Nobunaga's Ambition

aka: Nobunaga no Yabō: Zenkoku Ban, Nobunaga's Ambition: Zenkokuban
Moby ID: 5825
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Description official descriptions

In the 16th century, Japan's Sengoku ("Warring States") period divided the nation into numerous feudal states, each ruled by a daimyo. These daimyos would often go to war with each other. Many dreamt of conquering the land, becoming the Shogun and ruling the entire country. One of those daimyos was the ambitious Nobunaga Oda, a merciless ruler and a renowned strategist. Players take on the role of Nobunaga Oda or one of many other daimyos to try to conquer Japan.

Nobunaga's Ambition is a turn-based strategy game which can be played in different modes. Gameplay is similar to Koei's better known Romance of the Three Kingdoms game. Players begin by selecting either a 17 regions scenario or a larger 50 scenario. Then, the player must select a daimyo, each of which is rated attributes in several categories; Age, Health, Ambition, Luck, Charm and IQ. As the game progresses, these values change depending on events in the game. The age value represents a time limit of sorts, as an elderly daimyo becomes increasingly likely to die of old age or sickness.

During each of turn (one per season), players can issue one of several commands from a menu. They include: Recruiting new soldiers, Training the army, Buying Weapons, Increasing Peasant morale, Forming alliances or Hiring Ninjas to bribe & assassinate. When one player attacks another, there is a war fought over the defender's region. Battles are fought in an overhead-view hex battle map. Each player takes turn moving units and issuing orders, which include attack, move, bribe and surrender. The goal is to defeat all of the enemy units (or force them into surrender). Army units each have a certain weakness against other types of enemies, and are also affected by the terrain.


  • 信長の野望・全国版 - Japanese spelling
  • 信长之野望 - Chinese spelling (simplified)

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Credits (DOS version)

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Average score: 74% (based on 13 ratings)


Average score: 3.4 out of 5 (based on 35 ratings with 2 reviews)

Quite a good game, if you manage to survive the first few turns, that is.

The Good
Nobunaga's Ambition has several elements that make it an interesting game. First there's the setting; the game simulates the struggle for power in feudal Japan. I find this setting a lot more interesting than for example medieval fantasy. Koei games have traditionally been about portraying history fairly accurate; most of the daimyos in the game are real historical figures. While I didn't know the majority of them, I recognized some of them from Akira Kurosawa movies. Moreover, there aren't that many strategy-games around which deal with this subject (Shogun: Total War and Sword of the Samurai come to mind). Reading the manual will give you some extra background info on the time period and some of the personalities. It makes the game more interesting.

The graphics aren't spectacular, but they fit the theme. Whenever you give a command, a small animation is shown on the bottom part of the screen, a nice touch. The graphics mode is CGA however. I think CGA graphics were already outdated in 1988.

The addition of RPG aspects is an interesting move. You play the role of a character, not one side of a conflict or a country. If your character dies the game is over, so take care of his health and be patient. If another daimyo dies you may be able to claim his land. Different daimyos have different statistics and each of them has his own fief (some of them are easy to defend, others difficult). The difficulty of the game varies with your daimyo-selection.

I've never been a fan of those turn-based strategy games in which battles are fought out on a hex grid, but I'm glad this feature is in the game. Serious war-gamers will probably find this mode too simplistic, but it does add some more strategic thinking. You can use the terrain (hills, towers) to gain an advantage in battle or gain an advantage by attacking the infantry with your cavalry. When you destroy the enemy's command unit, you kill the opposing general and the battle is over instantly. The command unit should be your first target.

Plenty of things to do; manage armies, states (upgrade towns, prevent flood damage, raise taxes) diplomacy (let another daimyo marry your daughter; survival requires personal sacrifices :->), hire ninjas (they spread nasty rumors, set cities on fire, destroy dams or, when you are lucky, assassinate other daimyos), bribe enemy soldiers. Fortunately, the manual explains all the different actions and which actions influence certain variables (like peasant loyalty). Unfortunately the manual does not explain the amount of change of the variables. If I spend 64 gold on upgrading the town, how large will the increase in tax revenues be? It remains unclear; but then again, tax revenues depend on several variables.

Of course Nobunaga's Ambition doesn't have mouse support. You use the numbers on the keyboard to enter commands. This works pretty well. You'll have to learn the shortcut keys but it's a direct method of giving orders. Most of the time the menu structure tree isn't too deep. However if you want to hire 5 ninjas to spread rumors to decrease population loyalty in fief 11, this is the required series of input commands:

<tt>Lord what are your orders?</tt>
<tt>10</tt> [Enter]
<tt>Recruit soldiers or ninjas?</tt>
<tt>2</tt> [Enter]
<tt>How many ninjas do you want to hire (xx is maximum)?</tt>
<tt>5</tt> [Enter]
<tt>Which fief do you want to send them against?</tt>
<tt>11</tt> [Enter]
<tt>What will be their mission?</tt>
<tt>1</tt> [Enter]

This process can become tiresome if you want to give certain commands several times or you have many fiefs. I don't know how this could have been solved. The one thing I do miss: right-clicking on an object to get extra info (for instance about the status of a fief).

