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Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence - Ascension

Score: 88%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: KOEI TECMO America Corp.
Developer: KOEI TECMO America Corp.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

A little over a year ago, I reviewed Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence. Even though it wasn’t what I expected, it was an intriguing game. Now we have a sequel, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension. While it is a very similar game, there are some new features for you to explore.

If you’ve played the series before, the characters will look familiar as they haven’t changed from the last game. The scenery has improved this time. Since they have added naval battles and sieges, you will get to see more of the water, ships, and inside the castle areas. The water battles are beautiful. There are different types of ships, so you have a variety rather than everything looking exactly the same. The siege areas are well done. You can switch to an overhead view of the area to get an idea of where you want to go and the layout of the whole area. I like that they give you the ability to see everything from different perspectives.

On a side note, I highly recommend that you play on a large TV. On a 37" LED TV, I had to sit under 10' away to be able to read the text easily and I have better than 20/20 vision. You can go into the options and set the U.I. to be larger, which will make the text about double in size, which does help some, but with all the little details and tiny troops, Sphere of Influence – Ascension is not a game that is meant to be played on a small screen. On my 70" TV, it looks stunning.

I do like that you can play in English or Japanese. It’s really nice to be able to play in whichever language you like hearing the best. The voicework is well done and the background music fits well with the game. You don’t have to have it on, but you won’t be dying to hear something else either.


Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension is a true strategy game where you can control the entire empire. I say can because it will all depend on your skill and strategies. It will also depend on factors like the clan you choose, the scenario, and more. I venture to say that some scenarios were just not meant to be won by certain clans, but then historically that was also true. There were definite winners and losers over time.

While there are a lot of options on the Main Menu, there’s really only one way to play. You either start a New Game or Load Game. When you start a game, you choose scenario to play. It can be a bit confusing because it starts off with four officers for you to choose from. I thought that was just my initial choice. Then I noticed that you can press (O) to close that and if you do, it will give you a list of all the scenarios (and officers that go with them) that are available. It also tells you what date that scenario starts. You will notice that most of them are historical, but some are purely fictional. There is also a Tutorial scenario listed first. If you don’t know (or don’t remember) how to play, I recommend starting there. After you pick a scenario, you will choose which clan to play as in that scenario (you can even choose to create your own clan). Next, you will pick an officer. If you just chose one of the officers at the beginning, you will not choose a new one now.

After you get through all that, you choose your difficulty and edit any other settings you want. You can customize a lot of stuff like income, labor, aggression level, and more. Plus, you can set these things differently for your own clan than the other clans. After you set that up, you can change your scenario settings as well. Here, you can change their life span, turn off or on fictional characters, and more. Changing these settings, especially things like fictional characters, can cause your scenario to go off of the normal course of history, but if you’re playing a fictional one, that obviously won’t matter.

Ruling a country isn’t easy. In the Tutorial, you’ll start out as a Retainer and work your way up. Across the various scenarios, you can choose to be a Retainer, Chamberlain, Lord, or Daimyo (in order from least to most power). You will get more power and more responsibility as you climb in the ranks. There are a lot of little details to keep track of. The Tutorial does a really good job of walking you through everything. Each month will start with a Council. Basically you get paid, hear reports, and tell people what to do. The more power you have, the more reports you will get about other clans. As you might expect, Daimyo leaders have more power than Retainers and they can appoint Retainers and such.

You will be given quests as you progress in the game. You do not have to complete them, but doing so will keep things on historical track. You do not have to choose to accept a quest, but if you don’t take some of them, then you might not get future ones that depended on that quest. You will also have to deal with Sieges and Naval Battles this time. A Siege is used to take over a castle. You will need to manage to take the innermost area to take the castle. There are many gates that you can use to get there. While it might seem quicker (and more interesting) to fight your way through, a better strategy is to look out for the gates that aren’t being used and take them. Sieging can take a lot of strategy as you can split your units and try many ways in. Sometimes it is a balancing act. Just like battles, you can pause the game at any time and change up your plans. Naval Battles are less common. If you can manage to start one, good for you; I haven’t figured out how yet. You will just run into them. Also, you don’t really have much control over them, but they are pretty! Keep on fighting and doing the things that you are supposed to, and eventually you might just beat the scenario.

There are other things that you can do from the Main Menu, like edit historical officers, edit created officers, create events, officer directory, feats, downloadable content, and settings. Most of these are things that will allow you to customize your game even more. Of course, keep in mind that if you are trying to stay 100% historically accurate, adding/editing officers and events will change the course of history.


Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension provides several options for difficulty. You have: Easy, Normal, Hard, ExHard, and three custom difficulties. You create these custom difficulties by changing up the income, labor, etc. that I mentioned earlier. Basically, you can customize the scenario to be as easy or as challenging as you would like.

There are a lot of little things that you need to watch to try and make your clan as great as possible. You have to keep track of small things, like building martial art’s sectors near the manor house and merchant districts near roads. Some of these things are logical, but it is a lot to remember. Of course, you don’t have to follow those things. The people are just happier if you do. You also find that you can’t always build some things right away. You have to study other concepts to unlock them. You can hire Ronin to serve you. Just make sure to keep an eye on everyone’s loyalty! There is no "right" way to play, but some proper planning will make your life a lot easier.

Game Mechanics:

While your ruling orders are all menu-driven in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension, you will have to keep up with more real time in battle. Blue units are yours to control and Purple are allies from your clan. Green units are allies, but not from your clan and Red units are enemies. This might seem like a lot of color on the field, but just attack Red and you’ll be fine. Battles can be a bit difficult to get used to. This is a tactical battle, not hand to hand. You will need to switch between the overview and the officer view with (L1)+(Triangle). In Officer view, (Triangle) will pause and unpause the battle. This gives you as much time as you need to plan out what you are doing. (X) will bring up your Battle Menu and on the left of the screen, you will see your options. Transfer lets you move your unit around on the screen so they can attack other units. You can also play with the various tactics, special moves, formations, and actions under the Battle Menu. It’s really up to you as to how you decide to fight.

I freely admit I am still not an expert at strategy. I still like the hack n' slash Warriors series better, but that is purely a personal preference. Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension has so many different scenarios, offices, and events that you can spend weeks on end and still be exploring new things, especially if you like to customize things. If you’re looking for a strategy game that will keep you busy for a long time (and let you possibly rule the world), check out Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence – Ascension today!

-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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