Alex Graves, a long lost friend and writer of this site, has risen from the grave to deliver us a wonderful review of Langrisser I & II on the Nintendo Switch. He and the boys at SwitchWatchTV have put the review into video, and I am here to give you this glorious review in written form here on SwitchWatch.co.uk. We hope you enjoy it! Here we go.
Langrisser is a role-playing game series that has had it rough outside of Japan, in that it has had only a few titles localized. The first game in the series, simply titled Langrisser, known in North America as “Warsong”, was a tactical role-playing game much in the same vein as Fire Emblem that released in 1991 in only Japan and America.
It was initially released for the Mega Drive, and it was later being ported to the PC Engine with many other ports to follow over the years. You control a group of heroes and commanders who in every stage must achieve a set of objectives, ranging from defending a certain person to defeating the enemy commander. You do this all while being aided by other non-playable commanders and their troops.
The second game featured in this remastered collection, Langrisser II, was originally released in 1994, but unlike its predecessor, the second game was never released outside of Japan, which would be an unfortunate trend for every subsequent sequel from Langrisser II all the way up to Langrisser V. Then again, the series moved over to the Sega Saturn, a console that, as we all know, sadly never saw much support outside the Land of the Rising Sun. Not counting this remaster, it wouldn’t be until Langrisser Re:Incarnation Tensei on the 3DS in 2016 that the west would finally get back in on the series.
That said, whether the existence and localization of this remaster is due to that game’s success or perhaps to the Nintendo Switch’s unending popularity is hard to say. But who knows. If this ends up selling well, maybe the publisher could be persuaded to remaster the remaining games as well. But let’s slow down a bit and take things one step at a time. We finally got these two bad boys in the west, so let’s take a look at those first and see what we’ve been missing, shall we?
To be completely honest with you, I didn’t get much of the plot in Langrisser at all. I am not saying it is bad or uninteresting at all, but I never did follow these war stories very well. I am, in regards to these, a very simple man. I know I have to escort a fair maiden from some thieves, save the president’s daughter from a sick cult, or rescue a princess from an evil dragon, but as for the full picture in these strategy games, many times I had no idea what was going on and just went with the flow. So pardon me for cheating a bit here, as I am just going to read aloud from the game’s eShop page;
Heroes die, but legends live forever!
You are an arbiter of fate in a world ravaged by wars through generations of heroes who battle for peace, order, or chaos.
Command Ledin, Elwin, and their companions in their quest to obtain the Sacred Sword Langrisser and restore peace to a war stricken land. Decide who your allegiance lies with in Langrisser I & II, remastered for modern consoles.
Neither Langrisser I or II has any intro cutscenes or walls of text explaining the situation to you. All you are given is a set of questions by the goddess about what is most important to you on the battlefield and what priorities you weigh higher in different situations. This will ultimately determine your main character’s stats, but you can choose to retake the quiz if you are unhappy with the results.
After that though, from the moment you select Deploy from the main menu, you are thrown directly into the thick of it, with plot, orders, and exposition being given to you as you go along.
Langrisser is a strategic role-playing game. You embark on a mission via the aforementioned “Deploy” option and are then given the option to hire a set of infantries to aid you on the battlefield before the battle starts. Each soldier costs a set amount of gold, but you start out with a neat sum, so this shouldn’t be a problem. You are then given the option to position them yourself or have the game do it for you, and when you are ready, you start the mission.
As stated before, the battle will always start with a bit of story where someone spews exposition or an order or tells you what is going on, and you will then be able to move your troops. Shortly after the battle’s start, you will also be given your goal/winning conditions, which will usually entail escorting someone to safety, escape yourself, or, naturally, just defeating your opponents. As the battle progresses, and depending on how it unfolds in or against your favor, more of the story will unfold and foes and allies will continuously spout exposition making the story feel integrated with the gameplay, which makes the game feel more alive and organic. On the flip side, I feel that this is also kind of a “game & watch” experience. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.
Langrisser is turn-based, similar to Fire Emblem, so every turn you are able to move every one of your troops, either away from danger or to approach the enemy to engage in battle. But, even if there are allied forces on the battlefield, you can’t actually control these, and half of every turn thus becomes a waiting game after you have made your own couple of moves, where you just watch the AI move around and go to battle. There is no speed-up function either, aside from speeding up dialogue, but you are able to push the B button and skip an engaged battle animation altogether. In an RPG, most of your time is going to be spent fighting, and while watching hordes of chibi warriors rush the opposition never really gets too old, it is what you are going to be doing most of the time, both during your own and the enemy’s turn, and with no real variety in music, it can quickly feel very repetitive, so pushing B to skip battles became a regular activity of mine.
When it’s your turn, you are able to view your player’s stats, as well as move yourself and the troops you bought at the start of the battle around. In that sense, it is not exactly like Fire Emblem, as your troops are very much expendable, and the game doesn’t really scold you for losing them nor does it try to make you feel attached to them. You can move them around a set distance, and then, at their new destination, decide whether you want them to engage (If they are within range of an enemy) or just stand by. If you regret their new placement, you can push the B button to cancel your move.
A move is only final when you choose either of those two options. Choose “attack” and you will be able to hover the cursor over the enemy of your choice, where the energy meter over both of your heads will immediately show you what the outcome will be, whether you will be victorious and should just go through with it or whether you will get your ass handed to you and should perhaps fall back and think of a better move. Enemies are divided into groups, each headed by a captain. This guy is of course tougher than his peers, but if you defeat him, his minions will fall with him, and your commander will earn experience.
