If there's one thing that you could pretty much be assured of when it came to a Koei game back in the day, it was getting a lot of depth to your gameplay experience. Not only were you generally treated to a very high production value visual experience, but the attention to detail and historical accuracy was always of high quality. Now Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV is getting a second shot on Wii U Virtual Console and should, at the very least, give gamers who missed the game the first time around an opportunity to see just how intricate Koei's titles were in the past.
When it comes to gameplay depth, few 16-bit titles feature quite as much as a normal Koei release. Of course, that's to be expected considering how many strategy titles the company worked on — and there's a wealth of things to do in Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV. While you're normally just concentrating on a single character in an RPG or strategy title, here you're given an almost endless amount of freedom to work with. You can draft soldiers, plot attacks, snoop on various locations, and many other things.
There's a strong focus on historical accuracy, although you can choose to go the fictional route for added fun. Battle is important, but so also are the many other activities. You need to set up alliances with other rulers, even going so far as setting up specific terms and going way out on a limb to bribe them if necessary. Even the length of time of the alliance can be defined. The meticulous nature of the game is incredible and for gamers who enjoy controlling every minute aspect of the gameplay experience will find a lot to like with the game. By the same token, gamers looking for a more streamlined experience might find the game a bit tedious.
There are two difficulties, so you can vary the challenge a bit, but you still have to navigate a host of menus and dialogue as you travel through, as the storyline is heavy — as are the mammoth amounts of decisions that have to made. While this is certainly not a bad thing, it does require a lot of time and patience to get the full experience out of the game. And with six different scenarios, there's plenty of engaging strategy action to be had for those willing to put in the time.
Koei has always been known for putting a lot of time and effort into the visuals of its titles, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV is no exception. There are plenty of lush 16-bit graphics and some very superbly drawn, although choppily animated, visual touches throughout the game. Some parts of the game look better than others, but overall it sticks to Koei's usual high visual standards.
Musically, it's a mixed bag. While there are some very solid orchestrated tunes to be heard, there are also some that are not quite as catchy. It's typical RPG / strategy fare for the most part, but there are still enough interesting tunes to carry the experience and the overall mood of the various story lines.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV is a solid strategy title. While it's still only likely to appeal to those who appreciate meticulous micromanaging, it does offer a heaping helping of depth and some of the most intricate strategy gameplay you're likely to see in a 16-bit era strategy title. While it may not be as streamlined as some of the more modern strategy RPGs, the game is still pretty much everything you'd expect from the series and will likely keep you busy for countless hours on end.