The Bad
A game can be over very quick. I've played games that lasted two turns, and I played on the easiest level of difficulty. The computer cheats and it’s very obvious. One of the computer daimyos will attack you in the first or the second season while it’s impossible for a human player to raise an army AND buy weapons AND attack another a fief (remember you can only give one order per season). And if you manage to survive the first attack, another daimyo will crush your weakened forces or the plaque will kill half of them. If you're lucky enough to survive the first few rounds and if you’re patient you have a serious chance of winning the game (Nobunaga's ambition is comparable to Risk, once you have several countries you become very powerful. A lot of fiefs => a lot of production power => a lot gold => a lot of soldiers => even more countries).

A.I. isn't brilliant, it certainly knows when to finish a weakened opponent but I don't think it ever outsmarted me on the hex battlefield. I haven't played the game on the toughest level but I have the impression the game just changes the odds more and more in favor of the computer daimyos. When two comparable units clash your unit is most likely the one that loses half its soldiers, the other daimyos start with better equipped troops, more typhoons & plaques etc.

Since you can do only one thing per turn, the game will test your patience. For instance: it takes one turn to hire new soldiers, another turn to give them some basic training, if you want to raise their loyalty it will cost you another turn. Buying weapons will take another turn. A year has passed before you launch your attack.

Some other complaints:

  • Diplomacy isn't complete. You can make a pact with another daimyo and they won't stab you in the back immediately (in the end all conflicts are solved with the sword). But you can't make a deal to attack a common enemy.
  • You can't change the order of your commands (to your units) on the hex grid. First you'll have to give an order to unit 1, then unit 2 etc. Sometimes you want to move your riflemen before you move your command unit, but that isn't possible.
  • Annoying save/load interface. There are only two save slots (that's probably a disk-space issue), the program only saves your game at the end of a season. When you're playing a game and want to load a saved game or want to start a new game you have to exit to DOS and start the program again.
  • Although the manual does provide background info, the game lacks a real storyline.
  • Sound effects are almost non-existent. The best thing about the sound? You can turn it off.

**The Bottom Line**
Not perfect, but still an enjoyable war/strategy/RPG hybrid. Not as complex/deep as some other Koei games (like Romance of the Three Kingdoms), since you manage your fiefs directly instead of appointing generals. Recommended to anyone with an interest in empire management or (Japanese) history. Be warned however: the game is addictive; I recently played the game till 3 o'clock in the morning (shame on me!).

DOS · by Roedie (5239) · 2002

One challenging game

The Good
The time it takes to play this game. Nowadays everyone raves about how a game can take 60 hours to play. Back then, playing a game that would likely take 12 hours minimum to beat was unheard of, it was too long. This is certainly one challenging strategy game.

Unlike most games, you can have 8 players, and this game is hard enough that I would suggest to anyone playing this game to have control of MORE than one daimyo.

The Bad
Graphics are primitive for the time and you could hum the in-game music after playing the game for 5 minutes.

Although the in-game battle programming is as good as it is, it is obvious that the game's AI cheats massively. I had a case where one daimyo attacked me right on the first turn (before I could have my turn) and was able to do at least 4 turns worth of work in that one turn (this damiyo was able to train his soldiers at least once and have his troops assigned [assigning your troops takes one turn]). It takes one full season (ie. 3 months/1 turn) to set the tax rate of your province.

There are 5 levels of difficulty you can choose from...I call them, Hard, Harder, Hardest, Insane, Deity. Honestly, there is only one level, level one. The game takes that long as it is and takes 20 years in-game plus to beat and almost 10 years before you really take on the better AI opponents

The Bottom Line
A time consuming game that is well worth it, but its tedious to play.

NES · by Scott G (765) · 2012


Subject By Date
Battle ? GAMEBOY COLOR! (1990) Jun 22, 2008


Nobunaga Oda appears in some other games as well. You can select clan Oda in Shogun: Total War and he's also the big bad guy in Onimusha: Warlords by Capcom and an arcade beat 'em up called Ninja Masters (1996) by SNK.


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Roedie.

Macintosh added by OSH OSH. Wii, Windows, PSP, PlayStation 3, PS Vita added by Charly2.0. NES, SNES, Genesis added by PCGamer77. Wii U added by Michael Cassidy. MSX added by chirinea. Sharp X1, Sharp MZ-80B/2000/2500 added by Infernos. PlayStation added by firefang9212. Amiga added by Dietmar Uschkoreit. Sharp X68000 added by Kabushi. iPhone, Android added by gbcat. PC-88, TurboGrafx CD, PC-98, WonderSwan, FM-7 added by Unicorn Lynx. Game Boy added by samnmax.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Exodia85, Игги Друге, yenruoj_tsegnol_eht (!!ihsoy), gbcat.

Game added February 22, 2002. Last modified February 19, 2024.