Not to be confused with the Bandit Kings of Modern China.
PLAYERS: 1-5 simultaneous (!)
RELEASE DATE: December 1990
It takes a special breed to enjoy a Koei game. It takes a special… patient… breed. I will give Koei props, though. They’ve been making solid profits for years off of these niche Asian historical simulation games. When I was a child, every time I saw a new Romance of the Three Kingdoms game at my local Blockbuster, I thought, “Who rents these games, let alone buys them?” They were beyond my scope at a young age, and I’m slightly sorry to say, they are beyond my scope now. Yes, I did attempt to “play” Bandit Kings of Ancient China, but I couldn’t connect with it.
Funnily enough, there are people who still play this game (and other Koei games, I’m sure) religiously, and talk about which different characters (Hairy Priest or Tattoed Priest?) they used in different scenarios (Jan 1101 or Jan 1105) and on different difficulty levels. Nippon Ichi freaks, shut your mouths. Chaoyun2k wipes the floor with all of you: https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/nes/587106-bandit-kings-of-ancient-china/faqs/48064
So here’s the historical lowdown: the game takes place in China during the Song dynasty. The Bandit Kings of Ancient China (if these kings really existed, I hope that’s what they called themselves because that is completely BA), are going to war against Gao Qiu, an evil Chinese dictator. From what I understand, you play as a lowly maggot and have the ability to acquire the Bandit Kings in your party as you progress, along with other random travelers or merchants or what-have-you. Any hardcore BKoAC fans feel free to correct me on this. It’s strategy on the NES, so battles are fought slowly and with little to no animation, but the point is to take over as much of China as possible before Jan 1127. If you haven’t taken out Gao’s entire army before then, the game is over.
Because of the complexity surrounding Bandit Kings of Ancient China and other Koei games like it, I’d imagine that this may have been one of the better values for your NES in the late 80s. Back in the day, when fifty bucks could buy you crap like Bart Vs. the Space Mutants or Bad Street Brawler, it must have been refreshing to have a game with a ton of options and outcome. If you have time and a willingness to learn all of this game’s intricacies, it might surprise you.
K (for Koei)