Langrisser was first introduced back in ‘91. That’s almost 29 years ago. Man, my back hurt writing that. Creaky bones aside, this franchise always eluded me. Sure, I heard of it growing up, but I was never interested enough to check it out. The story remained the same with each subsequent entry. Eventually, it fell from my radar completely. That is until last year. In 2019, Langrisser Mobile was unleashed into the world. User reviews trashed it, calling it an abomination. Needless to say, this didn’t help to endear it to me. Then, I heard NIS America were remaking it. Let’s put it this way, I wasn’t exactly tripping over myself to request it. As I learned more though, I slowly turned a corner. It was clear Langrisser Mobile didn’t do the franchise any favors, and I should give it a fair shake.
Now, here I am, about 29 years from the initial release, playing not only one but two of the Langrisser JRPG titles featured in this bundle. As John Cena would say, ya-ba-do, my time is now.
We start up Langrisser I. The castle is under siege. Your father and yourself – Prince Ledin – are surrounded from all sides. With only a concern for your safety, your father demands you escape. After much hesitation, you reluctantly give in, hoping for the best. However, as you’ll later learn, the King has died. Your father is gone. Full of a want for revenge, you lead an assault on the enemy. On the Dalsis Empire. Your goal is to bring peace to Baltea. How will your story end?
We move onto the next game – Langrisser II. As Elwin, you’re in a village during an invasion. Seems that there’s an army looking for something. For a girl. As you play, you’ll visit many locales, trying to learn why she’s so valuable.
Unfortunately, the story in Langrisser II branches off fairly quickly. As such, I’ve chosen to keep the synopsis brief.
My first impression of Langrisser’s story was meh. It’s filled with clichés. All the typical tropes you’d expect from a JRPG. The kingdom‘s been ravaged. Demons are threatening the world. It’s like comfort food, and good versus evil is on the menu. Wouldn’t be until the first branch for any intrigues to perk. Not right away, mind you. I’m not that easy. I wasn’t going to be swept off my feet by a single deviation from the main plot. Then, I saw the second branch. My blood began pumping by this point. Oh, there’s another. You‘ve my attention now.
I know this is nothing new. Several games have done multiple endings. However, one issue with that is the variation. They lack that. The good, bad, and the ugly have minimal differences. You’d come face-to-face with that vital decision. One that determines how the story finishes. Then afterward, the ball‘s dropped. They’ll all continue on identical paths that hit the same beats until that pivotal moment. The last act. This is where Langrisser makes a statement. Every “what if” scenario ends in a distinct way. The journey is fully fleshed, and equally unique. You get to experience precisely the effect your judgment call had.
Did you murder a unique portrait soldier? Let’s explore the affect on his allies and their response.
Did you rescue that woman being tracked down? Hopefully, that wasn’t a bad idea.
While I loved this, there was fear it would become predictable. That to get a good end, just make moral choices. Well, I’m a big dumb-dumb. Without spoilers, I made – what I thought – was the right move. I never expected that later on, it would bite me in the ass. That twist was able to calm any dread I had. Langrisser was anything but predictable.
One aspect I especially enjoyed was the fearlessness to delve into dark subject matter. Plot armor was null. If your death benefited the narrative, you’re dying. As an author, I absolutely love this. It’s a philosophy I try to follow with my books. My only gripe is it’s never taken to extreme levels. Langrisser plays it safe, taking a lighter approach. I felt characters could’ve emoted more. That more grit could’ve been added. At the end of the day, however, it still had an effect. If I did something awful, I was remorseful.
It’s as they say, you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself be the villain.
I encountered one of two hiccups. It was never anything game-breaking. I still enjoyed my time immensely. The blunders did typically occur while casting certain magical spells. Most notably was with the usage of “Frostbite”. With each one, the game struggled. Frames dropped, but never below the two digit mark. And it only lasted a second. So, nothing substantial, but it’s there.
With each trailer released, controversy grew. Criticisms focused on Langrisser’s graphical integrity. Most pointed to how it resembled a mobile game. It’s a fair assertion, honestly. When you compare it to Fire Emblem Heroes, there’s a case. However, I personally liken it to another title.
Back on the 3DS, Square-Enix released a rhythm game aptly called Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. Comparing the two styles, the similarities are just as evident. That robotic movement. The appearance of character models. Even the beady, little eyes. Those soulless, void-like, beady, little eyes. Quite the coincidence that the main protagonists are red heads, eh?
Question is, do I love it?
