Koei's carved out a video game niche for itself by inundating our collective brains with massive reality-based RPG games based in exotic foreign locales and historical time periods. Now, they're into something we can all understand -- a good fantasy!
In Gemfire, the kingdom of Ishmeria is all fouled up, and you're a loyal Lord or Lady who's fighting for truth, justice, and the Ishmerian way. Once upon a time, the vile Fire Dragon blew its bad breath across the land. Six wizards of Ishmeria used seven magic gems to vanquish the dragon. To further protect the land, they bound the Gems into a powerful magic crown.
Then, a king dissed the crown, mucked around with the Gems, and got palsy-walsy with the dragon. A heroic princess cast the precious stones across the land to keep their power in check. Now, you must find the Gems and reunite the 30 provinces of Ishmeria.
A Hard-core RPG
As with most Koei games, you're in this quest for the long haul. If you can stick it out and have a mind for multi-character RPGs, you'll have a good time. You can play Gemfire solo, or you can recruit a pack of pals to take turns playing Ishmerian homeboys. The game features four extremely lengthy scenarios. You can play any leader of the six noble families and manage a motley cast of royals.
Gemfire looks great. In keeping with Koei's style, though, it's no animation tour-de-force. Still, it's one of the best- looking Koei games yet. The music and sound are okay, but you won't miss anything if you fire up your own tunes.
When you make a decision, Gemfire's brain does a great job of orchestrating all the action and quickly calculating the appropriate consequences throughout every province of Ishmeria. This feels like the fastest thinking Koei game so far, which helps make this long game more enjoyable.
In Your Interface
The interface is efficient and a snap to master. To stay in tune with the political intrigue in Ishmeria's 30 states, you use a typical Koei, province-by-the- numbers, map screen. Adjacent windows enable you to issue four types of commands (Military, Domestic, Diplomacy, and Vassal) that put 16 other subcommands at your disposal.
- View often to check your status, as well as your competitor's. It's free.
- Use View to send out Searchers. Then write down what they find so you won't have to pay them again if you forget Searchers i.d. enemy monster units, and sometimes they snatch a Gem for you!
- One month before attacking, Sabotage and Plunder any province you plan to attack. Assault them with as many of your provinces as you can.
You use Military to invade and conquer territory, recruit troops, hire monster mercenaries (nine types), and buy skilled fighters (six types). To win, though, you must also use Domestic to cultivate crops, protect the fields, and feed the masses. Diplomacy enables you to spy, make alliances, and negotiate surrenders. Use Vassal to help keep your Lords and Ladies in line.
- Always save for a rainy day. For every province, regularly use some Gold for Cultivation and Protection. Also, stockpile cash and crops in a few provinces far within your borders by buying few soldiers and spending freely on Cultivation and Protection. You will then be able to transport riches to needy provinces.
Gemfire features a simple, easy-to- use, engaging battle system that enables you to orchestrate the strategy and tactics for your armies. On a battlefield, you and your opponent position icons representing five types of fighting units -- Horsemen, Archers, Soldiers, Mercenaries or Monsters (called Fifth Units), and Wizards. Then you take turns moving them like chess pieces.
- Position your forces for the best strategic advantage. Flanking and Rear Assaults are the most effective. Ganging up on a single enemy unit is devastating.
- When victory is imminent, keep damage to your forces at a minimum. This saves cash and troop-rebuilding time later. Don't try to wipe out enemy units that have no chance of preventing you from taking the Flag.
- ALWAYS save your game before you attack.
- Try to hire strong Fifth Units, such as the Fachan, Gunners, Uzards or Wyvem. To save Gold, dismiss other Fifth Units if you don't need them.
You recruit men for army as a whole and the computer allocates them to the units. Every unit has different attack ranges, patterns, and maximum strength points. The actual fighting is typically RPG-ish.
Declining strength points indicate the damage occurring in a battle, and the CPU does all the fighting calculation. Slick graphics and animation help illustrate the action.
The game spices up the scenarios with wicked wildcard events. Your provinces suffer indiscriminate natural disasters, such as Wildfire, Snowstorms, and Plague. But, Gemfire tosses 13 unnatural disasters at you, too. For example, Pixies trash your crops, and Banshees freak out your people. Sometimes even your own Bugbear parties too hearty.
Few RPG games meld your mind with video game programming as well as Gemfire does. If you've never taken on Koei's unique RPG style, this is a good introduction that doesn't pull any punches. It's an epic RPG that takes an epic amount of time to play, but the journey's worth your efforts. Gemfire's a nice gem in Koei's RPG crown.