Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Game 17: Destiny of an Emperor (NES) - Building an Army

Game 17

TitleDestiny of an Emperor
ReleasedSeptember 1990 (May 15, 1989 JP)
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Turn-Based (Random order)
Series - Destiny of an Emperor (sequel only released in Japan)

Well, based on a true story maybe
Capcom has now (in eyes of a US consumer) entered the realm of a turn-based RPG developer. While known for Mega Man at the time, Capcom had at least one champion for the genre. It's interesting that Destiny of an Emperor was released in Japan before Willow, but took an extra year for the translation to come out here.
A brief background for some characters are displayed while the game waits to start
There are a few games in the genre developed by Capcom that never made it to North America. It's hard to say what enabled some games to make it to the states while others were left without an official translation. The sequel to this game was one such title. Another is Sweet Home, which is considered a precursor to Biohazard (i.e. Resident Evil). Still a third example is El Dorado Gate: a seven part episodic game released for the Dreamcast. But, I digress.
I believe these are the guys we'll fight
Destiny of an Emperor is based on the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. My limited knowledge of this time period or the novel is through my exposure to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms video game series released by Koei. Even then, the story was rarely a sticking point as these were mainly strategy games. I remember some of the names, but this is mostly all new for me.
Their oath: "...[we will all die at the same time]"
The game opens with Liu Bei,  Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei coming together to form a bond of undying loyalty. As described by Liu Bei's mother, the local area is plagued by rebels called the Yellow Scarves. They've been terrorizing the people, and our sworn oath behooves us to quell this rebellion for the glory of the Han Dynasty of which Liu Bei is a direct descendant.
So, we set off from the comfort of home to unite the people and restore the glory of the Han. I'm already a bit overwhelmed. I have three party members with a combined force of 500 soldiers and zero food or gold. How in the world am I going to make it through the day?
I'm not sure what I was expecting
Thankfully I ran into Zhang Shi Ping: a horse merchant who believed so much in my cause that he donated a portion of his wealth. Well thank goodness for that. I now had a food supply so my soldiers wouldn't desert me. Outside Cui Zhou Ping's house (he's never home) I picked up Song Ren and Song Yong. I'm guessing they're brothers.
No relation?
I set off west towards Xu Zhou, the of castle of Tao Qian (the regent to the area). I arrived without incident. At some point I found my equipment, equipped it, and set Liu Bei as strategist since he seemed most qualified. Those who've played this before probably already know where this led.
Did towns really have an announcer or could they not afford a sign?
At Xu Zhou I learned that the castle to the north, Qing Zhou, was held by Zhang Liang and his Yellow Scarves. I also picked up Mi Zhe, doubling my starting force. The game uses a record keeper for saving progress, an inn to regain health (soldiers), and separate shops for equipment, items, and food.
How have all these people heard of me already?
Each general (or warlord as your preference) has set equipment that increases the attack or defense power for their units. There doesn't seem to be any limitation to what weapon, headgear, or armor any one general can use. From what I can tell, food decreases by one unit per step on the over-world and in dungeons (luckily this doesn't happen in town). Running out of food causes soldiers to desert (similar to being poisoned in other games).
Beginning my quest with Liu Bei as strategist (i.e. a bad move)
Tao Qian, leader of this castle, declared that having no heir he would bestow the right of succession upon me should I succeed in ridding the land of the Yellow Scarves. Not trusting my current ability to take down the Zhang Liang, I headed further west along the road and found a small encampment. "Must be a small village," I thought to myself.
This seems like a friendly place; just look at that welcoming spiked fence
Well, I was wrong. Apparently there are three Zhang brothers leading the Yellow Scarves. One was camped to the west, and another to the south. I thought it was strange to have a scripted fight so soon, but maybe I could pull it off.
Maybe I have a chance...
Yeah, not really
I really never had a hope. I set myself up to fail from the very moment I put Liu Bei in the strategist spot. Not very well explained in the manual, appointing one general as the strategist allows the army to utilize the tactics known by that individual; however, their army never enters the battle. Instead of participating directly, their tactics (which I currently had zero of) are available to any of the generals fighting. There are only five generals allowed in any one battle.
Look at all those tactics
After this blunder I set Song Ren as strategist, and he's worked out quite well. I grinded up a few levels, ensured my food levels were stable (I seemed to use about 200 by the time I could afford the minimum purchase of 300), and attempted to face off against Bao again. This time went much better.
First tactic learned: fire
I noticed during random encounters that I ran into other named generals every so often, Yellow Scarves I presume. Cheng Yuan Zhi, Zheng Mao, and Han Zhong (Han! fighting for the Yellow Scarves?) were either in the area or fought on the side of the Zhangs as I faced them in their strongholds. Defeating them didn't seem to result in their death. I guess they managed to retreat.
Some foreshadowing
To the south was the fortress Tie Men Xia, where I easily defeated the next Zhang brother, Jao. I think I got lucky in this fight as Jao focused on using his tactics rather than attacking my army. Liu Bei with his 300+ force also managed to take the brunt of the damage. I had the healing tactic by this point, which kept my damage potential up as well.
These look like generals I get to recruit
In addition to attack, magic (tactics), and defense, battle options include items (each general has their own items), all-out (which is an auto-battle and about as smart about it as expected), retreat (doesn't seem to work at set battles), and report (this gives full stats for enemy generals). I received a helpful hint from Unfy (a Twitch stream viewer) that soldier strength increases every power of 10. I've confirmed this is true, as once a unit drops from 100 to 99 they do about half damage, and the same is true for dropping from 10 to 9.
Can't wait to meet these guys
I learned from the people left behind at the fortress of Tie Men Xia that Qing Zhou had a hidden mountain pass behind the castle. One of the Zhang generals, Han Zhong, knew where this pass was, but I needed to find a way to recruit him. I read in the manual that some NPCs when captured could needed a steed to join my forces, so I bought one. I still have it.
Yeah, I had trouble with it as well
I ended up facing off against the three sub-generals in one random battle. At the end I was informed I'd captured Han Zhong. I don't know if this was scripted, or if I needed to defeat him a number of times before capturing him. I was looking forward more to one of the other stronger generals, but even after fighting them many times I haven't received the same dialogue.
Oh, you just want gold? What about this lovely steed?
I added Zhong to the main battle party, kicked Song Yong, and passed on the equipment to the new general. I looked for the secret passage, but didn't find it. Running headlong into the castle I fought against Zhang Liang alone. He was the easiest of the bunch. I think I did this out of order.
I thought the castle would have the hardest battle
After the battle the passageway opened up and I could now clearly see a path in the mountain. Of course, I tested what would happen if I should enter the castle again. This time I faced off against all three brothers.
This went about as well as the first battle against Zhang Bao
Either I could grind some levels, or follow the plot into the side of the mountain. I wonder if the passage wouldn't be there had I not recruited Zhong. I guess I'll use the plot approved route.
That wasn't there before
In the passage was a river blocking my way, and a guard who threatened my life. I pondered how to cross. I was stumped; it was late. I thought maybe I could use the battle tactic for digging trenches since it required me to be near a river to use. I tried to get into a battle near the river, but the game prevented random battles next to the water. It's at this point, late, blocked by water, that I called it a night.
Maybe I could ride his body across...
Sessions Time: 2h42m (Total Time: 2h42m)


