A look back at Koei's Ambitious handheld debut

Nobunaga ain't the only one who had grand designs.

At nearly 100 videos (and four years!?) into the Game Boy Works project, I'm always pleasantly surprised when a major publisher makes its debut in the platform's chronology. Nobunaga's Ambition arrived in Japan a year and a half into the Game Boy's life, and it took that long for Koei — now the better half of Koei Tecmo — to take its first step into the realm of handheld gaming. 

In fairness, though, you can probably appreciate why Koei was so slow to arrive. As first impressions for the platform go, Nobunaga's Ambition makes one right up there with Square's The Final Fantasy Legend and Capcom's Gargoyle's Quest. It's a console-caliber experience in portable form, and while this isn't as expansive or involved a game as the NES, PC, or 16-bit versions, it's still a pretty hefty creation.

I don't pretend to be any good at Koei's simulations — I'm more a RPG/tactics gamers than a sim or strategy fan — but I can recognize quality when I see it. It's remarkable that they managed to squeeze this thing into the Game Boy's limitations, compromises aside, and the developers on this adaptation made some smart design choices to make a game on the scale of Nobunaga's Ambition as comfortable as possible on a two-inch greyscale screen with 160x144 pixels to work with. 

Of course, even Koei had its limitations. Don't expect a Dynasty Warriors GB, is what I'm saying.

Video description: Strategy and simulation powerhouse Koei makes its debut on Game Boy with… a strategic simulation game. Nobunaga's Ambition does a pretty respectable job of bringing a huge PC war simulation into a tiny, monochrome format. As the world's first proper handheld simulation game, it's pretty respectable, if not precisely something you'd want to spent a lot of time with today.