GAME REVIEWS

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Langrisser

~ LANGRISSER ~
NCS/Masaya
Super CD-ROM
1993

I've never gotten along well with strategy-based titles, and I tend to leave them rotting away in my games-to-get-around-to queue. So while I'm typically gung ho for NCS/Masaya products, I'd owned Langrisser for years before I even bothered to play past its first few boards. My innate dislike for the genre was the main reason I'd kept my distance, but the poor cinemas had also proven to be a deterrent: the characters are frequently depicted in awkward, unflattering ways, which is a shame, as the designs themselves are fantastic.



And when participating in a "tactical" affair, I prefer the sci-fi stylings of a Military Madness to the swords-and-shields stuff found here.



Of course, it didn't help matters any that I wasn't exactly giving it my all during those early sessions. I was advancing through the stages but often by taking the quickest, most cowardly route possible, reaping meager gains in experience. I eventually decided to sit down and give the game a serious play (gotta get these damn strategy things out of the way at some point or another), and I actually did get some enjoyment out of it... for a while.


The main problem was that once I'd bothered to learn the ins and outs of the gameplay, I discovered that there simply isn't much substance to it. Actual medieval warfare tactics don't really play any part in this experience. You usually just move your little pods around, find an advantageous piece of terrain to occupy, bump into opposing units, and have at it.


Sure, Military Madness, which I definitely consider to be a superior strategy game, could be described in the same manner. But MM has so many more potential battlefield matchups than Langrisser does. Masaya's effort is basically built on a soldier-horseman-archer system that feels an awful lot like rock-paper-scissors after a while. Yes, you eventually have to deal with beasts such as wyverns and basilisks, and you can ultimately recruit slightly more interesting troops like griffin-riding warriors, but battles feel much the same as one another regardless of who's participating in them. The strategy here involves rudimentary tactics like luring mermen onto land and watching them charge forward like moths to a flame. By the time the interesting creatures show up, your mighty commanders are capable of steamrolling just about anything that may come their way.



The lack of depth really made the game drag on for me, but even during its first few levels, before the repetition and simplicity truly started to bother me, there were problems. Rather than having to think of ways to defeat the opposing army, I found myself concentrating on battering my enemies to the point where the weakest of my allies could deliver the finishing blows and earn some experience. Now, it's certainly fun to have weak-sauce pals sneak away with level-ups that they didn't really earn, but the gameplay shouldn't be weighted like that. Defeating my enemies should be my main concern (at least it should be by some early point), not maneuvering around to pull off experience-grabbing hijinks.


Still, if you're into old-school strategy games of this nature, you'll probably like this one. The music is very good, though you may grow tired of the small batch of in-game tunes (which I did right around the point when the gameplay deficiencies really became evident, marking the beginning of the decline in enjoyment). The battles, during which the participating combatants just kinda smash into each other, are handled quickly and are strangely amusing. And it can be fun to choose new classes and earn new powers as your characters rise through the experience ranks (although choices are ultimately pretty limited). Also, the language barrier shouldn't be considered significant, especially since there are decent (if not completely applicable) Warsong guides available.

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