  1. I remember this game coming up quite often in the Nintendo Power Counselor's Corner. Unfortunately it is pretty much derivative of Dragon Warrior. Tactics are spells and soldiers are hit points. Still, it's nice to have a game based on something historical.

    1. So far it's offered an experience at least partially different from Dragon Warrior. Of course, this game came out in Japan after Dragon Quest III, and I'll just be getting to Dragon Warrior II in a few more games.

      Having tactics shared by all generals in the party dependent on which general is set as the strategist gives at least a different feel. Soldiers as hit points is a bit harder to defend since the general is considered defeated when reaching 0, and you can't just hire more or stay at an inn; to recover a general you need to use a resurrection item. The dynamic of having food or else risk losing health with each step seems to come more from Ultima.

      We'll see how the game holds up as I progress. I'm itching to get back to it, but have been rather busy the past couple of days (plus had some streaming trouble that has now been resolved).

    2. Wow, I'd forgotten that DW2 came out that late in the US.
      Speaking of Nintendo Power, I remember they printed a cheat code you could use before taking on one of the final battles to reduce the opposing army's strength.

    3. I'm not sure which came out first actually; all sources has this game coming out some time in September. Dragon Warrior has most saying September as well, except Wikipedia is an outlier that lists December. Personal experience says I got this game for Christmas, but that doesn't actually say when it was released.

      In any case, yes, quite late considering Dragon Quest II came out three and a half years prior in Japan.

      I actually don't remember reading about Destiny of an Emperor in Nintendo Power, but I didn't always read those cover to cover.

    4. Quite honestly I never even heard of this game until watching Crontendo in the last year or so. And it's not like I didn't pay attention to games coming out at the time. Possibly if I did hear about it I just lumped it in with Nobunagas ambition or Romance of the 3 kingdom type games and dismissed it. Nothing against those games but they just didn't interest me as a kid.

    5. Quite possible, I'm sure hearing it was based on Rot3K would have dissuaded me.

      The game isn't holding up too well. It has started to get rather repetitive. I'm basically chasing after one warlord after another with little deviation.

  2. I remember this game very fondly. It was a whim weekend rental that I turned around and bought a week or two later. It seems like a traditional rpg that just puts a different coat of paint on things with troop numbers and tactics replacing spells and hps (as mentioned earlier), but the unique generals and recruitment aspects really appealed to me at the time, and the plot felt a lot different to me too, with all of the political angles.

    That said, I recall thinking there was a lot of grinding and senseless, repetitive battles, particularly during the last third of the game.

    I was always a big fan of Romance of the Three Kingdoms though, when I played that on the NES, and these two games prompted me to read the novel they were based on several years later.

    1. I'm already feeling the repetitive battles in the first third. Sad to hear that doesn't go away, but I suppose if you're simulating the war aspect it necessitates going through the constant battles. I'm still excited to recruit a new general, but I wish I had more goals to work towards.

    2. If I am recalling right... and keep in mind it's been like 20 years, there are some good twists later on that help, at least from a storyline perspective, but it does become a challenge to keep amassing your army.

    3. Well, the story isn't too bad. It tries to have some intrigue, but I feel like I'm jumping through the timeline very quickly without any indication it's being done.

      I just got to the point where Wu is attacking. I'm not sure how much more there is to the game, but I've seen nearly all the tactics available and found all five tiger generals. I guess the last part is to identify the dragon and defeat him.