Nobunagas Amibition is a series that dates back to 1986, releasing on the Sega Genisis, or the Megadrive if you’re from the EU. Though I’m a total newcomer to the series, I’ve dabbled in the turn-based strategy game genre before, with countless hours in Total War and Civilization, so lets see how I found my time with Nobunagas Ambition: Taishi.
Based in the Sengoku period of feudal japan, you as the player are set to achieve the ultimate goal of the legendary warlord Oda Nobunaga, which is to unify all of Japan. You may have heard of Nobunaga before, especially if you’ve ever played any of the Onimusha games as he’s generally seen as a bad dude in these games and often portrayed as a Demon. In Nobunagas Ambition: Taishi, he’s just a man… with ambition.
So lets get into what should be the most important thing about Nobunagas Ambition: Taishi and that’s accessibility. With a series running for 30+ years, you’d hope to have a whole heap of tutorials for literally every mechanic in the game? Well call me the Genie, cause your wish has been granted. Every time you open a menu to perform an action, you’re greeted with an in depth tutorial, and depending on how complex the action is depends on how many pages you have to read through. So whether it’s dealing with trade routes, gathering armies or sending an emissary to another leader to create a friendship, you’re gonna be reading more than you probably thought. So if you want to learn how the game works, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better resource than the game itself.
So while that’s all wonderful, the sheer amount of mechanics you have to learn about to even begin to play Nobunagas Ambition: Taishi becomes daunting as all fuck. While all the text based tutorials exist, there’s no pseudo tutorial campaign for you to cut your teeth on. This means you’re learning on the fly while the game tries to stop you from unifying the country. I feel that this only really hurts newcomers to the series, as it very quickly becomes a task of “Holy shit what am I actually meant to be doing right now”. While in certain games, that feeling can be a blessing, in Nobunagas Ambition: Taishi that feels more like a hindrance. There was multiple times where I felt I could be doing more, but I just didn’t know what that actually was.
Maintaining your hold on the glorious land of Nippon is broken up through the various different actions that you can take. You have to make sure you have enough provisions to feed your loyal subjects. You need to make sure that you have enough gold to pay your armies and to sustain your equipment. You have to maintain relationship with your rivals to open trade routes and have backup for when you go to war. Nobunagas Ambition: Taishisometimes feel like you’re playing a game of chess, trying to anticipate what your opponents are going to do to you, while you try and maintain the love and adoration of your people.
Every couple of months, you have a council meeting where agendas are discussed. You can pick to agree with 3 proposals from your councilors, though all this really does is allow you to level up in different areas, such as military or trade. Picking the proposals boils down to a meta game of selecting who will give you the specific level up points in the paths you want to travel down. So if you want to go for a more “conquer by force” level of ruling, you’ll obviously be siding with the councilors who are gonna drop you more war points.
Combat feels very weird in Nobunagas Ambition: Taishi. Rather than playing like a Total War game and having the ability to micromanage your units, you set your unit placement and then move them about and pray that the enemy units don’t notice you. During my time with Nobunagas Ambition: Taishi I only went in to battle once and it did not go well, though that was basically down to me. As I gathered my tiny force, I spotted a little castle towards the edge of the battlefield, so naturally I thought “Why would their army be there” and made it my sole mission to capture it and hold it. Unfortunately the enemy made it their sole mission to rush my 300 noble warriors with 3,000 of their own. Not only did they break my armies spirit, but it crushed my hopes and dreams of ever being a real commander.
Performance wise, Nobunagas Ambition: Taishi takes every opportunity to tank it’s framerate. I was playing on an original PS4 and navigating around the world map gets choppy, with the framerate almost certainly dropping into the low 10s. This isn’t actually the worst part of the framerate though. When you load into a battle, the game goes from a zoomed out view of the battle, to giving you a decently close view of your army. As it moves in to your army though, also bare in mind that my army was also tiny, you’re treated to a wonderful little slideshow. I can only imagine how the game handles when you’re fighting battles with both sides having thousands of units. I could forgive Nobunagas Ambition: Taishi somewhat if the units were detailed, or if it was a graphical marvel, but honestly, it looks like a late PS3 game and definitely runs like one.
Nobunagas Ambition: Taishi is definitely more set for veterans of the series. The game has masses of tutorials for every occasion and it serves to make the game feel fairly accessible, even though the series has been around longer than I have. These games definitely have an audience, but unfortunately, it isn’t me. If you have an interest in feudal Japan, or have played one of the past Nobunagas Ambition games, then Nobunagas Ambition: Taishi, is more likely to be for you. The chugging framerate and poor character models don’t do anything to draw you in to playing the game and while I was initially interested in playing the game, my eyes quickly glazed over when I began reading a tutorial about agriculture. Overall, an interesting pseudo history lesson, but certainly nothing that I’ll be returning to play anytime soon.