My first exposure to turn-based tactical RPGs was on the Sega Genesis with a brilliant performance. I really fell in love with the idea of having different classes of characters; each with their own statistics, attacks and weaknesses play a crucial role in the battles that follow. This particular game had vivid animated characters mixed with a strategic playing style I had never seen before. In the end I looked at the Fire Emblem series, which had many similar features.
When I saw the videos from the Langrisser I & II collection on the Switch, I immediately thought I’d like the games. I’d never played anything on the show before, but I wanted to try. It wasn’t until I started playing them that I realised that they must be based on very old games, and in fact I was surprised to hear that the original game was released in America as Warsong on the Genesis. I could have played that almost thirty years ago, but I didn’t know it existed!
You can choose from the beginning which of the two games you want to play. Of course, I chose the game in order, but it’s nice to be able to do that. The first thing I noticed is that this game is extremely lean, without grip. If you’ve never played a tactical RPG before, you’re probably completely lost. The game puts you in battle with the ability to hire mercenaries. Because I had a lot of money at my disposal, I hired as many people as possible, which is a good thing, because otherwise I would probably have been destroyed. You start to defend your father’s castle from attack and have to retreat to build the scenario. You have two commanders (each with mercenaries hired by you) who you can serve immediately. As in other competitions of this type, your team will be the first to take action. You can move a number of cells, and when you are within range of enemies (usually right next to them), you can choose to attack. In standard mode, the game switches to side-scrolling mode with a 10-second scenario in which the fight is shown in real time. In the beginning I really enjoyed watching the action, but after a few hours I went to the options and turned off the animation because it took too long and was almost always the same.
Once you’ve finished your turn, enemies can move across the map and attack your allies. For the most part, AI is pretty good at spotting your low-level soldiers and targeting attacks on them. You’ll have to try to keep the weaker troops out of reach if you hope to survive the war. This process is, as one would expect, sequential until a condition is met (usually a certain point on the map is reached or all enemies are destroyed). If your mercenaries are close to hero figures, they’ll usually be partially healed before it’s your turn, but so will your enemies. Terrain plays a role in battle, so you can hide units in the forest for extra protection, or use heights for better attack strength.
Like the fire emblem games, the game has a kind of triangle of arms. Some devices are better/smaller than others. Flying units, for example, are weak against archers (where have we heard that before?), so you have to figure it out if you can. This should have a major impact on the strategy, even if it is not entirely clear in the game. You have to train yourself or read on the internet. As you can imagine, these games are advanced enough to have a lot of resources available when needed.
When you destroy enemies, you gain experience points and go to the next level. Eventually you will have enough class points to upgrade to a more powerful class with new skills and spells. There are branch roads, so you can usually choose between different classes at any time. The game doesn’t do a great job of explaining what’s best, so it’s best to try it out and see if you like it. The menu shows changes in statistics and possibilities, but often the descriptions don’t explain everything you wanted to know before. Normally I would save just before I made any changes, and if I didn’t like them, I would load my old record. A strategy is to have certain characters (or their mercenaries) destroy enemies in order to gain experience. If you only have one or more of your characters sweeping the floor, you’ll end up with a very unbalanced group of allies.
As I said before, the game immerses you in the fight with very little exposure. The story takes place before, during and after the battle. It’s not very involved or interesting, but it’s nice to have some kind of story. The game has voices, but it is only in Japanese with subtitles. The strongest hardcore will undoubtedly applaud this decision, but frankly I prefer a good oak tree. It is clear that the games do not have as large a budget as last year’s fire emblem: Three houses, but it’s still a fair amount of content in two titles. If you’re just looking for a tactical role-playing element, you should find it here.
Graphically, the game does its job. You won’t find anything really convincing here, and in fact the presentation style reminds me a bit of a mobile phone game. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the drawings of the characters are quite general. I think that the lack of off-combat scripts is very detrimental to the development and affection of the characters, so I’ve never cared about design decisions. The Fire Emblem games stand out at the moment, but I realise that the original versions of these games date back to the early 1990s, so I applaud the work that has been done to modernise their appearance. You have the opportunity to switch from classic to modern graphics, which is good for those who may have a certain nostalgia for the originals.
After about three hours of playing the first game, I started downloading the second game to see if there were any significant differences. They’re gone. If you had to choose one, you’d hardly know which one you’re playing. They look alike. The only differences are in the plot and the characters. Both games have a very good soundtrack. It was usually fun and it entertained me. Before I wrote this review, I did some research and found out that one of the composers is Noriyuki Iwadare, who worked on the Lunar and Big series – so, basically, it’s good work!
The appeal of Langrisser I and II will vary greatly depending on your preference for tactical RPGs. Even those who appreciate them can be exposed to achieve this title. You won’t find tutorials, bells and whistles to get your attention. Although there are some good games here, they offer nothing more than what was expected in the early 90s, except a better presentation and a better voting game. If you grew up in Warsongand and enjoyed it, this purchase is a no-brainer. For all the others there are more skilled and entertaining options such as Wargroove and Fire Emblem : Three houses. There is a free demo available in the online store, and I strongly recommend you try it first, because it gives you an idea of what you can expect from the package.
Langrisser Review I and II
- Graphs – 7.5/10
- Sound – 8.5/10
- Gameplay – 6/10
- Late call – 7.5/10
Final thoughts: WARNINGS
Langrisser I & II is the definition of a game worth playing. Tactical role-playing enthusiasts who don’t hesitate to play card fights without a manual and with a clean history will feel at home here. Newcomers to the genre are better off elsewhere. These games have been around since the beginning of the 90s and, despite the new layer of paint, have no contemporary connection with them. A free demo in the online shop is recommended for throwing 50 dice.
Craig has covered the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published in various media. He is currently editor and employee of Age of Games.
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