Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV Soundtrack (PC-98), Jun Nagao, 1994
As with Nobunaga’s Ambition, developer KOEI tended to make only incremental changes to the gameplay formula of its other flagship series, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Heavy on strategising, resource management and processing stats while set in feudal China, Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire differed little from its franchise predecessors of historical turn-based strategy titles. Still, reviewers agreed that as long as you were tuned into this particular kind of games that favoured depth over action and fancy visuals, Wall of Fire provided addictive entertainment. As was common during the early 1990s, the game was ported to several computer and console platforms (even the 32X!) – not that there was much perceivable difference between the ports, with the 32-bit versions of the game looking virtually identical to their 16-bit brethren.
However, there was one component of Wall of Fire’s presentation that quickly stood out – and that was the soundtrack of the PC-98’s Soundware version. In the years before Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV, KOEI had begun to revolutionise game music. After all, this was the company that commissioned the first orchestral game score (Hiroshi Miyagawa’s Pacific Theatre of Operations in 1989). It also launched Yoko Kanno’s astonishing career with a series of game score recordings using live ensembles. In 1992, for the first time, Kanno had been given access to a standard-sized orchestra to record Nobunaga’s Ambition: Haouden and KOEI must have liked what they heard.