Koei wishes they wrangled with Shingen.
RELEASE DATE: June 1990
Unite Japan and look good doing it: this is Shingen the Ruler‘s objective. You begin the game with one territory, but there are twenty other territories to conquer (politely, of course) over the entire game. Like any good Koei-esque title (Shingen was developed by Another), there are two types of gameplay: strategic management and janky battle. The latter can be entertaining, if not slightly tedious. You control your cute and chunky units one at a time on the battlefield. Each of your units has a certain move radius. If you attack first, the goal is to win a field fight and a castle fight to conquer the territory. If the enemy attacks first and you win, you get money, experience, and rice (probably women too). Battles can be long and drawn out, depending on how you play, but I appreciate the way Shingen allows you to control your units; much more tactile than Koei’s battles.
Strategic management, on the other hand, is far less kind. Every action is performed through the convoluted menu screen. Ten obtuse abbreviations litter the left hand side of the screen, allowing you, for example, to check your WEL (Wealth), G-M (Gold Mines) and DST (Disaster Rating) among others in any given territory. Abbreviations in general are not difficult to learn, but some of these don’t make any sense. How would one connect CLT with Castle? Worse yet are the twelve commands, which resemble chemical elements: Fa, Fc, Nj, Ok, I’m lost. Now, I’m not a stupid person. But when a game asks me to memorize twenty-two abbreviations from the get-go, my mind wants to blank out. If adventure games like Shadowgate could manage to print the commands in full (Look, Use, Hit, etc.), surely Shingen could have.
The longer I persevered into Shingen, the more I found it to be… a lesser Koei game. It’s not for lack of trying on Shingen‘s part, though. Lord knows it has the ambition. There’s options to do almost everything on the menu, including training Shingen’s heir, Katsuyori, to become the next ruler after Shingen dies. I’m sure I’ll get crap for saying so, but its overly complicated menu navigation really brings the game down. The mechanics, likewise, feel too rough around the edges, compared to Koei’s typical clean interface. Decent battling aside, Shingen‘s not my ruler.