Each slain enemy commander will also, when the overall battle is won, earn the character who did the deed. They also receive X amount of CP, points that, at the skill tree in the main menu, can be used to upgrade your commanders to new titles, making them stronger, and granting them all new attributes which prepares them for even tougher challenges. It is also within these menus that you equip weapons and other items you have earned during your adventures.
Langrisser II is largely the same game, only with a new story and characters, but it does do something different from the first game. Something that was hugely praised for back in the day, in that, depending on your choices during battle or whose side you decide to take (as mentioned in the story section), the story can have a lot of different outcomes. From you being heroic and slaying the dark armies with the aid of the Langrisser, to you joining the aforementioned, or even going solo, not taking any sides but your own.
If you want to experiment with different outcomes you can always go back and replay a previous chapter. You keep all of your money, CP, loot, and such, but be forewarned that your story progression will obviously be set back.
Also keep in mind, that since the gameplay mechanics are the same as 30 years ago, so are the menus and saving system, meaning no auto-saving. That means you need to remember to save manually before you quit the game. I made that mistake, because I have been spoiled by auto-saving systems.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE
Maybe it’s just me, but while the graphics are bright and colorful, the remastered environments and character sprites make me think of a mobile game. In general, I think the remastered visuals of many classics, such as the Ace Attorney Trilogy and the more recent Dragon Quest trilogy, look lifeless and generic. Visually they have lost their charm. That is why, thankfully, the game gives you the option from the main menu to go with either the remastered visuals or the classic. Sprite-wise, nothing much changes, not even in battle, which disappointed me a bit. But the battlefield itself changes from being hand painted to a pixel landscape. Maybe it’s just because I’m old, but I like these archaic visuals much better.
The character artworks change drastically as well. I am not one to criticize, as I can’t illustrate to save my life, but compared to the vibrant and lifelike 80s illustrations of the characters, I can’t help but feel that the remastered re-drawings look like cardboard cutouts. When I went into the options menu for the first time, unaware that you even could change the visuals, I was flabbergasted to see the difference, and though I wasn’t even alive back then, I immediately missed a time where I feel anime was more visually distinct and had more personality. I have the same feeling with a lot of modern anime, where I feel much of the depth in the characters have been lost and the same can be said for many modern 2D JRPGs as well.
But that said, the visuals are, of course, purely cosmetic, and you are even free to choose whatever combination you want to go with; remastered maps with remastered characters, remastered maps with classic characters, or vice versa, or you can choose to go all classic.
Unfortunately, like with the recent Root Letter: Last Answer, where you could choose between hand drawn visuals and live-action, switching between these two is a bit of a haze, as you have to quit the game all the way back to the main menu of the collection itself, as opposed to remasters like Another World or Flashback where changing between the new and old style is done with the push of a button. Most players will probably just choose a style and stick with that one. The game features various characters, who are all diverse and wonderfully illustrated, but I honestly couldn’t tell you the first thing about their personalities.
On a side note, some story segments outside of battle will, if set to remaster, feature hand drawn cut scenes, as in “still images”. You will miss out on those if you have the game set to classic, so keep that in mind.
The music is very upbeat and energetic rock, which gets you pumped for the battle, but in this Germanic fantasy medieval setting, I did initially feel it was a bit out of place. Maybe it’s me, but I didn’t feel there was a whole lot of variety to the music either. A cool little detail though is whenever you engage in battle, you hear the collective battle cries of dozens of soldiers rushing into danger, adding to the atmosphere of the fighting and filling you with adrenaline.
Regarding the voice-overs by the way, most dialogue is spoken, but only in Japanese. Yeah I’m sad, too. Worst remaster ever. Zero out of ten.
This collection sits at a whopping £49.99/$49.99, which I will say is a bit much for such an old re-release that has just gotten a new coat of paint. I mean, just recently we also got yet another Mega Man collection from the guys over at CAPCOM in the form of the Mega Man Zero/ZX Collection, a package that comes packed with not 4, not 5, but 6 full games, complete with all manner of extras and bonus content, for the very generous sum of £24.99/$29.99.
What we have underneath the anime exterior of the Langrisser I & II Collection, though, is one of the forefathers of the tactical role-playing genre, but a barebones package otherwise. With two games, one only available to limited parts of the world originally, and the other released in the west now for the first time ever, Langrisser I & II does sell itself on its exclusive core content alone, but judging by the steep price and the utter lack of any sort of extra content, I cannot recommend it unless you are a die hard fan of the genre and are eager to see how an obscure franchise got its start.
The games themselves are fine. What you see within the first 5 minutes is what you get, and really, that should be what matters most. A certain indie developer once said that he did not understand the idea of why a game should cost less just because it’s old, and while that could be a debate in-and-of itself, I do see where he is coming from. But ultimately, I do demand more at a price like this.
With that said, Langrisser is a good, albeit repetitive, time with hours and hours of gameplay and story to experience, as should be expected out of a JRPG. But unless you got a raise this month and have spare cash lying around, I’d wait for a sale. Otherwise, if this review got you curious but you are still not sure if you want to dip, you can always download the free demo from the eShop. Here’s hoping this remaster will be successful and prompt NIS America to give the rest of the series an international release as well.
Story - 7/10
Gameplay - 7/10
Audio - 7/10
Visuals & Performance - 7/10
Value - 7/10
Langrisser I & II wasn’t exactly my cup of tea unfortunately, but I still recognize them as solid enough games. I therefore score them collectively a 7/10, but keep in mind that it is not so much the quality of the games that drags this score down but more so how little you get for the price. It’s repetitive nature. The collection is also not, to my knowledge, going to be release in physical form, at least not yet.
- Classic gameplay
- Swappable visual styles
- Branching story between I & II
- A bit expensive
- Not a lot of extras to justify the price