Review: Langrisser I & II

 

Developer: Chara-ani Corporation

Publisher: NIS America

Genre: Turn-Based Strategy

Platforms: Switch, Playstation 4, Steam

Rating: T for Teen

Price: $49.99

The original Langrisser was released back in 1991. Named Warsong in the US, the title was originally released on the Sega Genesis system. Although there are many other games in the series, such as Langrisser 2, almost none of them have officially been translated into English. Those who were lucky enough to find out about it in the past have mostly sung the series praises. Many speak of the games being similar to Fire Emblem, another game series which has been niche until relatively recently. How good is this Fire Emblem lookalike? Is it worth the cult classic status it has? Let’s find out as we review the Langrisser 1+2 remake on PS4!

Content Guide:

Violence: As with any turn-based strategy game, Langrisser is a simulation of war in a fantasy setting. People are fighting and killing each other, but there isn’t much blood this time around.

Language: The alternative word for “darn” is used frequently in combat scenarios, but I don’t remember any other curse words.

Demons/Undead: The plot of the game pits “forces of light” versus “forces of darkness.” As such, demons and other undead creatures are involved.

Rituals: Tying in with the previous point, a story arc involves a demon being summoned via ritual. There aren’t any details portrayed, but it’s insinuated.

Gods/goddesses: There are two deities in this game’s universe, a goddess of Light and a god of Darkness.

Magic: As with the rest of the fantasy themes, Langrisser features magic spells used in combat.

Nudity/Partial Nudity: This is, by far, the most egregious of the things to watch out for. Or in this case, to try not to watch out for. Almost all of the female characters are so poorly clothed, it’s laughable if not sad. Breasts are exaggerated and promiscuous, and some bottoms are almost not there. This is common for games of this art style and genre, but ridiculous nonetheless.

Review

This is the first thing I saw when starting Langrisser. A menu and map, rather than a battle scene.

Deploy

Starting up Langrisser 1+2 granted me a pretty simple opening: the title appears with some art of the main characters, and a few options pop up. It is pretty simple stuff, but it looks nice. Naturally, I selected my way to start playing Langrisser 1, and I was off to my adventure. After starting, I was surprised to be asked ambiguous questions, such as why I was fighting, what’s most important on a battlefield, and other similar questions like that. This reminded me of the mainline Kingdom Hearts games, which have similar beginnings. After deciding what my answers were, I was finally playing the game. There were no forced tutorial segments, but since I have played several Fire Emblem titles in the past, I had the gist pretty quickly. If not, a guide was always pretty easy to get to.

The story starts off with Prince Ledin, our protagonist, being attacked by enemy forces while inside his castle. His father, the King, tells him to go, and Ledin gets begrudgingly escorted out of the country. This is pretty standard fantasy warfare stuff, but that’s not a bad thing. Langrisser, like other older fantasy games, has a fairly simple story which gets more complicated later on in the game. 

It is interesting to note that Langrisser doesn’t start like many strategy games do gameplay-wise. Tutorial and interrogation aside, Langrisser doesn’t throw the player in the action right away as what happens in most other TBS games I’ve played. Instead, you’re put into the menu overlay, with a map surrounding the main character and several menu options on the side of  the screen. If the player wants to start the story, they can hit “Deploy”, but they can look around at character stats and menus as well, if they like. It feels a little abrupt, but I like old-school ways of figuring out what you need to do.

Joke’s on you, Mr. Akutrakt Vampire.
Dialogue

Dialogue is pretty generic in Langrisser, and that’s okay. Throughout the game, I can tell it originates in the classic days of gaming. Phrases such as “Let’s Go!,” “You’re Going Down”, and “I fight for you, your majesty!” appear when selecting characters or prompting combat. It was pretty corny at times, especially when the prompt didn’t match what the character was doing. I often would select a character, who would say “Follow Me!” only to have him sit in place after commanding him to standby. It was hilarious to watch an NPC say “You don’t want to mess with me!” only to be obliterated by a dragon.

It is commendable that the dialogue is also fully-voiced. Every time a dialogue box appears, someone is audibly speaking, save for menus. That is all well and good, with one small caveat: I can’t understand a word the characters are speaking. It’s all in Japanese. It’s not a big deal, I could read the dialogue boxes just fine, but it is interesting for a game to come to the West without an English voice-over available. Thankfully, I’m a Sub person anyway.

Seeing scenes like this gave me massive Advance Wars vibes.
Player Phase

The gameplay is where Langrisser shines the brightest. As reviewers and players have said, it is like Fire Emblem. But I say that it’s better. I’m a simple person, I like to have player connections, an epilogue, customization, the whole works. But I don’t like having too much choice, as it goes against my completionist tendencies. That’s where Langrisser outdoes Fire Emblem. Each character has a story, but it’s kept simple, and replayable.

