|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
The game's time frame is roughly between the years 1550 to 1590. Contrary to many stories and portrayals that depict him as a villain or demon, Nobunaga is depicted in a more virtuous and ultimately tragic light, making Kessen III rather unusual in relation to other video games based in the same era. It is a heavily fantasized and romanticized depiction of his life, although unlike games such as the Samurai Warriors series it goes into more specific historical details. For example, the existence of the Ashikaga shogunate and Nobunaga's relationship is covered herein but completely omitted from the Samurai Warriors games.
The game paints a positive picture of Nobunaga's life, and then enters a "what if" scenario showing what might have happened if he had survived the betrayal by Akechi Mitsuhide. It describes Nobunaga regaining his power base, and then defeating shogunate forces led by the Akechi Clan and other clans of Western Japan on the shores of Kyūshū, with Nobunaga presumably becoming the new leader.
Tokugawa Ieyasu is in this game, presented as Nobunaga's mild mannered and dedicated ally, but is shown flying into a rage when he learns that Nobunaga survives his betrayal, believing that he was going to carry out Nobunaga's destiny. Toyotomi Hideyoshi is also shown, under the name of Hideyoshi Hashiba. His unlikely charisma inspires his troops after he is wrongly told of Nobunaga's death, which leads his friend to comment, "Maybe he would be the one to unite Japan, if Lord Oda was dead."
Kessen III refines the mechanics of the previous games even further while introducing new core elements. The flow of the game begins with the player selecting a mission from those available on the map. After being briefed on the mission's details, the player then selects which units to bring into the battle before issuing basic marching orders. During the battle itself, the player is in control of an individual unit and can switch between friendly units at any time, while the other units are controlled by artificial intelligence. Battle commences when friendly and enemy units encounter one another and unit health is measured by the number of troops remaining in the unit. Troops also have specific skills related to their particular type (cavalry, spearmen, ninja, etc.) and officers can learn powerful special skills and abilities such as defensive strategies or attack magic that can turn the tide of battle.
All officers have access to a special skill called "rampage." When used, the action zooms in around that officer, and the player enters a short, timed mini-battle against troops from an enemy unit. During a rampage, the player can earn bonus experience, gold, and restore lost troops to the unit by picking up the proper items dropped by defeated soldiers. After 100 soldiers are defeated, the enemy unit's officer appears, and if the player can defeat them, the officer under the player's control may receive even further bonuses.
Battles end when the primary objective has been achieved. These objectives may include wiping out all enemy units, destroying a specific target, escorting a unit to a particular location, or making an escape. Grades on performance in battle are given at the end of each stage, and are based on how many enemy officers were defeated, the number of friendly officers were kept in battle, and the effective use of troop skills. Better grades yield items that can be used to outfit friendly officers, or gold to buy such items from merchants between battles. Battles are typically lost when Nobunaga's unit is defeated, time runs out, or a special mission requirement could not be completed.
The storyline of Kessen III is very detailed and makes frequent use of cinematic sequences rendered using both the games own graphics engine and full motion video. These sequences are typically played at the start and end of each chapter, before and after battles, and during special events that take place during the course of a fight.
- Oda Nobunaga - The heroic protagonist.
- Akechi Mitsuhide - A mysterious savior turned enemy.
- Lady Kicho - Princess of Mino Province and Nobunaga's bride.
- Toyotomi Hideyoshi - Originally a peasant named 'Kinoshita Tokichiro', he eventually becomes one of Nobunaga's most loyal officers.
- Tokugawa Ieyasu - Nobunaga's loyal friend, the daimyo of the Tokugawa Clan.
- Honda Tadakatsu - The greatest warrior of the Tokugawa .
- Mori Yoshinari, Mori Ranmaru, Mori Nagayoshi - A family of loyal retainers to Nobunaga who serve him following their predecessor's death.
- Maeda Toshiie - A retainer who served under Nobunaga since the beginning. He acts as a comical kabukimono.
- Kuroda Kanbei - A retainer who served under Hideyoshi.
- Hachisuka Koroku - Hideyoshi's longtime friend.
- Niwa Nagahide - A reserved, careful retainer of Oda. Often referred as 'Potato Samurai' by Toshiie.
- Shibata Katsuie - Former traitor to Oda who defects back and becomes one of Nobunaga's loyal retainers.
- Araki Murashige - At first an Oda officer, but was really helping the Mouri Clan from the start.
- Takigawa Kazumasu - A Shibata officer who joined with Oda after Katsuie was defeated.
- Inaba Ittetsu - Former member of the Mino Triumvirate and former retainer of Saitō Tatsuoki now under Nobunaga.
- Takenaka Hanbei - A master strategist comparable to Zhuge Liang of three kingdoms-era China.
- Hattori Hanzō - An Iga ninja who serves Oda (historically he served the Tokugawa).
- Taigen Sessai - Once an officer of Imagawa Yoshimoto but betrayed him to join Nobunaga.
- Yamanaka Shikanosuke - A man who was rescued from the Mouri Clan by Nobunaga and offered his services to Oda.
