Genghis Khan II: Clan of the Gray Wolf was originally developed by Koei and released for the PC-8801, PC9801, and the MSX in 1992. The following year, Genghis Khan II saw releases for MS-DOS, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, PC Engine CD, NES, and SNES. Five more years later, and the game would see another release on the Sony PlayStation. And you thought the EA Sports games saw ridiculous multiplatform releases? It now arrives in its SNES form on the Wii U Virtual Console.
The game is a part of Koei's Aoki Ōkami to Shiroki Mejika series (or the logically named Historical Simulation Series in North America). Being developed by Koei, it borrows heavily from the gameplay of its other historical tactical strategy game Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
The "story" of Genghis Khan II is actually the same as the history of Genghis Khan (surprise!). As the player you have the option to play the game as Temujin (who conquers most of Asia and assumes the title of Genghis Khan), or many of his arch rivals at the time of his conquests. You are given a Risk-like map with sections of Asia separated and coloured to indicate "tiles" and borders. The goal of the first scenario has you attempting to claim Mongolia for yourself; so in true Genghis Khan fashion, you muster up a large army to wipe out your foes and unify a fractured land.
From the main menu screen you've got plenty of choose from (it's quite overwhelming at first). First off, you can decide whether you want to issue commands, or if you'd rather delegate it to your political advisor. Early in the game (at least during the first scenario of Mongolian Conquest) you will want to make orders yourself, as it is revealed that your advisor seems like he has a tough time just getting pants on in the morning, based on any decisions he may make at the beginning of the game. Don't fret though, because as you progress through the game you can appoint new generals to the advisor position, and they each come with ranks in the different political aspects of running a nation. The higher the ranks, the better orders that are issued during your turn.
Now, should you decide to decide to issue administrative policies yourself, you've got plenty to choose from. You can manage your nation's focus (wealth, food/livestock, town building, etc.), diplomatic relations (alliances, demands, tributes, etc.) and taxes. Each action costs a certain amount of points that detract for your total for the turn. Be wise with what you've got planned. Maybe that big cost should wait for the next turn so you can manage some of the smaller issues within your borders.
Are you thinking this sounds a little complex? Well, it is. On the surface it may seem like a casual strategy game for a console, but it truly isn't. Genghis Khan II is a tactical beast that requires your focus and a lot of preparation. Games are long and demanding, and require lots of micromanagement. It reminds us of the Europa Universalis series in that regard, which is something many of you may be more familiar with (mind you EU wasn't released until 8 years after this title).
An interesting aspect of Genghis Khan II is the multiple gameplay styles within. There is the overworld map, where you manage your nation. Then there's the invasion map, when you decide to attack an adjacent state (or you're the one being invaded). On this map you command units in a fashion similar to Fire Emblem. You're given a grid and you move your units and issue orders to attack, resupply, ambush, or even talk to units in an adjacent tile. Finally, when an attack order is issued, you're taken to the third style of gameplay in the game. On this view you're given multiple individual units to command, and you can have them move freely around the small area you've been provided. These battles take quite a while, as the units' health needs to be slowly whittled down to 0 (from high numbers, for example 200 for cavalry units). Although having all these different gameplay styles in the game is impressive and interesting, the pacing of them can slow the whole thing down.
Luckily, while you're spending all of your time stuck in battles, the music that accompanies it is upbeat and catchy. We even found ourselves humming it in the real world. All of the music is actually quite impressive, and sounds great for a SNES title (the master console for chip tunes).
One of the drawbacks to being on the SNES, however, was the limited amount of screen space that could be used to show information. With all of your different resources, a complete overview of the map and your enemy states, a dashing photo of the leader you chose to play as and his political advisor, there isn't much left to show you all of your political/diplomatic/warring options and what they do. Back in the good ol' days of the NES/SNES, the instruction manual was used extensively to convey information to the player that wasn't explained in the game. That's good and all, but when you're presented with 20+ different buttons with no text and small pixel art, having to flip back between the manual and the game on the Wii U's GamePad is frustrating. On the original SNES you could play with the game on the screen and the manual in your lap. On the Wii U, however, you have to pause the game, pull yourself away from it to view the manual, find what you're looking for and jump back to the game. On several occasions we were opening and closing the manual repeatedly to learn what each of the option buttons did.
Genghis Khan II: Clan of the Gray Wolf is a complex and rewarding tactical roleplaying grand strategy game that holds many different layers. Giving the player a ton of control over their nation, whether they're just conquering Mongolia or trying to conquer the world in later scenarios, can be both a blessing and a curse. The high difficulty hurdle may be tough for newcomers to the genre or series, but certainly awards veterans with engaging gameplay. The only hindrances are the extremely slow pacing of the three different play styles, and the technical limitations for the Wii U VC and consulting the manual regularly (necessary for learning the game). A solid game for those looking for a strategic challenge, but perhaps a little too complex for others.