By Quentin H. / June 16th, 2020
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is one of those types of games that you don’t see much of anymore: a grand strategy-genre title where you command armies to help take over the world. With the last game in the series coming to PlayStation in 1998, Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia serves as an introduction for a new generation of gamers the world over to the beautiful artwork and delightful strategy gameplay that this type of game -and in particular the Brigandine series- has to offer.
With only a short time to go before the game launches on June 25, 2020, I caught up with Kazuhiro Igarashi, the producer and game designer for Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia, to talk about why he wanted to bring this series back after being dormant for two decades, why they went with hexagonal grid gameplay, and more.
You can check out the Switch-exclusive Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia at the game’s official website and on Twitter. You can also read the Producer’s Letters, which give an inside view of the game’s development, here.
You can also pre-order or download the demo for Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia NOW on the Nintendo eShop.
You can also check out our impressions of the recently-released demo here as well.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
OR: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us what Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia [is] about?
Kazuhiro Igarashi: Hello, everyone. My name is Kazuhiro Igarashi, I’m the producer and game designer for Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia. I would very much like to thank Operation Rainfall for providing me with this opportunity to share our project.
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is a turn-based strategy game set in a fantasy world. It’s a lot to summarize so I’ll do my best but [I] do recommend checking the official website for more details as there is a lot to this game! Five Mana stones [were] placed in special armor known as the Brigandine of Justice, Sanctity, Freedom, Glory, and Ego, [and] created Rune Knights that can harness the stones’ powers. At [the] beginning of the game, the player chooses to become ruler of one [of] the five nations the stones represent, or one that has no Brigandine and sets out to capture all 41 bases and unify the nations. Enemies are fought with troops of Rune Knights [there are over 100] and monsters [there are more than 50 types] on a hex-map battlefield.
OR: This is first game in the series to be released in North America since 1998’s Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena on the PlayStation. Why did you want to make a sequel to a game that will be over two decades old by the time that Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is released?
KI: This is all a dream come true actually. When I joined Happinet, Forsena was released by the subsidiary, E3 STAFF[,] and I was so proud to be working for the company that released it. From there I wished I could join the team, only to have my dreams shattered when they disbanded. So when the game division reopened, we gained development experience internally and then I set forth to build the team I believed understood the vision for the world of Runersia. To my fortune[,] the core members all agreed. Kenji Terada returned to writing fantasy for games, Raita Kazama [art and character designer], who I appreciate for his imagination, joined to create the visuals, and Tenpai Sato who composed Brigandine: Grand Edition and has worked on the Disgaea series, agreed as well. And here we are 20 years later with Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia! [Additional credits for Kenji Terada: [FINAL] FANTASY I – III, Raita Kazama: [Xenoblade Chronicles] [Xenoblade Chronicles X]].
OR: Why did you choose to have this game to take place on an entirely different continent from the first game? Will there be any references to or interactions with the countries on the Forsena continent in Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia?
KI: The previous title was set on the continent of Forsena, while this one takes place on a new continent named Runersia. As such, the characters from the previous game do not appear in this one at all. Since we were working with an all-new team of developers and creators, we wanted to create a new experience in a new world for everyone. That said, there are some things that have not changed. For example, there are world-building elements that tie the series together. There is a resource called “Mana” said to have come from the Rune God. Those who have been chosen to benefit from this Mana are known as Rune Knights. They can use Mana to summon Monsters to assist them in battle.
But even more importantly, the country conquest strategy game design and feel of the game inherent to the franchise have been carried over to this new addition. While parts of it have changed, at its core, it’s still very much a Brigandine game.
“The broad variety of choices players have available to experience this title’s fully-realized world and dramatic story over and over again is what gives the game volume.”
OR: Grand Strategy-genre games are something of a growing rarity in this console generation. Why did you choose to go with that genre instead of a tactical RPG or even a god simulation genre game?
KI: The best answer I can give for this question is, because it’s Brigandine. Once we had decided to make a new Brigandine game, we knew we had to retain the game mechanics that were an intrinsic part of the game’s identity.
