Shogun Warrior: Real Time Conflict E3 2005 Preshow Hands-On

A real-time strategy game about warring samurai, exclusively for the Nintendo DS? Sign us up.

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Back when we first got our hands on the Nintendo DS, we quickly realized that the system's unique touch-screen interface would be perfect for a portable real-time strategy game. So we were thrilled to get to see Shogun Warrior: Real Time Conflict at Namco's pre-E3 event, since it seems like exactly the sort of game that could only be possible on Nintendo's handheld gaming system. In development at UK-based Box Clever, the game will let you assume the role of one of two bitter brothers fighting to take control over a divided Japan. A strategic Risk-style overview map, tactical battles between diverse samurai armies, as well as minigames featuring castle sieges, duels, sea battles, and more should give Shogun Warrior a good amount of variety. And two different characters and four-player multiplayer support should ensure that Shogun Warrior has plenty of lasting value, too.

Shogun Warrior puts both of the DS's screens to good use.
Shogun Warrior puts both of the DS's screens to good use.

What we played of Shogun Warrior was really early and didn't provide us with a good feel for how the game would eventually be. Still, we were able to get the gist of the controls, as well as an impression of how the game will eventually look and how the action will pan out. One of the nice things about Shogun Warrior's presentation is how it makes use of both screens. It's one of the first DS titles we've seen that cranks out 3D graphics on both screens simultaneously, pretty much at all times. The tactical battles we saw and tried already featured what looked like a good couple of dozen units clashing weapons onscreen. And the minigames, many of which featured up-close-and-personal action, looked pretty good, too. The touch screen offered an intuitive interface that felt a lot like a mouse-driven computer RTS game. We were able to select and move troops around, and also guide our armies on the strategic map.

We'll be interested to see how the game looks at E3, since while the basic pieces of the gameplay were in place in the build we tried, we weren't able to play through a scenario from start to finish. The tactical battles demonstrate the controls but have yet to reveal any real nuance--we want to see how the different military units will come into play and how different strategies will enable shrewd commanders to beat their opponents. We also want to see how the enemy artificial intelligence will fight.

As for the minigames, they're conceptually compelling--castle sieges with ballistae and catapults, horseback pursuits of fleeing generals, and so on. But again, we'll be interested to find out how fun these actually are. Since Shogun Warriors is a strategy game, don't expect the minigames to be purely action focused. The idea is, depending on the relative strength of the competing factions, minigames may be easier or tougher--so your skill will have some influence on the results, but fast reflexes alone won't let you take down the enemy's capital city.

Alternatives to combat will include diplomacy and espionage.
Alternatives to combat will include diplomacy and espionage.

One aspect of Shogun Warrior that quickly appealed to us was the idea of having two different perspectives to play from: the brothers Takashi and Kenshin. Takashi, or Eminence, is the noble diplomat who's better suited to a kinder, gentler approach. Kenshin, or Sword Heart, will succeed through ruthless military might. Shogun Warrior won't just be about combat--diplomatic options, espionage, and even assassination (ninjas!) will be possible. So, deciding when to face the enemy head-on and when to work around him will probably be key.

Shogun Warrior has a great concept, and the look of the game hearkens back to classic strategy titles or the more-recent Shogun: Total War, an outstanding strategy game for the PC. If it lives up to its apparent sources of inspiration, it'll really be something. After all, it seems like there's always room for strategy games about samurai warfare, and when you consider that the DS is ideally suited for this style of gaming, it sounds like a perfect match. We'll bring you more just as soon as we can. Shogun Warrior is scheduled for release this fall.

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