Japanese developer Koei, renowned for its Kessen and Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, has announced Hoshin Engi 2 for the PS2. Deeply steeped in Chinese mythology, the game promises real-time battles and 3D environments.
The cast of HE2 includes twelve characters, and three of these can be in your team at any one time. The player takes control of one member of the party, leaving the rest under the guidance of the CPU. The game contains a feature called the "Voice Communication System" that allows the characters to speak, via actual voice acting, to each other during battles, which in turn leads to an increase in the character's battle statistics. If the player repeatedly speaks with the same character, the two join up to deliver a combo attack. By speaking to different members, it is possible to be able to perform up to five hundred different combo attacks. The player's character has a "Holy Jewel", which, when equipped, allows for experience to be used to develop skills. Exactly what skills are learned is decided by the player.
Graphically the game is reminiscent of Grandia II for the Dreamcast, and the engine allows for dynamic weather and lighting effects. These effects are not merely cosmetic, but actually have an effect on battles. Character designs for the game are being done by Takeshi Okazaki, who also fulfilled these duties on the previous installment.
Several of the cast members have been fleshed out. The main character, the one under the player's control, is a young boy named Shiga (voiced by Naozumi Takahashi). Shiga was orphaned at a young age, but under the guidance of his grandfather he grew to be a strong young man. Lei Run (voiced by Ayako Kawasumi) is a shrine maiden who prays for peace in her land after surviving a great war in which all of her friends and family were killed. Hakushou (voiced by Daisuke Sakaguchi) is Shiga's best friend. The two have been inseparable their entire lives, and while they were rambunctious children, they have both grown to be respected in their village. Rounding out the good guys is Kaidou (voiced by Hideo Ishikawa), a travelling minstrel of whom very little is known.
Of course, every group of protagonists needs a gang of antagonists to be on the receiving end of the meted justice. The magicians of Kowloon are the chosen bunch in HE2. Ju (voiced by Yuka Imai) is a young magic user with tremendous power. She is a member of the Kowloon group of magicians. Shunrai (voiced by Horie) is the leader of said group. She seeks to revive the faltering organization and restore things to the way they were in ancient times.
Koei is planning to release Hoshin Engi 2 in Japan sometime this winter. No North American release details have been announced as of yet, but you'll be the first to know when that changes.