And, as you said, grand strategy-genre console games aren’t released very often anymore. This was another reason why we decided to make a new Brigandine game. There are plenty of developers and publishers out there better suited than us to making the mainstream games of today. We’re content to leave games where you only have to tap on a screen or strategy games where you pay money to get stronger to the app developers. But to offer a grand strategy game that takes place in a traditional fantasy setting, in this day and age, to today’s consumers? That sounds like a job for our team.
The grand strategy genre has its own appeal, and I think the relatively simple, yet involved and unique game design we have will appeal to many people even now.
OR: As you play through Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia, you can collect over seven hundred Records of History. These pages are recordings of viewed story events, special conversations, a bestiary, still art, and more. How did you go about developing all of this lore for the game? Are any of these pages ‘locked behind’ requiring the player to play on a particular difficulty level (Easy, Medium, Hard) to unlock them?
KI: We included the Records mode to allow for a more immersive experience by adding a collection aspect. The pages of The Legend of Runersia hold the historical record of this world based on events you experience in the Main mode. The story events and historical backgrounds for the continent will vary depending on which nation you decide to play as. For example, if you play as two different countries and compare the events that appear between them, the different perspectives will give you a multifaceted view of the truth. This detailed world and character-building is yet another major appeal of the game. The Records are always there for the players to review and look back on to support their playing experience.
And players will not have to worry, the difficulty level you play on has no effect on the Records. Even if you play on easy mode, you’ll still be able to collect everything.
OR: Why did you opt to use a hexagonal grid-based gameplay system instead of a square grid-based gameplay system?
KI: There are two reasons we decided to use hex-based combat. Firstly, I personally am a huge fan of the genre, having grown up playing hex-based war simulation games in the 1980s. This experience has allowed me to create a well-balanced game that satisfies my tastes as well as the members of the development team that share my appreciation for it.
And secondly, from a game design standpoint, it was important to use the same combat system as the first Brigandine game. Had we switched to a square grid system, the result would be an entirely different game. The battles in Brigandine utilize troops. Each troop consists of one lead knight and up to six monsters. Therefore, each troop is comprised of a maximum of seven units.
Each side can deploy three troops onto the battlefield, for a total of six troops in each battle. All told, that’s 42 units taking part in each Brigandine battle. A square grid allows for only four adjacent units, but a hex allows six. This difference brings a greater variety of tactics that can be used on the battlefield.
OR: In a [pair of] recent Producer Letter[s], Tasuku Ito went over the six powers that players can choose from and how the strategic difficulty changes from country to country. The goal of the game, of course, is to conquer the world. How do you balance mechanical depth with accessibility for both playing as a nation and conquering a nation?
KI: Thank you for reading the Producer Letters. In answer to this let’s look at the gameplay from two aspects, “broadness” and “depth”.
Choosing from one of the six nations, seeing the story from that nation’s point of view, and having fun as you progress through the game with that nation’s unique strategic elements, this is the “broadness” we focused on when designing the game.
The broad variety of choices players have available to experience this title’s fully-realized world and dramatic story over and over again is what gives the game volume. At the same time, no matter which nation you choose to play as, how you train your knights and monsters, build your troops, and handle other gameplay elements such as quests will depend on your individual style. The game is designed to give you incredible freedom of customization.
The way the game opens up in these two ways will make the experience different for each player. I think this high degree of freedom is what gives sandbox-like strategy games “depth”.
OR: In a separate Producer Letter, you talked about the Alternate Chapter, also known as Challenge Mode. Where did the idea for that separate gameplay mode come from? Have you managed to beat Tasuku Ito’s score yet?
KI: “What sub-mode can we create that will provide the most amount of entertainment to the greatest number of players who purchase the game?” After multiple rounds of discussions, the answer we came up with to that question was the challenge mode. The total play time to conquer the continent is about 20-40 hours per nation, which means the game is not suited to multiplayer either online or offline.
