The turn-based strategy genre has been quite popular on the Switch thanks to great games like Wargroove, Disgaea and the new Fire Emblem, so much so that other companies are looking to bring a few more strategy games to Nintendo’s console hybrid. This week it is time for Langrisser I and II to come back from the past and conquer our gaming hearts.
Released in 1991 on Megadrive, about a year after the first Fire Emblem, Langrisser is also one of the venerable licenses of this golden age of tactical RPG’s on consoles. Although it is not the best known series, it did not fail to make its contribution to the genre, and it was entitled to numerous follow-ups. In this case, Langrisser I & II is not just a remaster, we are clearly more in the remake of the first 2 games of a long series, similar to what Capcom did with Resident Evil 2 for example. NIS didn’t just added a new coat of paint as we will see.
Little history lesson to start. At first glance, Langrisser looks a lot like Fire Emblem, with combat mechanics and a similar story. Start the game as a prince who must flee the castle during an attack on the empire, before recruiting allies and then defeating it, then having to kill the real bad guys hidden in the shade who try to bring back to life an ancient evil is classic in every sense of the word. The game pushes to the point of making the sacred sword Langrisser the focal point of the story, which probably has nothing to do with a certain emblem of fire! You therefore use different types of units on a map cut by a grid, with bonuses or penalties.
At the moment, we are still in the middle of explaining Fire Emblem. It differs on the other hand with the unlocking and the progression of the classes, as well as with its animations of combat rather in the line of Advance Wars if that can help you to visualize the thing. The real difference lies in the management of the troops, your heroes are commanders on the ground, and at the beginning of each battle, you can choose to pay gold in order to recruit mercenaries. You can choose their number and type according to the circumstances. Need to quickly cross the map? Recruit riders! Are you going to face air units? Hire archers with pointy ears. It is really not optional at the start, even if you may be tempted to save your gold. We can in any case choose to play our heroes in support or offensively. And when the battles progress, we can end up with more than 30 units in total who will have to face a real army on the front. We are here far from the skirmishes of other tacticals. Large scrums can cover the screen and extend over dozens of laps. It’s nice that the game allows us to automate the mercenaries, who automatically follow our heroes when they travel, unless you give them a specific order. This is surprising at first, but it is actually very well thought out.
The enemy AI is not really good at using its troops, however. It is generally easy to use your troops to tank the enemy army while taking the time to kill the soldiers one by one before killing their commander, in order to optimize the experience. On the contrary, killing their commander directly is a little less profitable, but all his troops will then disappear. The problem is that by using this tactic, the difficulty becomes too often trivial, and our only real adversary is our greed, especially in the absence of permanent death. Suggesting difficulty modes would have been a good idea.
The missions become more interesting and generally more difficult in Langrisser II, but they are not insurmountable, especially since it is possible to repeat them in a loop to farm experience, gold and CP used to unlock the classes. Regulars of the genre should not be bored, but it clearly lacks a challenge, especially when we go back to unlock a new road in history and discover a new ending. The system is badly designed, and you have to juggle between the backups made in the right place, and you have to fight certain battles in a slightly different way.
As for the technical aspect of the remake, we must admit that the original game is unrecognizable. The summary graphics and the original title soundtrack on Megadrive were not really reusable. The characters, dialogues, story and gameplay have been replicated with a brand new graphics engine, with new translations and a new soundtrack. Let us note in passing that the latter is much too reduced, and one has the impression of hearing only the same 2 or 3 songs in loop on Langrisser I, even if once again, things are improving on the second opus. Although it often lacks options, the interface is clear, modern and efficient and a great step up from all those years ago.
As you can see in the trailer down below, an interesting element of Langrisser I & II is that it offers the choice between character models that seem straight out of a 90s anime, with style and a very particular charm, specific to this era, or so, a more modern and generic style similar to that which one can come across in hundreds of games on mobile. We don’t hide our preferences, but it’s good that there are options. This can also apply to the terrain, with a more sober and pixelated version, or a modern version. The dialogues have been fully dubbed as a bonus, with an English and Japanese version.
Although it has a new look and offers a comfortable experience, Langrisser I & II also carries the burden of the original games, which it does not always move away from enough. Some elements are badly thought out, or taken from another era, this also lacks surprises as well as difficulty. The soundtrack and modern design would probably have deserved a little more effort too. It is nevertheless saved by its gameplay quickly taken in hand and which manages to stand out from the competition. It is also a good opportunity to discover the Langrisser saga, which many had missed.
Langrisser I & II are good remakes that can cater to a new audience, although the games could have used multiple difficulty settings.