- Nankobo Tenkai - A Buddhist man from Shoryuji Castle, he joined up with the Oda after he accepted Yoshino's offer of recruitment.
- Ishikawa Goemon - A thief who was once having a connection to the Takeda and joined Oda in his hopes of being rich.
- Shima Sakon - A Matsunaga retainer that later joined the Oda forces.
- Tōdō Takatora - Former officer of Azai Nagamasa who later joins the Oda forces.
- Kani Saizo - Formerly an officer of Matsunaga Hisahide like Shima Sakon before him he joined Oda to conquer the world.
- Kaisen Joki - Former advisor of Takeda Shingen and now worked for Oda after Shingen died.
- Fukushima Masanori - Friend of Kato Kiyomasa and he joined Oda after seeing Hideyoshi for the first time.
- Katō Kiyomasa - Friend of Fukushima Masanori like his friend before him he joined Oda.
- Tachibana Ginchiyo - An admirer of Kicho who joins Nobunaga.
- Omatsu- A pious women who joins Nobunaga's forces if Toshiie takes the field.
- Yagyū Munetoshi - A officer for Matsunaga who joined with Oda to help him take down Ashikaga.
- Tsukahara Bokuden - An Ashikaga officer who joined with Oda.
- Miyamoto Musashi - A Mouri officer until he was stopped dead in his tracks from escaping from Kizukawaguchi with Terumoto Mori by Nobunaga and joined with him to help take out the Osaka sects.
- Date Masamune - The one-eyed dragon of Ōshū who once helped Ujimasa Hojo kill Tokugawa but then allied with the Oda Clan, his retainers also rebelled against Hōjō.
- Maeda Toshimasu - Keiji is a character only available to those who own Samurai Warriors. He is a wild yet strong warrior.
- Inahime (Ina) - Daughter to Honda Tadakatsu and a skilled archer. She is only available to players who own Samurai Warriors: Xtreme Legends.
- Fūma Kotarō - Who was said to be the killer of Hattori.
- Sassa Narimasa - A ronin who joined Oda.
- Ōtani Yoshitsugu - A man who joined Oda after being rescued from the Asakura forces.
- Ashikaga Yoshiaki - The 14th Ashikaga Shogun and main villain.
- Mōri Terumoto - The Mōri Clan daimyo who aids Yoshiaki.
- Saitō Tatsuoki - A relentless enemy of Nobunaga and relative of Kicho.
- Matsunaga Hisahide - A daimyo who regularly defies and belittles Nobunaga's ambition.
- Azai Nagamasa - The Azai Clan daimyo, husband to Nobunaga's sister Lady Oichi.
- Takeda Shingen - The Takeda Clan daimyo.
- Uesugi Kenshin - The Uesugi Clan daimyo, like Takeda Shingen he is shown as a placid military genius.
- Oda Nobukiyo - Cousin of Oda Nobunaga.
- Uesugi Kagekatsu - Nephew of Uesugi Kenshin and close friend of Naoe Kanetsugu.
- Naoe Kanetsugu - Retainer of Uesugi Kenshin and later Uesugi Kagekatsu.
- Baba Nobufusa - Retainer of Takeda Clan.
- Yamagata Masakage - Retainer of Takeda Clan.
- Sanada Masayuki - Retainer of Takeda Clan.
- Takeda Nobukado - Younger Brother of Takeda Shingen.
- Naitō Masatoyo - Retainer of Takeda Clan.
- Anayama Baisetsu - Retainer of Takeda Clan, later betrays his clan to the Tokugawa
- Momochi Sandayu - The leader of the clan of Iga ninja, from where Hattori Hanzō came from.
- Isshiki Fujinaga - Member of the Ashikaga Shogunate and was always around Yoshiaki.
- Hosokawa Fujitaka - A member of the Ashikaga Shogunate forever loyal to them.
- Asakura Yoshikage - The Asakura Clan daimyo and the ally of Azai Nagamasa
- Akechi Hidemitsu - Retainer of the Akechi and Mitsuhide's relative.
- Saitō Toshimitsu - Retainer of Saitō Tatsuoki, later serve Mitsuhide after the death of Tatsuoki.
- Takeda Katsuyori - Son and heir of Takeda Shingen.
- Hōjō Ujimasa - The Hōjō Clan daimyo.
- Miyoshi Nagayuki - The Miyoshi Clan daimyo.
- Miyoshi Masayasu - Retainer of Miyoshi Nagayuki, always agrees to whatever Nagayuki says.
- Iwanari Tomomichi - Retainer of Miyoshi Nagayuki.
- Imagawa Yoshimoto - The Imagawa Clan daimyo.
- Honganji Kennyo - The head of the Hongan-ji.
- Chōsokabe Motochika - The Chōsokabe Clan daimyo who aids Yoshiaki.
- Shimazu Yoshihiro - The Shimazu Clan daimyo who aids Yoshiaki.
- Gonzalo Méndez de Canço - A Spanish general who aids Yoshiaki.
- Okehazama (1560)
- Inabayama (1567)
- Anegawa (1570)
- Odani (1573)
- Nagashino (1575)
- Fall of Matsunaga (1577)
- Kizukawaguchi (1577)
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