By Josh Speer / March 10th, 2020
One of the biggest hooks for Langrisser I & II are the many, many endings you can get. Though I managed to beat each of the two games in 18 hours, that’s how long it took to get only one ending in each. As you play, depending on decisions you make and secret factors, you’ll unlock different story paths and missions. You’ll also only have access to certain characters if you follow their path or make the right decision. A key example is Lance, who is your enemy for most of Langrisser I, but can become an ally after you save him from basilisk petrification. Or take Sonya, a wild half demon girl who can be recruited in Langrisser II. I love the idea of branching paths and multiple endings (there’s 20+ in the game), but have one small complaint. Once you’ve beaten either game, there’s nothing that tracks which endings you’ve already gotten. So it’s very easy to get lost or get the same ending twice, even with the ability to go back to chapters and make new choices. Without a full guide, it’s rather challenging to acquire the many endings in the games.
Though I do feel that it’s best to play the games in chronological order, technically you don’t have to. And while it’s very tempting to start with Langrisser II, since overall I felt it was better balanced and had a more interesting plot and characters, there’s one reason you should play Langrisser I first – for context. The second game takes place in the same world, but centuries afterwards. You’ll have various recurring characters and similar story beats, but I really can’t express properly how much more I liked Langrisser II. Everything that was clunky or frustrating mostly happened in the first game. It doesn’t start that challenging, but a few chapters in you lose your chaperone, a powerful knight named Volkoff, and then things get harrowing. The last few missions in that entry were especially hard, since many involve your army being surrounded by spellcasters who can snipe you with a beyond irritating Meteor spell, which hits an enormous area for significant damage. To add insult to injury, every single one of these magicians has a skill that recovers some MP every turn, meaning that if you take too long reaching them, they’ll just keep recasting overwhelming Meteors again and again.
Regardless of balance, you have the option to replay each game from the beginning after you’ve beaten it in a new game+. This will activate Challenge Mode, and every time you “lap” the game by beating it again, the next attempt will be a bit harder. You can choose to tackle Challenge Mode with all your previously acquired skills and items, or you can do it from scratch. I found the latter to be far more interesting, as it’s very boring plowing through the early game as an overpowered god unit. If nothing else, this mode offers another way you can unlock the many endings in the game, though you’re also perfectly free to start a new save file, since each game has room for 5.
Aesthetically speaking, I have mixed feelings about Langrisser I & II. On the one hand, I adore the art for the character portraits and stationary cutscenes. These show off great flair and bring life to the characters. By contrast, the chibi art used in actual battles is a bit underwhelming. Frankly all the units look like Funko Pop figurines, and that’s not a compliment. They’re all pretty lifeless and cartoony, with the exception of the models used for monsters. These are all larger than life and vile, and I really wished the models for the humanoid characters in battle followed suit. Or, better yet, that this game had sprite-work or even pixel art characters. I know that’s a tall order, but given that we’ve been waiting on this game for the better part of a couple decades, why not go all out? Cause while the chibi designs are functional, the contrast between them and the other art is palpable. Though I did check out footage from the original games, and I will say that the chibi models here are better looking than the pixel models there. Also, I was a bit frustrated by how many maps look nearly identical in the first game, though they do fix that a bit in Langrisser II, with more temples, villages and forests. Part of me would have killed for maps with fog of war or features like drowning darkness or even a sunset to liven things up. Musically, both games focus on a hard rock soundtrack that, while not bad, doesn’t necessarily fit the action that well. The second game does have more soundtrack variation, which I appreciated, but overall the music was not the game’s strong suit. Though I did enjoy the Japanese voice acting for all the characters in the game.
While I enjoyed quite a lot about Langrisser I & II, there’s some other nagging issues I need to touch on here. One are the long load times that occur when turning on the game and loading files. I know both adventures are based on much older games, but it irked me you can’t do thinks like view detailed unit breakdowns for non-Commanders or see a preview for how much damage spells will inflict. I also didn’t like how AOE spells cast by foes don’t pan the camera to indicate all the units affected. More than once, I would hold my breath when these spells were cast and pray one of my Commanders didn’t end up defeated. Also, while the writing in both games is grammatically sound, much like the plot it lacks nuance and subtlety. It’s great if you already like these sorts of games, but it’s also very derivative. And regarding the enemy AI, it’s ruthless but not particularly smart. It’s pretty easy to bait it, and the only times it’s a problem is when the odds are firmly stacked against you in some maps. Finally, while I liked how pressing the trigger buttons moves the cursor to different Commanders, I wish I could have only moved it between either mine or the opponent’s. Without that differentiation, you’ll have the cursor flying all over the map. These irritations make this feel like an old game with a new coat of paint, which is unfortunate, since there’s still a lot of good here.
Overall, I am happy that NIS America brought new life to two classic games in Langrisser I & II. Sure, it’s not perfect, and there’s many archaic oddities, but I had a good time. My biggest complaints were a lack of a timeline or registry showing your achieved endings, and something that made it more apparent how to recruit certain characters. In my 36 hour playtime, I probably encountered only 16 of the total 33 playable characters and approximately half of the 50 classes. Even then, for $49.99 you get good bang for your buck, and tons of replay value in Langrisser I & II.
Review Copy Provided by Publisher
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