P.T.O. II is the sequel to KOEI's P.T.O. (Pacific Theatre of Operations, which never came out for the PC) and is a much improved and better game than the first one. One of KOEI's last PC games, this game is one of the most realisitic and yet fun to play strategy/simulation games of the Pacific War between the United States and Japan. It's also available on the Super Nintendo and Saturn, and perhaps I am a bit biased, having owned the SNES port since the game came out, but this version is inferior to the console ones. However, it's not the game's fault, as you'll see if you read on...
When you start the game, you can choose from three campaign options or six 'quick' campaigns, where you have to accomplish a goal within a certain period of time. After chosing your side (USA, Japan, or Both) you will be briefed on the current status and then the game starts. Thanks to this being a Windows game, there is an easy-to-use online help menu that will tell you how to play.
In P.T.O. II, you are in command of your country's Naval forces. Your main objective, of course, is to defeat the other nation. You do this by attacking bases (with troops), sinking the other sides' navy, and strangling their economic output. Each month you also have three short-term objectives that you usually have to work with the Army on to accomplish, such as taking one island while defending another. If you do well each month with your objectives, you get more prestige and power at the monthly conference, explained later.
Battles are handled abstractly (you can only choose the main objective or give orders like Steer or Attack this ship, and then watch the results), so P.T.O. II is more of a strategy game than a realistic wargame. Each day you have two phases – the Plan Phase where you plan your moves, and the Move Phase where you can give updated orders and move your units. Some actions and commands will only be available on one phase or the other. After both Phases have passed, you will see any battles being waged, and then the next day starts. There are numerous things you can do each day, such as organize a new fleet, change the ships in it around, order Marines to enter transports, or plan an air strike on the Naval Base at Tokyo. You can also design and build new ships, order new facilities to be built at bases, and assign new commanders. Other things you can do include changing production lines to build new types of airplanes, sending air units to the front line, or transport supplies to front line bases. As the naval commander you obviosuly only have control over the elements of the military that the navy controls – on land, in the air, and at sea. You can work with the army, such as allowing army troops to board your transports.
At the end of each month, there is a request for you to attend a monthly conference. This part of the game works like a card game, where you, the ruler of your nation, the commander of the Army, the civilian in charge of foreign relations, and the civilian in charge of the treasury, decide how to conduct the war. The number of cards each person has is dependent on their success in the war overall and their prestige. Things decided in these monthly conferences include how to spend the country's budget, what the next month's military objectives should be, how many divisions of troops to raise and where to send them, and diplomatic initiatives with other nations. The cards you get are random, and allow you to do things such as propose your own plan, try to convince somebody else to back yours, or refuse someone else's proposal. When time runs out, the ruler calls for a vote, and the proposal with the most votes is accepted. Then the next month starts.
The realism of the game is very good, with realistic pictures of the civilian and military personnel (President Roosevelt LOOKS like himself), exact breakdowns and specs on all the ships, planes, and tanks used in the game, and results that match what may have happened historically (for example, American submarines will have many duds hitting other ships until they get the improved torpedos!). Some of the campaigns are not historical, but this also allows you to do a wonderfull 'what if' game if things had turned out differently. The computer AI is good, and you have the ability to tweak the difficulty settings in exact detail. Plus being able to design your own ships as you get improved technology is wonderful, and you will find yourself busy every day coordinating your forces to defend or attack and hoping you can catch the enemy off guard. If you ever wanted to command a fleet of Shinano Class Japanese carriers, or Montanta Class American super battleships, here is your chance!
Unfortunately, there are problems with the game, most of them being inherit with the platform itself. KOEI's PC ports of games were usually inferior to those found on home consoles, and PTO II is no exception. The graphics look alright but are lacking in sharpness or in colors. The game runs kinda fast on a modern system, and the controls are awkward, easy to get used to but requring a lot of work sometimes just to issue a simple command.
The Super Nintendo version of P.T.O. II has so much more than this PC version does. You can actually play the battles, for instance, instead of them being abstract. The music is wonderful, the controls are easier, and the game is more difficult with an even better AI. In the SNES version, you can only design/build new ships and planes at the end of the month, and the card game is easier to play. I have never played the Saturn version, but from what I hear, it's even better still, with actual video clips to spice up the game.
My advice? If you are looking for a fun and mostly-realistic strategy/simulation game of the Pacific War, and don't care if you don't directly control the battles, then check this game out. Once you get over and ignore the shortcomings, and the inital difficulty curve, you will find a great game here. If you REALLY like the game, though, and want the full experience, find the SNES or Saturn game or download the ROM if the ethical issues don't bother you. It will enhance your game experience by ten times. Don't do this until you have learned how to play the game on the PC, though. :) The Top Dog honor is mostly for the ports, not this inferior PC version. Still, even this one is a fun and enjoyable gaming experience. Thumbs up!Reviewed by: SoulBlazer