Online Chess Kingdoms
Someone get Kasparov a PSP, because we're about to deliver him a three-dimensional, intergalactic online ass kicking.
Online Chess Kingdoms is one of those games where the name pretty much says it all. The game is about chess and yes, you can play it online. Published by Konami, and developed by Leviathan, this PSP title is a game made for a niche audience.
Online Chess Kingdoms places you in the middle of a conflict due to the forces of the universe fighting one another. The "Creator of the Universe" tried to separate the five factions of its creation but thanks to Chaos, one of the factions in the game who has breached the boundaries of the other factions, the forces of the universe must once again fight for supremacy. And apparently the only way to determine who will best one another is battling it out through the ancient game of chess.
The storyline of the game is contrived and pointless. It feels more like something thrown in so the designers felt justified in making a chess game consisting of more than just playing chess. The storyline serves to provide a venue for the development of a "strategic" element to the game. Players create armies and move them on a mini-map that is divided into several squares (in a similar fashion to Advance Wars). The object is to destroy the other faction's armies, done by moving your army into another army and by then playing chess, and by taking the opponent's capital city, which is done by moving an army onto that space. Both the player and the computer gain mana from taking the cities on the map and then may this mana to make more armies or do special moves. While this idea in itself is not an entirely horrible one, it's the inclusion of a storyline that attempts to make sense of why you are doing this that makes the game worse. The story was not necessary to make a single player campaign and really just seems ridiculous in a chess game.
Graphically the game is neither bad nor exceptional. Each faction has its own style and animations. Yes, the fights are animated in the sense that when you take an opponent's piece there is a brief animation of the pieces fighting. Thankfully you are able to speed them up by holding down 'X' as they do get rather boring after the first few times you see them. The game has no cut-scenes to explain its plot but instead relies on cheesy still animations which are so bad they kill brain cells. However, even though the graphics are nothing to write home about, it doesn't retract too much from the main appeal of this game, i.e. the chess.
This game is made for chess players and only for chess players. People who love chess a lot will have quite a bit to look forward in this title. The game makes you play an amazing amount of chess. Every battle you fight both in the single and multiplayer campaign is a full chess game. Battles often take around twenty minutes and so campaign levels take around two hours. Again though, unless you really love chess and all the patience it requires, this will swiftly become a frustrating game to play. The computer can be really difficult to play against causing you to have to think even harder and play even longer.
There are several ways to play chess in this game. You can play through the single player campaign, play against the computer in fast matches, play two players on one PSP, or even play over a WiFi connection against other players. There is also a new and incredibly hard version of chess called "Battle Mode." Battle Mode allows both players to move pieces simultaneously but at the cost of power. Players gain points for each piece they take and the score is used to determine the winner; there are no checkmates. While this Battle Mode is an interesting addition, it is impossible to play against the computer and it ultimately causes nothing but infuriation at how much better the computer will always be. If you play Battle Mode do yourself a favor and only play against other humans who aren't capable of doing multiple things in their minds at once.
Online Chess Kingdoms is a game made for a very specific audience. If you love to play hours of chess against an opponent who is often much better than you are, then this game could be for you. However, be aware you will have to stomach a terrible storyline in order to play the single player game. If you scoff at the idea of playing chess or at the idea of a game all about repeating the same level over and over than you should avoid this game at all costs. This game is about one thing and one thing only, chess; players should move wisely when considering this release.
What's Hot: Great if you love chess
What's Not: Not so much if you don't; poor storyline