Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI

Koei has quietly released another entry in this long-running series in English, and it’s received the same sort of reception each game usually does: fan excitement, concessionary reviews in the sixes or sevens, and widespread indifference. It’s kind of a shame that the series that represents what’s perhaps the only gig in town for Civilization-style strategy on consoles is so consistently ignored by most gamers. But given this site’s previous coverage of Koei’s forays into Chinese history, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI is certainly not going to be the first to be ignored ’round here.

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Simple 2000 Series vol. 113: The Tairyou Jigoku

I have to say, this is an excellent coverWhat makes a Simple 2000 release worthwhile? Does the concept need to be original? Does the game have to be “good?” Or simply playable? There are roughly three grades of Simple 2000 games out there: those that are terrible and unplayable, those that are terrible and playable, and those that are not terrible. I had fully expected this game to fall into the first category, but I found something that just barely sneaks into the second.

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The Maid Uniform and Machine Gun

it's a trap!It’s not often that a Simple 2000 game has recognizable – or even mildly appealing – characters. More often than not, Simple 2000 characters simply represent archetypes or attempt to imitate well-known characters from full-priced games. But when a game in this series has characters that are so appealing that they make one want to ignore the overall quality of the game, it’s clear that the developer has done something right. Such is the case with last August’s release of Simple 2000 Series Vol. 105: The Maid Uniform and Machine Gun – and, indeed, there’s a lot to ignore if one expects to have much fun with the game at all.

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Simple 2000 Series Vol. 99: The Genshijin

What makes a successful Simple 2000 Series game? Sometimes it’s a collision of original elements that have been refined over several games, often on other publishers’ dimes. Sometimes it’s a mere port or remake of a game that’s previously found success as a full-priced release. The well-executed, original, non-franchise title is a rarity among the rare good games in D3 Publisher’s catalog. However, the necessary alignment of heavenly bodies seems to have been just right for the release of developer Vingt-et-un Systems’ April release, Simple 2000 Series Vol. 99: The Genshijin, or The Primitive Man.

The Genshijin can best be described as a combination of Nintendo’s real-time-strategy-explorer Pikmin and Artdink’s bizarro caveman-sim Tail of the Sun. As the game begins, you control a diminutive monkey living in a small monkey-village. Your monkey is ever-so-slightly bigger than the rest of the monkeys in his tribe, and therefore is able to boss other monkeys around and lead them on sorties into the great wilderness outside. The monkeys in the boss’s party follow him in formation and act on the commands he gives. They can pick up food and artifacts, attack wild beasts with their monkey-fists, and work together to surmount obstacles (which are usually great slabs of rock that serve as gates between areas).

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Colosseum: Road to Freedom

now that's a bonus!It’s interesting to imagine what might have come of this game if it Koei – the game’s publisher outside of Japan – had actually secured the license to a certain Ridley Scott movie. Colosseum: Road to Freedom was actually released as Gladiator: Road to Freedom in Japan, but with the precedent of the movie and an Acclaim title of the same name, things had to be shuffled a bit. As things played out, Colosseum received next to no attention in the US, likely not in the least due to little advertising by Koei and a miniscule print run. Reviews mostly showed disinterest or bewilderment, while one or two did admit the potential for niche appeal. So, was this game unjustly ignored? If so, what’s compelling about it?

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