'Skulls of the Shogun'
Windows PC (Xbox Live)
ESRB rating: Teen
Review rating: 4.0 stars
Similar to the way most wine-drinkers tastes evolve from white to red, my gaming tastes have evolved to appreciate turn-based strategy games. While I still enjoy action games, the ability to slow down and think about my strategy is something to be savored. However, "Skulls of the Shogun" is the first fast-paced, turn-based game that I've encountered, and I hope to see more in the future!
Players take on the role of a mighty shogun named General Akamoto, who is betrayed and killed by his backstabbing lieutenant, Kurokawa. Fortunately, death is merely another plane of existence, so Akamoto now seeks revenge as a skeletal warrior. Only by recruiting a mighty army of the undead will he be able to regain the fame and glory he deserves.
Instead of controlling multitudes of units in battle, budding generals gain access to individual units. This makes them more valuable than the usual disposable units, which ... err ... in turn makes sacrificing them a less likely option. Standard grid-based maps have been replaced with free-flowing maps where players can move anywhere but are limited to each troop's movement range.
Unit variety is limited to three types of troops, three monks and a general. And they all have distinct differences that make them useful in certain situations. For example, cavalry can move long distances but have weak attacks, and fox monks can heal friendly units. Nearly all units can be replaced in battle, but if the general is killed, the level immediately ends.
Additional strategy is provided by the ability to eat the skulls of fallen enemies. While this takes up a turn for a unit, it provides bonuses such as regaining health and even adding a turn to each round. Other fun things to do include knocking enemies off of ledges to their doom or erecting spirit walls to block attacks.
Simply put, "Skulls of the Shogun" is bone-a-fide fun!