The combat itself is as if Advance Wars fell in love with Fire Emblem, and their darling child was Langrisser. Rather than 10+ unique characters with personalities on the field, around 5 unique characters are put on the field, with Mercenaries available for purchase. Mercenaries vary in strength and rank, but there are several categories, such as Infantry, Cavalry, Spearman, Priest, and Archer. Similar to Fire Emblem again, Langrisser has a weapons triangle. Infantry are strong against Spearmen, Spearmen are strong against Cavalry, and so on. It’s a good strategy to have all three in some combination throughout the game, you never know when there will be a mid-battle ambush you don’t have an edge against. 

Players can interchange between any class they learned, at any time, outside of battle.

While on the subject of characters, one of the best features of Langrisser is it’s character progression system. While other strategy games feature a character evolving into one of two or three options permanently, Langrisser has a full-out class tree. The best part is that a character can change classes anytime outside of battle. In one battle, a character can be a mage, and in the next, a swordsman. Each character has their own unique 5th tier class, but it’s more of an option than a requirement. In order to unlock new tiers, characters either have to level up, or be the MVP of a battle.

Langrisser’s maps often make it easy to bottleneck opponents, as seen here.
Enemy Phase

The AI on Langrisser’s enemies isn’t the worst, but it’s not great, either. Whereas the enemies in Fire Emblem are most often ruthless attackers, the AI in Langrisser will often deliberately not. One particular example is that, if the unit knows it will kill itself if it attacks your unit, it will choose instead to move right next to your opponent and refrain from attacking. That way, you have to spend your turn to wipe it out, rather than efficiently taking out opponents on their own turn. There are times where that’s beneficial, like when after a special objective, but other times, it’s just inconveniently wasteful.

Besides their intelligence, I found the difficulty setting pretty nice for the game. I wasn’t overly challenged, nor was I bored. If I thought outside the box, I often was able to perform some pretty ridiculous stunts. The difficulty setting allowed me to play around with squad formations and matchups without having to worry about a single false step somewhere. This was also due to the fact that there is no permadeath in this game for main characters, which is my biggest love-hate factor with other strategy games. Obviously, I still tried to preserve my soldiers as much as possible, but I didn’t feel horrible if one was to fall in battle. I didn’t need to restart an hour-long battle for a single misstep. It can be noted that the game does keep track of how many times characters fall in battle, and story epilogues may change depending on how well or how poorly the player performs.

The story tree splits apart depending on your actions within a specific battle.
Scenario Clear

My favorite aspect of Langrisser’s story is that it splits up into multiple timelines. On the main menu, the player can check the “story tree” at any time. If they fulfill a certain requirement, such as saving someone and finishing the battle, the story will split to a new ending. The only other game I’ve experienced something like this was in Chrono Trigger, and I love the idea. However, unlike Chrono Trigger, you can change timelines at any time in Langrisser, as long as it’s a previous point in time. This allows for the replaying of scenarios in order to level up characters, which I love. At this time of writing, I’ve fully played through all of the timelines of Langrisser, and can’t wait to move on to Langrisser II. It is especially interesting that each timelines’ conclusion can be good, or evil, depending on what happens in the timeline.

Notice that the BGM can be set to its older version, and art style can be classic as well.
Settings

I am extremely grateful to have options in how I play. When I started the game, each combat interaction stopped, flashed into a cutscene of battle, did something flashy, then cut back out to the battle map. Even when playing Fire Emblem, I have never particularly cared for these animations. Thank goodness for the option of disabling them. Otherwise, I would have more than likely given up on clearing the story.

Not only is there a setting for turning off combat animations, but there is also a setting which transforms the art style of the game from the remastered to the original, or if you just want a bit of each. I found the graphics of the original map doesn’t work well with the mandatory new character sprites, but I enjoyed having the old character art styles pop up in conversation. In all honesty, the remade graphics and sprites look straight out of a generic mobile game, and I wasn’t a fan of that. Still though, It was generally neat to see the more modern character designs just to contrast the classic ones every once in a while.

I also turned the music off for most of my play through of the game. Normally, I love listening to the music of games, and it’s something I make sure to look out for. However, Langrisser is quite lacking in that department. There are only about 4 or 5 unique songs that I recall, and each of them feel like 30 seconds on a loop. There’s a setting to hear the original bit tune or a reorchestrated version of each song, but 30 seconds of the same tune is still 30 seconds of the same tune. When combined with a battle length of at least 30 minutes, it’s maddening. Thankfully, there’s a volume dial, so I was able to put on some Final Fantasy music and jam.

Finally, the 49.99 price tag may be a little daunting, but you are getting two games for it. Each game is much shorter than a standard Fire Emblem game, but it’s replayability makes up for it.

Conclusion

Langrisser is a fantastic game, and the lack of popularity it has is a crime. There is a good reason the Langrisser series is known as Fire Emblem’s competitor, because its games really could be better than several of the Fire Emblem games I’ve played. While its music is lacking and some smaller design choices aren’t great, Langrisser’s gameplay experience is more than worth a gamer’s interest, time, and consideration.

If the remastered graphics setting is enabled, players can get a beautiful stillframe when they finish each timeline.

Review copy generously provided by NIS America.

Adam Mueller

Adam Mueller loves to play video games, watch anime, and think too much. Whenever he's not doing these things, he's attending college classes.

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