Mei is killed after saving Diao Chan from an explosion. Liu Bei retreats to Xu, and is unable to decide whether or not to declare war on Cao Cao. His officers, sworn brothers Zhang Fei and Guan Yu, Zhang Fei's daughters Li Li and Luo Luo, and also his childhood friend Mei Sanniang convince him to strike Cao Cao before they themselves are attacked. Following this, Cao Cao sends his vassal, the great warlord Xiahou Yuan to attack the lands of Xu however he is met by Liu Bei's army. During the battle, Captain of the Han Imperial Bodyguards, Zhao Yun joins Liu Bei, he mistakes Liu Bei's rebellion as an effort to restore the Han Empire, not as an attempt to rescue Diao Chan .
Guan Yu's adopted son, Guan Ping joins Liu Bei's forces before he faces Cao Cao's warlord Xun Yu (who is female in the game only) at the battle of Ru Nan. During the battle, it is made clear that Liu Bei's forces will not get far if they do not have a lord strategist on their side. During the battle, Zhou Cang joins to help aid Liu Bei in his mission. After the battle, Liu Bei and his forces travel three times to see Zhuge Liang but it is on the third visit that he swears his allegiance to Liu Bei.
At one point, Liu Bei's emotions get the better of him. He shouts that the only thing he is battling for is Diao Chan. Zhao Yun, assuming he does not therefore care about peace, or the Han Empire, deserts, and Liu Bei is forced to fall on the mercy of Sun Quan, ruler of Wu.
By now, Cao Cao dominates the north of the empire, along with the strategic Jing Province.
Liu Bei and Sun Quan form an alliance, and agree to face Cao Cao in naval battle on the river Chi Bi. Zhuge Liang devises a plan, and Liu and Sun achieve a miracalous victory, in defiance of Heaven's mandate.
Following this, Cao Cao overthrows the Han emperor, and declares himself Emperor of Wei. Liu Bei gains ruling power over the Yi Province, the southern Jing Province, and Nanman. He declares his land Shu.
A long and bloody conflict between the three kingdoms of Wu, Wei, and Shu commences, with Wu fighting for Cao Cao at one point. In the final battle, Himiko attempts to destroy Liu Bei by unbalancing Heaven, but Zhuge Liang supposedly destroys her. Eventually, the land is unified by Liu Bei, Diao Chan is rescued, and with his dying breath, Cao Cao tells Diao Chan to "create a world where a person like me cannot be born".
At the "Battle of East Lau", one finds out that Himiko is not killed after all, but has raised a revolution with what remains of the Wu and Wei armies. Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang defeat Himiko again, and she supposedly flees "to an island across the sea".
Cao Cao's storyline
Cao Cao's intro is very similar to Liu Bei's, but obviously focuses more on his point of view. It is almost immediately established for him that he has the Mandate of Heaven, and dives into the personality of some Wei officers, not to mention the details of Diao Chan's time in captivity.
Cao Cao begins with trusted officers like Xun Yu and Xiahou Yuan. However, he is also noted to be battling Yuan Shao at the same time as dealing with Liu Bei, thus explaining why some of his stronger officers come in later. Cao Cao also develops a bond with Diao Chan, which annoys the sorceress Himiko to no end. As Himiko secretly held romantic feelings for Cao Cao, she'd often take out her frustrations on Diao Chan which would just anger Cao Cao even further.
Cao Cao manages to constantly quell Liu Bei's efforts to defeat him, but soon finds trouble when Zhuge Liang enters the scene. Cao Ren, Cao Cao's cousin, is nearly killed; Xiahou Yuan, Cao Cao's best officer, is slain in an ambush; and finally Cao Cao himself is nearly beheaded in battle against the sorcerer if not for Himiko's intervention. Liu Bei later allies himself with Sun Quan for the Battle of Chi Bi, but Cao Cao manages to overcome them despite a brilliant fire tactic, proving the power of the Mandate of Heaven.
Following Chi Bi Cao Cao is forced to let Liu Bei and Sun Quan recover as Ma Chao launched an attack on the capital. While this was going on Liu Bei managed to create the territory of Shu. In response Cao Cao dethroned the Han Emperor and created Wei. Xun Yu also became jealous of Diao Chan, as she too was in love with Cao Cao, but reluctantly agreed to serve him as a warrior rather than a woman.
As Cao Cao continued to win battles against Liu Bei, his uncle, in fear of what the ultimate result would be, revealed that Cao Cao and Liu Bei were brothers by means of the same mother. This explained as to why Diao Chan knew a tune Cao Cao remembered his mother singing from time to time. In spite of this new information Cao Cao captured Liu Bei's capital and subjugated Wu. However Liu Bei and his officers escaped and vanished. Not long later Cao Cao learnt that Liu Bei was leading a large rebellion in his former province of Xu.
During the final battle, Himiko went into a jealous rage and tried to destroy everyone, but Cao Cao and Xun Yu were able to pacify her. Following his final victory at the "Battle of Chang Zheng", Zhuge Liang raises a rebellion with what remains of the Wu and Shu armies. Cao Cao and his army defeat Zhuge Liang. After this, one sees that Diao Chan and Liu Bei were reunited.
Kessen II was met with positive to average reception upon release; GameRankings gave it a score of 75.42%, while Metacritic gave it 71 out of 100. In Japan, Famitsu gave it a score of 35 out of 40.
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