By Josh Speer / March 10th, 2020
|Title||Langrisser I & II|
|Release Date||March 10th, 2020|
|Platform||PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4|
|Age Rating||T for Teen – Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes|
I’ve been excited about Langrisser I & II since I first heard that NIS America was publishing it. Not due to any past familiarity with the Langrisser series, since I’m pretty much a lifelong Nintendo fan, but cause I love strategy RPGs. You don’t have to look back very far to see I tackle those games pretty much every chance I get. But when I heard I would get to cover a pair of classic SRPGs that was only originally available on Sega consoles, I was intrigued. The question then, is were these Langrisser adventures worth the wait? Or should they have stayed in gaming’s past?
The stories of both Langrisser I and Langrisser II feature roughly the same premise. Evil forces are at work, and it’s up to your heroes to put a stop to things. There’s a bit more complexity, such as warring kingdoms, dark magic and evil-sealing artifacts, but it pretty much boils down to a seen before story. Which makes sense, since the original games came out in the 90s, when the industry was still in its adolescence, and was relying on basic tropes instead of trying to shatter expectations. Also, since it was out in that era, we get some sublimely silly anime features, such as over the top drama and very, very silly names for some characters (looking at you, Chris the priestess and Narm the sky knight). While a part of me was somewhat disappointed Langrisser I & II doesn’t have a more nuanced premise, mostly cause I’ve been spoiled by series like Fire Emblem, I can cut it some slack. Ultimately, what’s most important in the SRPG genre is how it plays, and for the most part I felt these adventures played very well.
Both Langrisser games feature the exact same mechanics, though there are slight differences between the two. An example is how in Langrisser I any units can literally walk on water and cross mountains, only at the expense of limited movement range. Or how in Langrisser II, the various classes are a bit more streamlined and less overpowered initially, meaning you’ll learn less spells and skills when you change classes and that your class choices are more important. But when it comes to how you fight, both games play the same. Each game is split into various chapters, and each one has you fulfill a specific objective before you can claim victory. These can vary, such as protecting an NPC, reaching a goal, defeating a particular boss or decimating every foe. There’s a good amount of variety, and they constantly mix things up with enemy ambushes that come out of nowhere. There are even some maps where the objective will change mid-battle, so expect both Langrisser games to keep you on your toes.
As for how these battles play out, it’ll be mostly second nature to any fan of the genre. You select units, move them around, attack and cast magical spells. When you select any unit, it will display their movement range, and you can move and then attack foes. One quirk is that you can’t move and then cast a spell. So if you want to do that, you’ll have to do it from your starting position that turn, which took me a bit to wrap my head around. It means the positioning of your magical focused units is utterly vital, at least until you learn spells that have a wider AOE. Any spell costs MP, though thankfully you’ll max out your health and MP meter whenever you level up. Which was something I learned in one harrowing map that I thought I was doomed to lose until I realized one spellcaster had miraculously filled their MP. And that brings me to my primary complaint in the game. Though most of the mechanics were easy to figure out on the fly, there were other aspects of the strategy that were unclear. And the reason for that lack of clarity was that the game never told me there was any guide. There’s no tutorial at the beginning of the game, and the only way to access the guide is by pressing + first and then selecting “How To Play”. Which was totally unapparent, especially since pressing A on the map brings up another menu. It’s no exaggeration that I was 70% done with the second game when I finally discovered the guide, and that was only because I asked my rep at NIS America specifically.
While this lack of clarity didn’t ruin my experience, it did make it more frustrating. For example, I didn’t know that keeping your Commander units next to their Mercenaries heals them every turn. Or that there’s a weapon triangle of sorts between Infantry, Spearmen and Cavalry. It seemed like some types of units had more efficacy against others, but I never confirmed it til late. More significant was the Command option. Each Commander can select it, even after they’ve ended their turn actions, and it gives the following options – Attack, Defend or Charge. Yet when I selected any of these, there was no immediate response. Little did I realize that selecting a Command prompts your Mercenaries to follow those orders once you end the player phase. Lastly, I had no idea that each Commander’s influence, visualized by a glowing white area, improves the stats of their Mercenaries while they’re in range. Though I did figure that out without the guide. My point being, all I wanted from Langrisser I & II was some in-game clarity that there’s a guide that governs how things work, especially since it isn’t forced down your throat. It would have made everything flow more smoothly, especially since without it I was individually moving all my Mercenaries every turn like a sucker.
On the topic of Commanders and Mercenaries, there’s a bit more to cover. Each Commander will learn passive skills they can equip before battles, which mostly boost various stats. At the beginning of each battle, all of your Commanders can recruit some Mercenaries. Depending on your current class, you’ll be able to recruit more or less of them. Additionally, each class you learn unlocks more types of Mercenaries for that character. For example, the aerial classes will be able to recruit Sky Knights and Harpies, whereas naval classes can recruit various Merfolk. The nice thing is, you’ll never be forced to stay a certain class just to have access to particular units. Once you unlock them, they’re yours to use as you see fit. Just keep in mind, the stronger the Mercenary, the more expensive they are. Yes, recruiting Mercenaries costs money (cause of course it does), so part of the strategy is finding the best bang for your buck. Usually I would spend anywhere from 10 – 15K in a single battle on my Mercenaries, though thankfully you do get rewarded with more gold at the end of each battle. Overall I rather liked the unique aspect of Mercenary units, and even though they’re weaker than your Commanders, they’re vital to deflect attacks and surround foes. And while Mercenaries don’t level up themselves, they have a sort of symbiotic relationship to their leader. When they defeat a foe, their Commander gets more experience. Plus, so long as a Mercenary has a bit of health left, you can heal them by keeping them near their Commander, or just healing them with a spell. Just be wary, since if the Commander dies, so does all their Mercenary units.
I will say, I also really enjoyed the various classes in the game. There’s a wide variety, and the only thing that determines what class you can and can’t learn is the specific character. You could have two mages that have access to different classes, for example. But it couldn’t be easier to use them. As you defeat foes and win maps, your characters get points that are used to change classes. So long as you have enough points and are on the proper branching path, you will be able to learn a new class. Once learned, you immediately get new skills and spells, have access to new Mercenaries, and get stat boosts. While there’s no penalty for staying the class you want, sometimes others will help your character achieve better overall stats. The cavalry-focused classes also have much better movement range, which is why most of my party were riding horses, rocs or leviathans. My only minor issue with the class system is that many of them are pretty interchangeable, or are just upgraded versions of other classes.
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