Interview: 14 games and counting… why Romance of the Three Kingdoms is still going strong

8 mins read

Interview by Matt S. 

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is finally coming to Nintendo Switch in the west! In just a few months Koei Tecmo will be publishing Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV: Diplomacy and Strategy Expansion Pack for the Nintendo Switch (and PlayStation 4 and PC). A rich enhancement on the already very good Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV, having this thing on the go and portable is going to be something special, we reckon.

We had the chance to sit down with Echigoya Kazuhiro, the producer of the game, to fire off some quick questions and briefly discuss the enduring popularity of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, building strategy games based on real history (or, at least, real literature), and whether we might just see some favourite faces as a bonus in this new edition…

Matt S: The response to Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV has been incredibly positive. What do you think has helped this one stand out for the series?
Kazuhiro E: We haven’t compared the response of this game to other titles in the series, but I think that the main reasons for the positive response are the simple system of conquering land with colours, that it expands upon the popular single map system in RTK9 and 11, and the diverse characters of the officers.

Matt S: The Romance of the Three Kingdoms series has not been shy to experiment and try new ideas. Is there anything in particular that the team aims to achieve with each title that causes it to experiment like this?
Kazuhiro E: I think that it is the result of the team of each title constantly pursuing their vision of the ideal Romance of the Three Kingdoms game. And of course, we worked on RTK14 with the same attitude. 

Matt S: How important is it that this game remains authentic to the classic novel? How does your teamwork to achieve that?
Kazuhiro E: It’s the key source especially when determining the character and strengths of an officer. It’s where we go back to when we get stuck.

Matt S: Across the four “great classics” of Chinese literature, Romance of the Three Kingdoms has been, overwhelmingly, the most popular for adaptation to video games. What do you think RoTK offers game developers that some of the other novels might not?
Kazuhiro E: I think it offers conflicts with a heroic romanticism, and the confrontations are not simply comprised of two polar opposites, but is intertwined with various complicated human intents.

Matt S: Has Koei Tecmo even considered adapting another one of those classic novels? I could see Water Margin working really well for the way Koei Tecmo makes games…
Kazuhiro E: In the past, we did create and release the games Bandit Kings of Ancient China (based on Water Margin) and Saiyuki: Journey West. Since we interpret that what sells is what gamers want, we use this as a guide when creating games.

Matt S: Koei Tecmo has made dozens and dozens of games based on this book. Would you say there are any particular favourite characters that fans tend to have? Do you get data on which nations people like to play (if so, is there a “winner”)?
Kazuhiro E: Many seem to like Xuande (Liu Bei), Kongming (Zhuge Liang), and Guan Yu, and the kingdom of Shu is also very popular. While we haven’t collected data officially for Romance of the Three Kingdoms, I think that this is the case. However, compared to the past, now there are many more players who are much more knowledgeable about Romance of the Three Kingdoms, so I get the impression that Shu is no longer overwhelmingly the favourite. 

Matt S: Historically (and according to the book) the various forces that fought wars were not even in strength. Does that make it challenging from a design perspective to reflect the relative strength of the armies and nations while also making it enjoyable to play as the “underdog”?
Kazuhiro E: When it comes down to it, Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a game where “what if” situations can be enjoyed. If “underdog” means “inferior”, then I think that there are many who would say that being able to turn the tables when playing from an inferior position is the most enjoyable thing.

Matt S: What was the reason that you added this new “War Chronicles” mode to the Expansion and Nintendo Switch release? What does it add to the base game, other than another way to play?
Kazuhiro E: Many players expressed that while they enjoy playing the game, they find one play through too long. Therefore, we created the “War Chronicles” mode as a way to let players enjoy the game in a shorter period of time. In addition, we have includes many other features that expand the world beyond China, such as geographical advantages, foreign tribes and trade.

Matt S: As you might know, I am a big fan of Marie Rose. With all of the collaborative DLC you’ve been including in RTK14, including Ryza and friends from Atelier Ryza, can we expect to see Marie Rose make an appearance?
Kazuhiro E: Well… we’ll try our best!

Matt S: Finally, if you had absolute freedom to produce a game on another period of history – and it can’t be Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Japan’s Sengoku period – what do you think would be most interesting to tackle as a strategy game?
Kazuhiro E: This is purely my own personal opinion, but I’m fascinated by the Napoleonic era in terms of strategy and the era of Hannibal Barca in terms of tactics.

– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb

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