The TGS 2001 Fall show has been marked by a flurry of activity, and not wanting to be left out in the cold, Koei has thrown in its lot with the announcement of Fengshen Yanyi: Legends of Gods and Heroes. Based upon preliminary screenshots, the game appears to be an action-RPG, with a look reminiscent of Phantasy Star Online. Adding to the fresh look is the widely reputed Japanese illustrator, Takeshi Okazaki.
Fengshen Yanyi's story has its roots in ancient Chinese history, focusing on events in the ancient Shang Dynasty. Three years prior to the game's beginning, the evil god named Da Qi, along with his dark forces, was banished from the land, but seem to be returning with increasing frequency. As the boy Ci Ga, the player is drawn into events by a random encounter with a group of sorcerors, commissioned to investigate the evil's source. Naturally, the only way to achieve this is to explore the land and deal with its people, some of whom will be helpful, and others who will not.
Ci Ga's explorations will take place on a fully 3D field map, which marks the passage of both time and weather systems, both of which can influence the odds in battle. In order to aid the player, there is a mystical weapon, the Bao Bei, which, when eventually obtained, gives its holder control over conditions on the map. Combat is real-time, and offers a number of innovative features. Interaction with other characters is key, since stronger relationships enable the player to execute various combos, which use up combo points. These points are obtained through the Voice Communication System, a feature allowing the player to enhance the abilities of party members if they are spoken to at the correct moment. The more points, the wider the array of combo attacks available. Additionally, the Bao Bei will grow with the player and can be enhanced by various jewels found throughout the game. This weapon is also customizable, since Bao Bei can vary in type and power; in fact, Koei has stated that the development of the artifact is limited only by a player's creativity.
With many unique features promised, Koei looks to have a lot in store for gamers. In order to be able to achieve this potential, however, they evidently require a fair amount of time; Fengshen Yanyi has no confirmed Japanese release date presently (although sometime in 2002 seems likely), and there is no word on whether a North American localization will occur, or even whether one is likely or not. Expect RPGamer to continue covering this game as more information becomes available.