Age of Empires: The Age of Kings
Majesco brings the classic PC series to the DS.
Advance Wars Dual Strike is one of the best strategy titles available for the DS but it's by no means the only one. Majesco and developer Digital Eclipse are toiling away on Age of Empires: The Age of Kings, hoping to capture the essence of the popular PC series but toss in a twist that'll make the game unique. All I know is nothin' says lovin' like storming into a neighbor's back yard and conquering his candy @$$. Wow...what I just said is wrong on so many levels, it's disgusting. Alas, we forge onward.
The Age of Empires games are so enormous and ridiculously detailed that it's either next to impossible to cram all that stuff onto Nintendo's machine or Digital Eclipse elected to take a different path just because. Whatever the reason, this game is somewhat different from its PC counterparts in that it's not an RTS but a turn-based strategy title similar to the aforementioned Dual Strike. The bottom screen will display your actual units, you'll move them into position across a fixed number of spaces, and then elect to beat the crap out of the guy standing next to you. Once you do that, the top screen will apparently display the actual animation of what's going on, so dudes will fire catapults, slash enemies to pieces, and even shoot what appear to be bazookas. And if you're wondering whether human beings had bazooka technology in the Middle Ages, the answer is yes. Yes they did, and Robomo made me say that.
The actual combat may have changed but the goal remains the same, that being to select a civilization, turn it into the most dominant force in the entire world, and then show the world how dominant you are by crushing those weaker than you. The game's five civilizations include the Mongols, the Franks, the Britons, the Japanese, and the Saracens, and there's well over 45 different types of units such as monks, bowmen, mercenaries, samurai, spearmen, knights templar, and villagers, among others. Then there are the hero units, famous dead people (Robin Hood, Joan of Arc, Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, Genghis Khan, and others) that are capable of wielding special hero powers that will affect everyone on the playfield. I'm thinkin' that if Genghis Khan is anything like he was in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, lots of people are going to get the unholy s#!t beaten out of them.
If you're on the receiving end of an @$$ whoopin' or simply don't know how to go about your next plan of attack you can consult a super sneaky Combat Advisor who'll give you some helpful tips based on your current situation. However, while killing virtual people is fun it's not the only goal in this game, because without technology, without education, and without a damn place to sleep you're not going to get very far. That's why it's important to construct buildings and other structures like mines, town centers, and barracks. It's also a good idea to toss a blacksmith into the mix so he can forge weapons and create armor, and you should also drop a university into your town so your people can learn and research well over 50 different technologies such as ballistics, spying, siege craft, and chemistry. Doing that will help them evolve which is extremely important because the opposition will be learning as well. All I know is I'm not going to be caught flat-footed on the battlefield. If the Japanese have catapults, my Mongols will have catapults. If the Franks have bazookas, we'll have stealth bombers or whatever the hell beats a bazooka. I highly doubt I'll be able to use lots of sophisticated weapons since the game runs from the Dark to the Middle Ages, but what hell? If it's there, I'm going to kill someone with it.
When you or I aren't bludgeoning the computer we can destroy one another in the game's multiplayer mode that supports up to four people at the same time, all wirelessly. Unfortunately, I'm not sure whether Age of Empires will come with single cart play, but seeing as how most DS titles feature it, its inclusion is a good possibility.
Gulliver's Travels pretty much sums up this title's visuals. Since Digital Eclipse is working with a small screen it made the mountains, houses, and trees very small and the players extremely large so they tower over everything. However, once they begin fighting on the top screen you'll see that it's a bunch of normal sized people killing one another on roads, in forests, and in icy locations.
Every PC gamer from Antarctica to Guam is going to snap up Age of Empires III, so if The Age of Kings is sweeter than a Skittle it'll be a nice companion to that title. Now all Majesco has to do is lift the obnoxiously vague Fall 2005 release date and assign a rock solid day and I'll be set...set to conquer someone's candy @$$!