While Fire Emblem has seen a steady rise in popularity ever since the surprise success of Fire Emblem Awakening on 3DS, another popular Japanese Turn-Based Strategy RPG series has remained relatively anonymous in the United States, localized initially on Sega Genesis under the name of WarSong. Langrisser.
If you’ve spent some time dabbling in Strategy RPG’s like Fire Emblem, this series won’t have many surprises for you in its Mechanics. Characters are picked up through a Storyline, and as your Party grows you can Deploy more Units at any given time. One relatively unique Mechanic differentiating this game from Fire Emblem is Langrisser’s use of Mercenary Units. Mercenaries are Subordinates the player must Hire at the start of each battle, and these Mercenaries grow in Stats in proportion to their Commander. Mercenaries are one of the biggest reasons I have come to love these games since trying them.
You’ll also probably be pleased to see this game has little Animation scenes of two groups of characters charging into battle with each other whenever two Units clash. This resembles Fire Emblem’s Combat Cutscenes, but playing out on a larger scale and giving the impression of a larger conflict being represented by the Units players can direct in the Field. These segments can slow things down, but I feel they add to the flair of the game nicely. Nevertheless, they can be set to Automatically Skip or be made to be Skipped by Holding the Right Trigger down to speed everything up.
You’ll also see in the Replay Value section that players can actually choose between the Classic and Remastered Art and Music styles to better keep things fresh. I happen to love this concept and love seeing it in re-releases and remakes.
Flow of Gameplay
Langrisser 1 & 2 both begin with questions asked of you by a Goddess of Light. Your answers will determine the Stats of your Protagonist. You’re then plopped into the start of either plot and are given some Exposition before you start getting familiar with the battle system. Reading the Battlefield, learning to Move Characters and issue Commands to Attack or Standby and such.
Level by Level Perfectionism
I’m a meticulous person, and so I like to do things over and over until I like my Results. So I was pleased to find Langrisser features the ability to Replay Chapters. To go back and experience different outcomes in some battles, to grind for Gold or Experience Points and re-battle tough enemies that were once insurmountable, and in my case to refresh myself on Character Dynamics and Plot elements. It’s all a much more carefree feeling than Fire Emblem’s sometimes more serious tone. In fact, you’ll need to replay missions to unlock all the branching Story Routes on the Story Tree. In essence, Langrisser seems much less interested in Challenging the Player than in letting the Player have fun with the experience. The branching Story paths also add much in the way of Replay Value to the experience, I could see myself getting very invested given the time to explore them all. At the time of this writing, I’m eager to get to my second Playthrough of Langrisser 2 so I can explore a path in which the Player sides with the antagonistic Empire early on in the Plot around Chapter 7. It’s a huge and impactful decision with compelling Pros and Cons without being simply a “Good Guy VS Bad Guy” situation, with the Option presented by an astoundingly Morally minded character that happens to serve a decidedly Amoral entity.
Items may be purchased from the Shop, available before and after each battle. These items are generally Equipment, and curiously the Weapon Type equipped seems to only affect Stats. Rather than influencing the Weapon, a player is seen carrying in-game. So for instance you can equip a Bow to a unit that uses a Sword, or a Spear to a unit carrying a Sword, and only their Current Class will determine what weapon they will be seen using in battle. It can be awkward to pick up considering how so many other Tactical Strategy (Fire Emblem for instance) games emphasize characters holding particular weapons and Items. Similarly, you can’t carry Healing Items to use mid-battle and must rely on Spells and other means of replenishment.
Mercenaries and Weapon Types
Mercenaries may be purchased for use in a Chapter with Gold, their abilities depending on the Type of Mercenary as well as the Stats of the Officer commanding them. These are entirely optional but usually recommended if you are expecting to have some trouble. Since more powerful Mercenaries are more expensive, it quickly stops being a viable strategy to simply buy the best of the best on each new level unless you’re ready to spend a significant period Grinding for Gold.
All Mercenaries fall under the same Weapon Type Categories as other Units. This means they can (and probably should) be selected to counter the Weapon Type Weaknesses of Player Characters. The Available number of Mercenaries depends upon the Class of the Player Character. Higher Classes on the Class Tree tend to have higher Mercenary Hiring Capacities and a larger Command Area. This a certain distance/proximity a Commander may be from their Mercenaries within which the Mercenaries will receive a Buff to their overall stats. This distance can be increased through the use of Equipment and changing Classes, with the higher ranking Classes tending to have larger Command Areas allowing their Mercenaries to be more effective across a greater distance. Something particularly handy is bringing Mercenaries to rest directly Adjacent to their Officer. They will heal 10% of their HP on each turn they begin in this way, and this coupled with the Command Area mechanic allows the use of Mercenaries to differ Significantly from the ways one might utilize their Commanders. Since they can not only be rotated out but also lost with minimal consequence and can be healed easily mid-battle with only a few turns, Mercenaries strike that beautiful balance between Expendable and Indispensable to the gameplay of Langrisser.
In addition, Mercenaries can be given one of several General Orders to follow, so you may only focus on directing their Commanders if that is your wish as opposed to Ordering them all around manually. This is a great time-saving measure, and I rather wish more items like this were present. But I’ll get into that in my Nitpicks.
