My first exposure to turn-based tactical role-playing games was on the Sega Genesis with Shining Force. I really fell in love with the idea of having different classes of characters; each with their own stats, attacks, and weaknesses playing a crucial role in the battles that ensued. That game in particular featured bright animé style characters mixed with a strategic style of gameplay I hadn’t encountered before. Eventually my gaze would move over to the Fire Emblem series, which featured many of the same attributes.
Upon seeing some video of Langrisser I & II collection on the Switch I immediately thought the games would be something I’d enjoy. I hadn’t played any of the titles in the series before, but wanted to give them a try. It wasn’t until I began playing them that I realized they must be based on some very old games, and indeed I was surprised to find out the original game was released in America as Warsong on the Genesis. I could have played this almost thirty years ago, but didn’t have a clue it existed!
Right from the start you can choose which of the two games to play. Obviously I chose to play in order, but it’s nice to have the option. The first thing that stuck out to me is that this game is extremely bare bones with no hand holding whatsoever. If you have never played a tactical RPG before you’ll no doubt be completely lost. The game throws you into battle with the option to hire mercenaries. Having plenty of cash on hand I went ahead and hired as many as I could, and it’s a good thing as I’d probably have been annihilated if I hadn’t. You start off defending your father’s castle from attack and must retreat to progress the scenario. You have two commanders (each with the mercenaries you hired) that you control directly. Similar to other games of this ilk, your team will get to take action first. You can move a set number of squares and if you’re in range of the enemies (usually right next to them) you can choose to attack. The game’s default mode will transition to a side-view of the action with a 10-second cutscene showing off the battle in real-time. At first I really enjoyed watching the action play out, but after a few hours I went into the options and turned off the animations as they take a tad too long and they’re almost exactly the same every time.
After you’ve completed your turn the enemies get to move about the map and attack your allies. For the most part the AI is pretty good at sniffing out your lowest leveled soldiers and focusing attacks on them. You’ll have to try and keep the weaker troops out of range if you hope to survive the war. This process plays out in turns, just like you’d expect, until a condition is met (usually reaching a specific point on the map or destroying all of the enemies). If your mercenaries are next to your hero characters they’ll usually get partially healed before the start of your turn, but the same goes for the enemies as well. Terrain will play a role in the combat, so you might want to hide units in the forest for extra protection or take the high ground for better attacking power.
Much like the Fire Emblem games there’s sort of a weapon triangle in play. Certain units are better/weaker against others. For example, flying units are weak against archers (where have we heard this before?) so you’ll want to steer clear if you can. This should have a major impact on strategy, although the game doesn’t really spell it out for you. You sort of have to learn on your own or read about it online. As you can imagine, these games are old enough for there to be a ton of resources at your disposal should you need them.
As you take out enemies you’ll be awarded experience points and level up. Eventually you’ll have enough class points to change to a more powerful class with new abilities and spells. There are branching pathways so you usually have a choice between a few classes at any given time. The game doesn’t do a fantastic job of explaining which ones are better choices, so it’s best to just try it out and see if you like it. The menu will show stat changes and ability changes, but often the descriptions don’t explain everything you’d like to know ahead of time. I usually just saved before doing any changes and if I didn’t like them I loaded up my old save. Some of the strategy here is letting specific characters (or their mercenaries) take out enemies to earn experience. If you only allow one or a few of your characters wipe the floor you’ll end up with a very lopsided group of allies.
As I mentioned the game pretty much just plops you into battle with very little exposition. The story will play out before, during, and after the combat takes place. It’s not very intricate or all that interesting, but it’s nice to have some sort of narrative throughout. The game features voice acting, but it’s all in Japanese with subtitles. No doubt the hardest of the hardcore will applaud this decision, but honestly I’d rather have a good dub. It’s obvious the games don’t have a big budget like last year’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but there is still a decent amount of content packed in across the two titles. If all you’re looking for is the gameplay element of tactical RPGs then you should find that here.
Graphically the game gets the job done. You won’t find anything truly exciting here, and indeed the style of the presentation reminds me a bit of a mobile game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the character designs are pretty generic. I think the lack of having scenarios outside of battle really hurts the character progression and attachment and so I never really cared much about the designs. That’s something the Fire Emblem games excel at these days, but I do realize the original versions of these games are from the early ‘90s so I applaud the work that went into modernizing the look of them. You have the option to switch between classic and modern graphics, which is a nice touch for those that may have some nostalgia value for the originals.
After playing about three hours of the first game, I went ahead and booted up the second to see if there were any major differences. There aren’t. In fact, if you randomly selected one of the two you’d be hard pressed knowing which one you were playing. They look and sound pretty much the same. The only differences come in with the story and characters. Both games feature a pretty wonderful soundtrack. It’s usually upbeat and kept me entertained. I did a bit of research before writing the review and found out that one of the composers is Noriyuki Iwadare, who worked on the Lunar and Grandia series – so it’s mostly good stuff!
The appeal of Langrisser I & II will vary widely depending on your passion for tactical RPGs. Even those that enjoy them might be put off by the bare bones implementation of this title. You won’t find any tutorials or bells and whistles to keep your attention. While there are good games here, they don’t offer anything more than what you’d expect out of an early ‘90s video game experience, except for enhanced presentation and voice acting. If you grew up playing Warsongand loved it, then this purchase is a no brainer. For everyone else there are more competent and entertaining options available, like Wargroove and Fire Emblem: Three Houses. There is a free demo available on the eShop and I highly recommend checking that out first, as it’s indicative of what to expect of the entire package.
Langrisser I & II Review
- Graphics - 7.5/107.5/10
- Sound - 8.5/108.5/10
- Gameplay - 6/106/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7.5/107.5/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Langrisser I & II is the definition of a game worthy of consideration. Fans of the tactical RPG genre that don’t mind playing map after map of battles with no tutorials and sparse story will be right at home. Newcomers to the genre would be better served elsewhere. These games come directly from the early ‘90s and despite a new coat of paint don’t have a modern feel to them. A free demo on the eShop is recommended before throwing down 50 bones.