NISA and Chara-Ani breathe new life into a pair of SRPG classics.
When you think of classic console strategy RPGs, games like Shining Force and Final Fantasy Tactics might be some of the first that spring to mind. However, while these are undoubtedly some of the most famous early examples of the genre, Masaya Games‘ Langrisser predates both. Released in the West as Warsong in 1991, it delivered an addicting fusion of grid-based tactical combat and engaging storytelling unlike anything seen before on the console. Add to that some striking character designs courtesy of Japanese illustrator Satoshi Urushihara and a pumping soundtrack by Noriyuki Iwadare, who went on to compose the melodies for Gley Lancer and the iconic Lunar: The Silver Star Story, and it’s no wonder why many fans today consider the game something of a cult classic for Sega’s 16-bit console.
While Warsong admittedly didn’t garner much recognition when it debuted in the West, the series thrived in Japan. Several sequels and remakes released throughout the 1990s on numerous platforms, including the Super Famicom, Saturn, PC Engine, and PC-FX, just to name a few. Unfortunately for English speaking fans of the series, Masaya never officially brought Warsong’s 1994 follow-up across the Pacific. That is, until now. Thanks to publisher NIS America and developer Chara-Ani, who’ve remastered and repackaged the two original games in one shiny new package with the aptly titled Langrisser I & II.
Marching For Glory
Whether you’re sealing away an ancient evil as Balthean prince Ledin in Langrisser 1 or forging alliances between the Descendants of Light, Rayguard Empire, and the Demon Tribe as the wandering swordsman Elwin in Langrisser II, you’re going to be spending the majority of your time on the battlefield. Thankfully, while the combat may not be as gripping as more recent examples of the genre (I’m looking at you, Fire Emblem: Three Houses) waging war in Langrisser I & II is still a satisfyingly cerebral experience.
If you’ve played a grid-based SRPG before, you should feel right at home here. When in battle, the hero and his party members can go it alone –which is rarely a sound strategy– or hire bands of mercenaries to fight alongside them. These soldiers of fortune consist of your usual classes like knights, pikemen, swordsmen, and magic users. However, as you progress through the story, you’ll gain access to more unique types like skeletal beasts, harpies that can soar over even the harshest landscapes, and mermen who can easily navigate deep water, just to name a few.
As they rack up kills, your generals will level up and gain CP. CP is used to unlock new jobs, mercenary types, and skills to employ on the battlefield. Knowing which special abilities to use and mercenaries to hire for any given mission is imperative. The computer’s AI is quite aggressive and systematically pick off your troops if you’re not careful. Keeping this in mind, you’ll need to ensure your generals are well protected because when one dies, all of their mercenaries perish with them. And when your hero falls, well, that’s all she wrote.
That’s not to say Langrisser 1 & 2 are too challenging to complete. Still, you’ll quickly learn the importance of striking a balance between buying the newest weapons and armor and saving enough money to hire the best mercenaries for the job. It’s a good thing that developer Chara-Ani has added the ability to replay past missions, which helps when you need to score some extra gold to fund the war effort.
When it comes to its presentation, Langrisser I & II leaves a bit to be desired. The games’ super-deformed 16-bit sprites were never especially impressive, but at least they had personality – a trait that’s severely lacking here. All of the characters have a very Flash-esque look to them similar to those of Langrisser Mobile, a free-to-play mobile game for iOS and Android devices. When you consider the game’s $50 price tag, it’s disappointing Chara-Ani didn’t put a bit more effort into crafting more exciting character sprites. The chibified grunts and cartoony demons stick out like a sore thumb when contrasted with the gorgeously drawn character portraits.
Speaking of the character portraits, Langrisser I & II now features new art by Ar Tonelico and DoDonPachi artist Ryo Nagi. And you know what? I like them just fine. Nagi’s illustrations do a great job of breathing some modern style into each game’s colorful cast of characters. However, fans of Satoshi Urushihara’s original character designs need not fret. You can switch back and forth between both the classic and original character portraits from the options menu. But it’s worth noting that playing with the original style will prevent you from enjoying the gorgeous new cinematic scenes. Lastly, you can choose between either the 16-bit or redrawn map graphics. But again, without the ability to play with the original style sprites, the characters clash in an unappealing way against the lo-fi retro style backgrounds.
While the visuals are a mixed bag, Langrisser I & II sounds spectacular. Composer Noriyuki Iwadare’s remastered compositions are stellar, and help get your adrenaline pumping for each battle. From the funky tune that accompanies the setup screen for each encounter to the face-melting war anthems that blare as you face off against the game’s biggest baddies, the music fits every scene like a well-worn gauntlet. But again, if you don’t feel like experiencing the soundtrack in all of its fully arranged glory, you can simply switch to the original FM tunes in the options menu and party like it’s 1994. The choice is yours. Lastly, both games feature tons of voiced Japanese dialogue. None of the performances are exceptionally breathtaking, mind you, but they manage to get the job done.
War Never Changes
Even though I have to admit that I’m not crazy about some of the changes implemented by Chara-Ani, these complaints are almost entirely cosmetic. When all is said and done, these decisions don’t do anything to take away from what remains an exceptional pair of SRPGs. And when it comes to content, there’s no denying Langrisser I & II delivers lots of bang for your gaming buck. It’ll take you roughly 40 hours to play through both of the games featured in this collection. Additionally, with Langrisser II’s branching story and a New Game+ Mode that unlocks after completing each game’s campaign, there’s plenty of reason to come back for more after the credits roll.
If you’re a Warsong fan who’s been patiently waiting for more than 25 years to experience both of the games in the 16-bit saga, adding this bundle to your collection is a no-brainer. Likewise, if you’ve already had your fill of Fire Emblem: Three Houses and are looking for more grid-based goodness, Langrisser I & II will certainly scratch that itch.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch & PS4 (reviewed), PC; Publisher: NIS America; Developer: Chara-Ani; Players: 1; Released: March 10, 2019; MSRP: $49.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on Switch and PS4 code provided by the publisher.