Langrisser has surprisingly good Replay Value, and it’s actually pretty pleasant to repeat earlier levels for Grinding or to simply experience them a second time. For instance the option to select between Remastered Art and Music and Original Art and Music as it Looked/Sounded in the original games back in the early ’90s. To my knowledge, the Character Art in both instances is created by the very same artist. Fun fact, he’s the well-known Hentai/Doujin artist Satoshi Urushihara. So of course he tends to make all the female characters especially attractive. A baffling decision that amuses me, some armored female characters like Narm seem to have the Illusion of a bare Midsection, but in truth are wearing a Skin Toned armor plate only really visible on relatively close examination. If you look up Codpieces, you’ll notice that historically male armor often was designed to emphasize certain sexual assets, particularly the size of the “Package” and giving themselves the appearance of barrel chests and bulging muscles. So seeing Skin Toned Plate armor meant to evoke a sort of Battle Bikini look gives me a little smile. But… That is about as common as the artist playing the Female Armor tropes totally straight. So it’s pretty clear the artist decided these according to his tastes rather than according to Historical Precedent. The Original Character Portraits have a little more Flavor to them in my opinion, even if the Remastered art has more in the way of a Unified Direction.
Then there is the Story Tree allowing players to unlock new Timelines according to completing Levels with certain circumstances, which adds a significant Chunk of content to dig through if you’re the type to look about, and of course a few secrets such as the Temple Of Muscle in LGS2 which comes bundled with Guest Stars from one of NCS’s more bizarre game series.
Variations between 1&2
Playing through Langrisser 1, the plot doesn’t feel revolutionary. But later on, it takes on a much more High Fantasy tone and has the player battling monsters all over the place, and the plot does well to serve up some great and fun encounters. I’d not read it for giggles, but it has some decent characters even if it’s not a very original story.
Langrisser 2 has what I consider the better opening level, introducing a very likable character on the opposing side named Leon. However, both games act a lot alike, to the point that it’s a bit of a drag to start Langrisser 2 immediately after getting through all or most of Langrisser 1, since you’re essentially starting a new game with the same rules as the last and yet still being taught all the mechanics you probably mastered only a short time ago.
It’s that time again, when I spend some time complaining about a game I really enjoyed playing.
These are my Nitpicks with Langrisser 1&2.
First, the Battle Scenes. These are great, and I enjoy them. But they get to feeling Identical to each other pretty quickly. Fire Emblem’s Battle Cutscenes play out between individuals, and often feel similarly repetitive, and generally let the player Skip them similarly to Langrisser. However, when the Scenes are Skipped in FE, there is at least a little animation on the Field of a Unit swiping at or otherwise interacting with another Unit. The end result of Skipping Battle Scenes in Langrisser has characters standing beside one another and taking Damage and then either expiring or remaining stationary afterwards and ending their turn. It comes off as feeling a little bit cheap and feels artificial when it can’t cost much to have a Sprite swing a sword or at least ram into another or shake a bit without slowing things down.
My other complaint is that everybody gets a move. This ain’t a problem, but not everybody needs to move. And even if the entire enemy force decides to stay on Standby, the Camera will still Scroll over to each and everyone to show you they decided to sit still for that turn. This is just odd to me similarly to my last nitpick, because they do let a player, at least Automate, the actions of their Mercenaries somewhat in order to save time. The end result sometimes feels like playing Chess against somebody that has an obsessive ritual of touching every piece with his index finger before passing his turn to you.
I can’t find how to just look at the Character Portraits in their entirety. It’s the nitpickiest nitpick here, but I like the art a lot in both art styles and wish I could see any given piece in its entirety instead of simply in Portrait Windows during Dialog at most from the waist up. This struck me as odd since it is actually a feature that was quite prominent in the Mobile Langrisser released not too long before these remakes.
Apart from these Nitpicks, I’m very satisfied with Langrisser 1&2 on Switch.
While feeling slightly basic, these games are considered classics for good reason. The core gameplay has been tried and tested and tempered and refined over the last 20+ years, and you’ll hear no complaints from me.
That said, while this package doesn’t include the Trivia stuff I’d expect from a release like this such as Character Profiles and Concept Art and a mode for listening to the OST’s, that kind of Langrisser Bonus Material does exist elsewhere. Langrisser’s Mobile Entry in the series has most of these Extras that felt conspicuously missing from these two remakes, and it feels to me like a perfect companion to the experience of playing through Langrisser 1&2. The Mobile Langrisser even has an English Voice track for folk that loves terrible acting. A curious difference between the Mobile Langrisser and this pair of Remakes is how Magic is handled. In Langrisser 1&2, Magic Spells must be cast Before movement while the Mobile Langrisser allows it After, probably to make the game feel more like a conventional Turn-Based Strategy RPG.
If you enjoy Strategy RPG’s and want something more built around fun than the Fire Emblem series, this package won’t disappoint you. I’m sure that I’ll be playing these off and on until I finally see all the Story Paths in both games.
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Robert Kelly Ball
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