Sure, there would be some players who would be okay with this but they were probably not the majority. We did consider an online mode focused on just battle scenes, but in the end we didn’t want to deviate from the important country conquest aspect of the game.
From there, when we decided to incorporate the edit modes and restricted play popular within the genre into Brigandine‘s game mechanics, we eventually settled on the concept of a challenge mode. We also added a score attack element to this mode where a Strategy Score is kept. This could conceivably be used as a way to compare your results with someone else, but that wasn’t our intention.
If anything, we wanted this score to be a way for players to review their playing style and figure out how to improve their strategies. We also hope they can use the score as a way to begin conversations with other players.
As for my score, unfortunately Ito’s score is still well beyond where I can reach. The final phase of the challenge mode is very tough, as you’ll be fighting a series of difficult battles. Initially, the difficulty level was even higher than it is now.
Why? Because Ito was in charge of setting the difficulty level.
I suggested to him that we lower the difficulty, since it’s too hard, and that’s how we ended up with the difficulty level you’ll see in the final product. I’m sure some of you right now are thinking we should’ve left the difficulty on high, but not to worry! You can personalize the difficulty level by setting higher goals for your target Strategy Score.
“This sounds very simple, but one of our major goals was to make as many aspects of the game easy to understand and pick up as possible.“
OR: A demo was released on the Nintendo eShop on April 30, 2020. What has the response to that demo been like? Have you made any changes to the gameplay itself as a result of the demo?
KI: The reception to the demo has been good, we’ve received a lot of feedback so we are considering a post-launch patch. Thanks to the fans for sharing their thought[s] with us and please keep them coming!
OR: The art of Brigandine is utterly stunning. Does Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia use the original artists from the first game? If not, why the change?
KI: Since this is a new story set in a new world, we also made new artwork, scenarios, and music to match. If we were doing a remake, we would have wanted to work with the original team members, but in making a new story we wanted to start all aspects from the ground up. It felt necessary to create its own world.
The art and character designs got a lot of praise when we first announced this game. The designer is Raita Kazama. His past works include character designs for Xenoblade [Chronicles] and Xenoblade Chronicles X.
He went to America to study illustration when he was younger, built up a good skill base, and is able to draw in many different styles. I consider him one of the best character designers in Japan. Kazama often posts his illustrations on Twitter. If anyone reading is interested in seeing more, please follow him.
OR: Besides the Challenge Mode, are there any other new noteworthy features in Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia that weren’t in the original game?
KI: This sounds very simple, but one of our major goals was to make as many aspects of the game easy to understand and pick up as possible.
For example, in the previous title, it wasn’t easy to see how much the units had been enhanced through element builds. Having a good grasp of this can make a big difference in your ability to harness element effects, but there were many who played through the game without understand[ing] clearly how it worked.
In strategy games, it’s important for players to use the options and freedom provided by the game effectively. But if the players don’t have a good understanding of what’s available to them, there’s no point.
For this reason, we made plenty of resources visible in the UI and included access to plenty of tips and guides for playing the game. It may feel like a lot of information to take in when you first start playing the game, but there’s a tutorial mode to offer support.
I invite everyone – even those new to strategy games to give the game demo a try. And if you find that you like it, you won’t be disappointed with the full version.
OR: Are there any plans for DLC? What do you plan on doing next once Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is released?
KI: I’m completely focused on Runersia right now and we do foresee the possibility of releasing patches to improve game quality in the future. But regarding DLC, our thinking was, instead of planning to release additional DLC content later, why not just include it from the start? Fans of the original game have already been waiting for more than 20 years, and we didn’t want to hold anything back from them.
Once players play the full version and see all that’s been included, I’m sure they’ll be impressed by the sheer volume of content to go through. Hopefully fans do not have worries about the game content, we’ve worked hard to provide pleasant surprises for everyone!
Are you excited to play Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia when it releases on June 25, 2020?
What nation do you want to play as?
Let us know in the comments below!
BrigandineBrigandine: The Legend of Runersiagrand strategygrand strategy genreHappinetKazuhiro Igarashikingdomsnintendo switchRunersiaSwitch