I’m showing my age again to some of you young bucks, but when I mention my favorite classic RPGs, this one probably elicits the most blank stares. Destiny of an Emperor was release by Capcom way back in 1990 for the NES, and was a fairly typical JRPG, with a few key differences. Those differences, though are what make the game one of my all-time favorites, and one I consider seriously under-appreciated.
The game is set roughly in the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history, which many of you will be familar with from Dynasty Warriors and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. DoaE takes even more liberties with that history, having the game star Oath Brothers Liu Bei, Zhang Fei and Guan Yu in a struggle to save their village, then eventually save all of China. Instead of hit points, you have soldiers, but it amounts to the same thing. Same thing goes for tactics which replace magic, but leaving in the Chinese names for them as well as the locations keep a more authentic feel.
The gameplay is your typical exploration + random fights, sort of a mix of Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy though there’s a twist – you encounter enemy generals in those battles, and you can recruit them. You can have 5 generals in battle, one in reserve, one tactician, and up to 70 you can swap in and out in town. Most of them are generic dudes, though, with random looking portraits. You can tell the badasses when you spot a unique portrait. As you advance through the game, only the best generals keep gaining soldiers (the Five Tiger Generals, their sons, Zhuge Liang and Jiang Wei). So while there may be times you are better served with other guys, they are your go to crew. The story is interesting, if somewhat poorly translated. Visually it’s about what you expect for a NES RPG, somewhat better than the original Final Fantasy. The music is solid and did not bother me while playing.
I have good memories of this game, and it holds up well (considering the age) on replay, for me. I can still feel the tension of the final battle against Si Ma Yi, which took me several tries and still just barely won. It felt like a huge accomplishment. Hey, what can I say, I’m a big nerd. ;) You are probably going to have to play it via emulation, if you want to give it a try, hit me up on Twitter if you need help. Enjoy it, won’t you?