Back in the 1990s, a savage console war between Nintendo and Sega raged on. To compete with Mario, Sega introduced Sonic. And to compete with Fire Emblem, Sega introduced Langrisser. Much like Fire Emblem, Langrisser is a series of Strategy Role-Playing Games. However as Fire Emblem has only grown in popularity, Langrisser has continued to fade into obscurity.
Despite finding recent success in mobile gaming, Langrisser‘s main series has been dead in the water since 1998. In an unexpected turn of events, however, NIS America has released a modern reimagining of the original titles: Langrisser I&II.
Can this old dog learn new tricks?
Langrisser I actually starts out similar to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and the original Fire Emblem; with a castle siege. As the Dalsis Empire begins its invasion of the once peaceful Kingdom of Baldea, King Ellzach is faced with a difficult decision. Completely outclassed and outnumbered, the king has no choice but to seek out reinforcements. Choosing to go down with the ship, King Ellzach instead sends his son, Prince Ledin, to request aid.
While the entire game could easily revolve around Ledin’s exile from a conquered kingdom, it doesn’t take long for his triumphant return. With allies at his side and sword in hand, it seems like nothing can stand in his way. Unfortunately, something does just that. Rather than simply avenging his late father, Ledin finds himself on a quest to protect his ancestral blade: the legendary Langrisser.
Initially, it’s near impossible to tell the difference between Lagrisser I‘s narrative and that of an early Fire Emblem. Where the similarities end, however, makes all the difference. A major selling point of Langrisser as a series is its branching storylines. Depending on the choices made in-game, allies can be lost, enemies may be befriended, and entire storylines can change. For those not wanting to miss recruiting allies, multiple save slots comes highly recommended.
Langrisser II begins with Elwin and his childhood friend, Hein, passing through a small town. The peace and quiet quickly come to an end as the Imperial Army invades. Seeing the invaders kidnap and kill, the knightly Elwin cannot help but get involved. Unsheathing his blade, Elwin kills an enemy commander. By doing so, he saves villagers in the process. She thanks Elwin and introduces herself as Liana, The Priestess of Light. Though the remaining enemy commanders flee, it is apparently it is only to fight another day. When that day comes, Elwin must risk it all to save a single girl.
When it comes to JRPGs, often a game’s legacy depends on its characters. Langrisser I&II favor quality over quantity in terms of characters. This is a rarity of the SRPG sub-genre. While not all are fleshed out as Ledin, Elwin, Liana, and Chris, everyone has a reason to fight. Rather than spitting out a plethora of one-dimensional characters, Langrisser I&II give each one their due. The non-linear story brings light to each character’s intentions, revealing that they are not simply antagonistic for the sake of being evil.
The Pawns Go First
On the subject of characters, the number of playable units is surprisingly small. In the first few skirmishes of Lagrisser I, for example, Ledin is accompanied by only his most faithful knight. This strategy really wouldn’t work well in most tactical RPGs. In light of this, Langrisser I&II feature a unique gameplay mechanic. Each member of the main party has the option to hire mercenaries. These mass-produced vary in class and virtually play like their named counterparts. Mercenaries are tied to their commander in terms of experience. This makes each action that much more vital. The assigning of attacks can ultimately insure or undermine a well-balanced team.
Mercenaries aren’t the only units worthy of attention. Commanders are the glue that keeps the battalion together. Depending on the game played, Ledin and Elwin are certainly the most deserving of praise. As each game begins, the player must ask a series of questions. These questions all revolve around the ideas and ideals of leadership. These traits are passed onto their player character Ledin or Elwin. Ultimately, these passed traits dictate character stats and skills. Additionally, all characters have the ability to class change. This is easily done by assigning points gained by leveling. Classes can be easily changed and switched interchangeably between each chapter. With its ease of access, players can test different classes to find the right one for each unit.
Once the Player Characters and respective mercenaries have been selected the battle begins. The player and computer-controlled army each take their respective turns. This allows players to assign movements and attacks freely without worrying about speed or initiative. While some may argue if this is the better method, this is the most familiar to Fire Emblem and Disgaea fans. Each character has the option to move, attack or cast magic based on class. While an attack can always be made after movement, magic oddly cannot. This means that any healing or attack spell would need to be selected instead of any other action, even movement. Placement of a mage could be the difference between saving grace and a slap in the face.
As with most Tactical RPGs of the time, Lagrisser I&II are designed to play in a linear fashion. Newer fans of the genre may have already grown accustomed to replayable maps. Older games didn’t really have that. A recent comparison in practices came from the somewhat recent release of Fire Emblem Fates. Though Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright allowed players to farm experience, Conquest did not. While Lagrisser I&II do allow backtracking, its more of a Gateway GoBack than anything else. By utilizing the Chapter Select option, players will lose all their progress of the game following the once completed chapter. Gained allies will depart and the dead will return. Despite this, any experience earned will remain. If priorities aren’t straight in terms of character progression, it may not be bad to take a step back and try again.
Master of Breasts
In a sense, this release of Langrisser I&II is something between an enhanced port and a proper remake. This is due to the game’s inclusion of both classic and remastered audio and visuals. In terms of design, Lagrisser I&II feature two complete sets of character visuals. The original character art is illustrated by the legendary “Master of Breasts” Satoshi Urushihara. Between Langrisser and Growlanser, The Master of Breasts is widely loved for his beautiful illustrations. In addition, the game also has the option to use updated visuals by illustrator Ryo Nagi; best known for Ar Tonelico. While the newer designs help the game fit in a modern market, the classic designs are more distinct.
As Fire Emblem does it’s best to move ahead, Langrisser instead takes a look back. Langrisser i&II’s grid-like battlefield is filled with beautiful HD sprites. While the characters themselves look great, they don’t stand out much in terms of animation. Until somebody attacks. Whether initiated by friend or foe, attacks take the skirmish off-screen.
Rather than depicting a single 1 v 1 brawl, the game fills the screen with the attacking character and their allies. At full health, the Player Characters and CPU will feature at least ten units. As health diminishes, so is the number of allies on each side. While such attack animations do admittedly look more like something found in a mobile game, there’s something absolutely charming about them.
In with the Old, In with the New
As with design, the games’ sound is also something of a Player’s Choice. Langrisser I&II include the option for newly remastered tracks as well as the original 90s. While the song selections are the same, their sounds vary quite a bit. As with any retro title, the original music is a nostalgia trip even for the newest fan. The remastered music does a commendable job of reimagining the feel of the classics. Each song sounds like a “remix” one would expect to find in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, assuming Marth’s rivals were to ever receive an invite. Ultimately, the music selection made will likely depend on the design choices. Whilst the remasters better match the upgraded art styles, the original OST is a must for those supporting the “Master of Breasts.”
It should be said that Langrisser I&II only include the games’ Japanese audio. As it is common for NIS America titles to include both a sub and dub, this is important to note. This shouldn’t dissuade even the purest of dub fans, however. As classic tactical RPGs, the games are heavy on strategy and short on story. Chapters each begin with spoken narrative. Friend and foe alike yell cries of battle as they attack. If even that is too much Japanese tongue for certain American stomachs to handle, there’s also always the option to mute the voice audio altogether.
Overall this release of Langrisser I&II is a great introduction to the series. For existing fans, it is a way to celebrate the series’ humble beginnings. In terms of tactical gameplay, Langrisser I&II is a return to form for the series. The option of original and remastered audiovisual, Langrisser I&II will please any generation of gamers. Now let’s talk about a possible Langrisser III&IV remaster…
HEY! HEY!! LISTEN!!! gives Langrisser I&II 8.9 mercenaries out of 10.