By: Matthew Striplen
The decades old Langrisser series finally reaches the west for the first time since 1991. It’s a classic tale, full of knights, magic and demons. It has all the makings of a solid game, but sadly, Langrisser Re Incarnation -Tensei- has a few too many flaws to overlook.
As a tactical RPG, the controls don’t need to be particularly complex. Characters and commands are given by simply pointing and clicking. The menus and commands are typically laid out in a very accessible format. The only quirk is that the traditional A and B button set up is reversed, meaning that the B button confirms decisions and the A button cancels them. Once you get used to it, it doesn’t really affect gameplay.
Unfortunately, the graphics department is one of Langrisser‘s weakest areas. Almost everything looks like it could’ve been rendered on the Game Boy Advance, and just to clarify, this is not a retro style game. Messy sprites with drab, blurry scenery are not acceptable on a console that’s capable of so much more.
Also, there are tons of brief cut scenes to depict individual battles. Although these are rendered with 3D models, the quality remains very poor. The “super deformed” characters run up to each other, perform a short attack animation, which doesn’t even strike the opponent, then flinch or fall over.
On the other hand, the music fares quite well. Although it doesn’t feature live instruments, the sweeping orchestral score sets the scene for an epic adventure. The voice acting is only in Japanese, and it’s also partial.
As noted earlier, Langrisser seems like it should be a great game, yet many features that typically come standard in tactical RPG’s are conspicuously absent.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the mercenary system. Each named character commands mercenaries, the number of which depends on the unit type and the commander’s level. These soldiers play an invaluable role, since there are very few negative repercussions for their death in battle, and their commander accrues the experience from any enemies they defeat.
However, when it comes time to hire them before a battle, it’s impossible to see the mercenary’s level. The only way to see which unit of the same class is stronger is to check the price, but specific statistics are not provided.
Another hallmark feature of RPGs is character customization. Langrisser has an item shop, but you can’t see the stats of any item until after it’s purchased. Again, the player is left to guess at the item’s power based on its price. Although items can be resold after acquiring them, they are only worth a fraction of their original price. This discourages upgrading your commanders since the player will usually be forced to waste lots of money.
Like many other tactical RPGs, Langrisser has a system to measure relationships with your subordinates. Increasing your bonds involve answering your comrade in a way that they like. However, the game only says “Maybe something good will happen!” as a result. This never becomes clear, even on the battlefield.
Units with stronger relationships perform better when near one another, but the stats are never explained. Also, the relationship levels seem a bit odd. New comrades start out as an “acquaintance,” which then progresses to “interested in,” “infatuated,” “fond of” etc. Infatuated is quite a strong word, so it is surprising to see that “fond of” is a higher level. Also, these levels don’t denote any romantic interest, despite the word choice.
Once the players reach the battlefield, problems continue to arise. One of the biggest issues is the inability to save mid-battle. This is very frustrating since this means if your 3DS is low on power, or if you need turn off your system, all progress will be lost.
Battles take progressively longer to complete as the game continues. The huge maps coupled with the massive amount of combatants mean that a single turn can sometimes lasts longer than five minutes. Also, each individual fight has a brief cut scene, which adds little to the overall experience. Thankfully, these can be deactivated, which I did after finishing my first mission.
Enemy combatants also sport some rather questionable AI. If no friendly units are close to the enemy, most of the time the enemy will simply do nothing. Before engaging in individual fights, the player is shown a prediction of how the battle will play out.
These are very accurate and often shape the flow of the entire skirmish. However, enemy units will routinely attack friendly troops under unfavorable conditions, resulting in heavy damage or defeat for the AI. This happens regardless of the game’s overall difficulty setting.
Another problem comes in the form of balancing your army’s strength. Depending on how the battle progresses, certain units gain more experience than others, which leads to the strong units getting stronger and the weaker ones staying weak.
Unfortunately, there is no way to remedy this issue except for forcing the weak units to fight more opponents. If you wait too long to strengthen them, using them at all will result in their deaths.
One of the better parts to Langrisser is its branching storyline. The game will occasionally place important decisions in front of the player, and how you choose affects which comrades you control and the main story. These decisions also determine which enemies you face and may create more enemies than anticipated. These choices encourage some replay value.
Langrisser Re:Incarnation -Tensei- feels like an unfinished game. The key missing features and poor graphics are a constant annoyance and take the player out of the experience. Even if you’re a fan of the franchise or genre, I would still advise skipping this game.