STORY / GAMEPLAY
The story starts at the beginning of the 12th century when the Song Dynasty of China was dangerously close to collapse, and the barbarians of the Jin Empire threatened to invade from the north and destroy the ruling family under emperor Hui Zhong. Zong's imperial minister, Gao Qiu quickly rose to power within the government and soon became the authority in Song. Gao sent to exile several men who despleased him, but now the best of the exiled heroes, the bandit kings, gathered together to oppose Gao Qiu and avenge themselves.
The game can cater for upto seven players (!) and each takes one turn every month. You must build up popularity and followers until you have sufficient power to challenge Gao Qui and kill him. During normal strategy, the game presents you with a map of China divided into 49 regions. Alongside this, is data collected units and regions. Using drop down menus you can control the territories under your command. You can send your followers to search for supplies, build war machines and make diplomatic pacts. Each action you take will effect your popularity and the number of followers under your control. If you throw a fest for the whole village the people will be singing your name in the streets but when you take taxes from them you had best lie low... When you engage another leader in battle the view shifts to a battlefield scene with the two opposing armies facing each other. During the battle scene, each unit of warriors can be maneuvered and positioned on the field and when they engaged enemy units you can control the strategies and tactics they employ (e.g. set fire to block the movement of the enemy). The game does not base its world on what you're doing: uprisings, natural disasters, and political upheavals occur independent of your actions! With astounding depth, Bandit Kings of Ancient China will challenge and delight you a lot.
GRAPHICS / SOUND
Well, Koei surely did a pretty good job in terms of graphics here, which are nicely animated and combined with a sophisticated, easy-to-use gaming system. The negative side of the Macintosh version is its sound, which actually does not have any sound at all! Totally soundless, in contrast to the Amiga version which offers some nice tunes and sampled sound effects during battles.