Honestly, I’m indifferent. In general, I’m not the biggest fan of the aesthetic. I don’t think it’s ugly, but you’ll also not hear me sing it’s praises. I do, however, understand the rationale behind this choice. At least, I think. Battles are fast and furious. If models were massively detailed, you’d sacrifice stability. I think this simplistic look was to maintain that. I do feel there are better options that would achieve very much the same thing. Pixel-art immediately jumps to mind. It’s classic, it can be beautiful, and it’ll never test the Nintendo Switch.
Environmentally, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Homes and their interiors reminded me of JRPG’s I use to enjoy in my youth. I loved the small details. The tiny chests. The furniture even. The shrubberies that were lined against the wall outside felt full. In contrast, the maps of purely field were bland. They were in need of more color. The castle architecture was also generic.
It’s worth noting there will be retro packs. This’ll allow you to alter select things to match the olden style. Could be that old style charm helps with my complaints.
Langrisser is, by all accounts, the love child of Fire Emblem and Advanced Wars. Like the latter, each individual sprite represents numerous units. Each time you enter combat, your battalion will likely shrink as damage is dealt. In other words, a fully healthy unit might embody twenty fighters. After executing an assault, you’re left with sixteen. That loss will then reflect in the damage you inflict. When boiled down, lesser manpower equals lesser devastation. It kept me on my toes as I’d carefully select which units would attack based on how many remained within. Do keep in mind that a variation of the weapon triangle does exist. It was never outwardly pointed to, but symbols will appear before initiating combat. Either an upwards arrow, a downwards arrow, or a scale to show balance/neutral.
The Fire Emblem DNA stems from the class promotion system. It’s robust. Each new class unlocks spells or passive skills. These then carry over as you either promote further or demote back to a weaker class. Thankfully, I’m that weirdo that loves to grind. Something about numbers increasing. It excites me. Do keep in mind that in order to go back to a level, it’ll lock you into it until beaten again.
I suck at explaining. Redo.
In other words, if you’re on Chapter five, you can return to four, but must complete it to get back to five. What’s cool is all your progress – even equipment purchased from late-game – goes with you. Makes the grind easier. With each level, you’ll earn a total of 5 points to allocate. There’s also an MVP rank that’s given to the character with most kills. Essentially, you’re being rewarded for becoming a serial killer. Remember, this is just a game.
Oh, and I saved the best for last, I think anyway. Langrisser has a commander mechanic. Basically, you’re able to hire mercenaries specific to each main character. You’re now their leader. As such, these AI are bonded to you. So, if you opt to have them automatically move, they’ll always chase. I like to think of it as a hardcore version of follow the leader where people die.
Langrisser does have voice acting, but it’s only in Japanese. As someone that prefers dub – please don’t murder me – I didn’t mind this. I normally find the Japanese voices in JRPG’s are okay. Nothing too special. To me, the female voices can occasionally sound screechy. While the male voices don’t always match up to the implied emotion. This is probably my most controversial paragraph ever.
Langrisser is an extremely fun, engaging adventure. The way the story branches into fully fleshed out detours is such a breath of fresh air. I’m tired of games with multiple endings not investing much effort in making each route unique. While the music was alright, I really enjoyed the Japanese voice-over. Weird for me, the dub guy. The actual gameplay is very fun, and the marriage of Fire Emblem and Advanced Wars feels destined. The battles do feel overwhelming at first. Lord knows I panicked. However, with the genius “commander” mechanic, it really isn’t. The inclusion of mercenaries also adds that extra layer of strategy. More of which unlock as you change classes.
Langrisser has gotten a lot of criticism for its visuals. It’s robotic. While I would‘ve loved to see pixel-art, I don’t find the aesthetic hurt my experience. And to be frank, I didn’t notice it after a while. The frame rate is mostly stable, unless casting magical spells. On the bright side, you’re able to relish in the death you bring. It will also solve within a second or two. Quick and painless. The illustrations are lovely, and the banter is fun. All in all, I feel like this is well deserved;
LANGRISSER I & II IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Langrisser I & II can be bought digitally on Humble Bundle or Steam for PC. It can also be bought digitally for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch from their respective console stores or physically at retailers. Purchases made via Humble links earn a small commission which again goes to help supporting domain and server costs.
Many thanks to NIS America for the review copy.
If you enjoy these type of games, how about checking out some of other JRPG reviews?
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Painfully single, but still somehow a master of dad jokes. If asked, he’ll answer it’s for his inner child. Fabio enjoys JRPG’s and has embraced his anime love.