previews\ Jan 12, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Nobunaga's Ambition: Iron Triangle - PS2 - Preview

One can only imagine which of the current or future wars will eventually see perpetual rebirth in video game form. During Feudal Japan, Nobunaga Oda had no idea that his actions – as well as those of the men around him – would ignite game developers like KOEI who seems eternally dedicated to the re-telling his story. But as we’re all too aware, games are rarely about the story. It may be used as a catalyst to keep us engaged, but in the end, it is second to gameplay (and rightfully so).

With a game like Nobunaga’s Ambition: Iron Triangle, however, the story very much matters. Not because it will enamor the player but because it creates the proper setting for large-scale battles. When taking a first glance at the screenshots (or the game itself upon release), you might not understand how the words “large-scale” and “battles” can fit into the same sentence. But if you’ve played KOEI’s other strategy games – such as last year’s Nobunaga’s Ambition: Rise to Power – you’ll know where those words come from.

The graphics, as most players will quickly note, are well below the quality of PlayStation 2 (despite being a PS2 exclusive). That isn’t what Iron Triangle is about though. Tiny details rule the day, with micromanagement playing a key role in everything you do. Shops and farms and other structures must be built to keep your income and food supply going strong; temples, forums, bazaars, ateliers barracks, ninja camps and other facilities must be constructed to ensure your troops never flounder.

This is just the tip of the iceberg – an iceberg so big, it could sink three Titanic ships. Once you begin, two feelings take hold. First, the number of choices is unprecedented for a console strategy game (outside of KOEI’s titles, of course). Even the most seasoned Disgaea, Advance Wars or Fire Emblem players will be in awe. Then, just as fast as the awestruck feelings arrive, you’ll be overwhelmed by the available options. It would be wrong to say that there are too many things to do, especially when the game makes it fairly manageable – so long as you have the fortitude to learn the tricks of the trade. But it’s still a bit intimidating.

Iron Triangle comes with a great (and completely optional) tutorial that explains every action you’ll need to take to keep up with this game. Unlike most strategy titles, the world is somewhat persistent. Utilizing active (time moves forward) and planning (time stands still) phases, players can slowly dictate some of their actions without being overrun as they might in a strategy game that’s wholly real-time. But don’t take that for granted, as you always have to worry about what the enemy is doing during the active phase, regardless of your current position.

Though the main Unification mode will have you fighting to unite all 60 fiefs within the land, Iron Triangle also contains Local and Challenge modes. Don’t be confused by the former mode – it is not a LAN feature for multiplayer, as this is strictly a single-player experience. In reality, Local mode dares you to unite all of the fiefs within your local region. Challenge mode, however, is more specific, giving the player different scenarios and specific objectives to complete within a set time limit.

Built for the die-hard turn-based strategy gamer who values content more than visuals and doesn’t hate the idea of being patient, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Iron Triangle won’t have any trouble satisfying its niche audience when it releases at the end of the month. To find out if you belong in that niche, stay with GameZone for our full review upon the game’s release.

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