The Eiketsuden series (英傑伝シリーズ, lit: "Legend of a Brave Hero" series) is a franchise name created for a specific set of historical simulations from Koei. These titles take place in either the Three Kingdoms era of China or the last hundred years of Japan's Warring States period. Unlike Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Nobunaga's Ambition, these titles have a focal protagonist and strive to tell the narrative mainly from their perspective. Each title plays in a similar manner, somewhat resembling the gameplay found in Nintendo's Fire Emblem series.
While first released as PC titles, these games were also adapted for the Sega Saturn and PlayStation consoles to include altered graphics and animated events. Voices were usually added in the home console ports. The first two titles have been adapted with revitalized graphics for the Game Boy Advance.
Each title's narrative mainly borrows from fictional sources surrounding its era of focus. Specifically, the Three Kingdoms titles in the series are loosely based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and the Sengoku Jidai titles use folklore or popularized fictional accounts. While each game follows their source material to a point, there are times when it deviates heavily and creates a completely original narrative. A few examples include Guan Yu and Pang Tong surviving their deaths from the novel and Shikanosuke Yamanaka being an utter anti-Motonari zealot due to the nature of his father's death. Events are speedy compared to other historical simulations from the company and are told in a style prevalent within the role playing game genre. Scenes are viewed from an omnipresent third person perspective and cutaways to other factions happen sporadically.
The player controls the main hero of the game as they progress through chapters of their life. Chapters often consists of three basic stages: storytelling, planning, and battle. Story phases include the reasons for the battle being fought within the chapter as well as other dramatizations for the plot. At times, the player may be given a choice to slightly alter events. More often than not, the protagonist is depicted in a virtuous light while his rivals are not.
Planning stages vary on the title, but a few consistent elements are found within the series. The main hero may choose to chat with their nearby subordinates and other figures after the story scenario. They offer their personal advice and sometimes give an item for the player to use. Here, the player can choose to scroll through their officers and inventory. Each officer belongs to a character class which determines their equipment choices, stats, and skills they can use in battle. Since there are at least one hundred characters or so within each title, it might help the player keep track of them by additionally viewing the officer index found in the home console ports.
Aside from viewing the stats for their army, players may also choose to check or change their equipment. Characters can also collect a variety of accessories to aid them, including various scrolls and medicines for use in battle. Games with their scenario set in Japan have the choice to gradually strengthen and customize their equipment with blacksmiths. A shop option is also included in most titles. Once the player is done with their preparations, they may march out for war.
Battles come with a set of objectives for either the victory or defeat of the player. The field is seen from a bird's eye view and is separated into a square grid. Characters are represented as miniature sprites on the battlefield based on their character class. Like other games of this nature, a single character is limited to occupying one square on the field and each army may take one action per turn phase. Skills and other class techniques can be demonstrated in battle here, each having their pros and cons. Ideally, the player should use different classes to make the best of their army's strength. The Three Kingdoms games allow the option to initiate duels with enemy officers, which may lead to an "instant kill" for the winning party.
If an officer seems sympathetic to the main hero's cause, they might be a candidate for the main hero's party. Conversations with these characters should be approached with someone who concerns them, which is usually indicated at the time of their entrance. These optional generals may vary from officers who died in the battle taking place or generals who never joined the hero historically. To spark negotiations, the preferred general of the ally army should wait to the square adjacent to the general they wish to join. Not all potential allies are recruited in this manner; some may need special missions or unique methods to recruit.
What would usually account for "life points" for each character is actually the number of troops they have to accompany them. A general left without troops flees from the field; if this happens to the main hero or another person labeled for a victory objective, then the game will automatically end. Being defeated in battle doesn't always mark the permanent death of an ally character, but they will lose out on the chance to earn experience. What appears as magics in other role playing games is represented by standardized sets of "strategies" skills that varies with each class. Unique to the series, the effect of strategies not only varies on the character but is also affected by weather that changes in each turn in battle and the type of terrain the target unit is located on.
Most titles in the series allow alternate endings based on the player's choices. The sole exception to this trait is the third title.
- Sangokushi Eiketsuden
- First title to officially use the franchise name, this title centers on Liu Bei. The game starts by summarizing the Peach Garden Oath and the Yellow Turban Rebellion. From there, the players can begin playing as a member within the Anti-Dong Zhuo Alliance. The story follows his rise to power including his emperor title. Depending on Liu Bei's level and the skills of his officers, the player may change their game's ending.
- Sangokushi Koumei Den
- Zhuge Liang is the titular character and protagonist of this title. The story begins with the strategist's entry into Liu Bei's ranks, detailing his strategies from his novel counterpart. After Liu Bei dies, the player then follows Zhuge Liang's Southern and Northern Campaigns. Zhuge Liang's health is determined by the amount of time the player takes around this part of the game. The length of each battle affects which ending the player will experience.
- Unlike the previous two entries, the story is set in Japan's Warring States period. Motonari Mōri and his sons act as the heroes of the game. Throughout most of the narrative, the events focus on Motonari's conquest of the west and his ongoing struggles with the mighty Amago and Ouchi families. Prior to the third act in the game, however, an elderly Motonari dies of illness. His grandson and successor, Terumoto, then becomes the main protagonist for the remaining portions of the game.
- While the former title focused on the Saigoku regions of Japan, this title strives to place the focus back to the popularized middle and eastern sections by making Nobunaga Oda the main hero. Unlike Kessen III, the scenario includes Nobunaga's early years under his father and details his conquests in Owari. Depending on the player's choices throughout the game, Nobunaga may live to completely unite Japan or die prematurely at Honnōji.
- Sangokushi SouSou Den
- To contrast the villainous and scheming persona from the other Three Kingdom titles, Cao Cao becomes the major focus of this game. A new option in this title allows the player the choice to either be "faithful" to Cao Cao's character or not throughout the story. About mid-way in the game, the story splits into one of two paths based on these choices. Cao Cao lives in both endings, but events differ from one another on each path. The title is the longest in the series with over sixty possible chapters.