Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening, the 40th anniversary celebration game, is out today worldwide on PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam following its launch in Japan last year. This new localized release of Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening includes the base game and the expansion (PUK). While this might sound a bit confusing for newcomers to the series, think of Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening as what’s essentially the “definitive” version of last year’s release. Ever since Koei Tecmo announced this localization, I’ve been revisiting prior games, and found myself enjoying Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence a lot compared to Ascension and Taishi. While I already played a lot of Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening through the PC build I had for preview, I’ve been impressed with the controller support and more in the PS4 version. In my Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening PS5 review, I’m going to focus on the PS4 version played on PS5.
If you’ve never played a Nobunaga’s Ambition game before, your aim is to unify Japan through real-time strategy gameplay. After choosing a specific scenario and then a clan, you begin the game and attempt to fulfill the requirements for victory. There are a few ways to do this like controlling specific castles, all castles, over half the castles, and more in a specific map. This can be done through making your clan wealthier and stronger as you make sure your officers are happy and then work towards expanding your clan. During all of this, you make many decisions while building up various resources. Battles are present in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening, but these are more for you to issue commands and strategize than directly control like in a Warriors game. Some aspects of Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening have you relying on the AI through the retainers who work on their own counties. Overall, I’m very pleased with the gameplay loop in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening and it has been interesting to play across platforms even dozens of hours later.
The base game includes many time periods for your campaign, and you can also use custom and historical officers. The clans and options change depending on the time period you select in the main Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening scenario. Depending on what clan you select, resources and scale change. You can also adjust many options to make the experience easier or harder through multiple difficulty sliders and toggles. These include AI aggressiveness, resource growth for your own clan, enemy clans, and more. You can also opt for diplomatic relations to be historically accurate or not. I was surprised at how much Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening lets you adjust to tweak the experience to your liking. It almost feels like some settings are those you’d see in cheats.
It is always interesting to see how games like this are brought to console, but Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening feels like it has been designed for a controller from the start when it comes to its interface. As someone who plays a lot of games designed for keyboard and mouse on Steam Deck thanks to Steam Input, I felt right at home with the controller support and interface in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening, but newcomers might find it daunting. While there is a tutorial, you will definitely be learning through experience in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening.
On the audio side, the music in Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening is magnificent. I never grew tired of the music, and wish there was a way to buy the soundtrack digitally. The Nobunaga’s Ambition games always have good music, but Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening might have my favorite soundtrack of the games I’ve played so far. The only negative in the audio is the lack of Japanese audio support in the English release. The English voice acting ranges from good to decent, but I was hoping for better direction in a game that only has English audio.
While I am glad that Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening runs at a 60fps target when played on PS5, I am disappointed that the game’s resolution isn’t 4K for the PS4 version. Hopefully the next entry in the series will look better on modern displays. Right now, only the PC version supports 4K. Barring that, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening looks and runs great when played on PS5.
My other complaint with the game is the lack of Japanese voices. I usually try games in both voiceover options before deciding on one for my playthrough, but Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening only has English voice acting. Nobunaga’s Ambition: Taishi and Sphere of Influence Ascension allowed players to choose either Japanese or English for voice language, so this regression is disappointing. Hopefully Koei Tecmo can patch this in later on.
Which is the best platform to play Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening on?
Having played Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening on PS5 (through the PS4 version), Nintendo Switch, and PC (on Steam Deck and my laptop before), every version offers something unique. The Switch version offers the ability to play on the go with touch and button controls. The PC version can be played and enjoyed on Steam Deck with better visuals and performance than the Switch version, but there is no touchscreen or mouse support. The PS4 version on PS5 offers a great experience on TV with a controller, but it doesn’t look as good as the PC version does at 4K. The PC version on Windows has no controller support. My favorite version is the Steam Deck version, but I hope Koei Tecmo can add touch support to it.
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Awakening on PS5 looks and runs great while playing very well with a controller, but it could’ve used a better tutorial for newcomers to the genre on console. In its current state, it was a good decision from Koei Tecmo to bring this game to the West with all updates and the expansion included from the start because we finally have a Nobunaga’s Ambition game that is worth playing day one for the first time since Sphere of Influence. Hopefully this does well enough for us to get a physical release in the West for the next entry.