The Langrisser I & II bundle is coming soon for Playstation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch and features remakes of two iconic examples in the tactical RPG genre. We played the Switch version.
For me, the Langrisser series has always been one of those “heard a lot about them, never got to play them” names in gaming. Part of that is due to its Sega 16-bit origins as I didn’t own that console at the time, but an even bigger reason is that many of the games in the franchise were never released outside of their home country of Japan. This new release by NIS America changes a lot of that by bringing out a multi-platform release that starts at the very beginning of the series.
The Langrisser games take place inside a fantasy setting with medieval elements, with a lot of campaign content consisting of tactical battles – many of which feature a lot more units on the battlefield than other tactical RPGs (like Disgaea) have. This makes both games battle-heavy, which might makes the games less interesting to those who have a lot of affinity with the narrative side of RPGs.
Langrisser II addresses this somewhat, with a more non-linear campaign and multiple endings to uncover. It’s impressive in scope, especially when you consider that the series started almost 30 years ago and these games initially fit on a Sega Mega Drive cartridge. The writing never lives up to some of the classic RPG games we know and love today though, so the emphasis on tactical battles is what you should be looking at.
What’s cool about this particular release is that you can play the games either in their full 16-bit glory (which relates to both the visuals and the music) or in their remastered state – with polished visuals and an excellent new soundtrack. The biggest visual update lies with the visual novel-style interludes and the art used there, as the core gameplay retains much of its square/grid-shaped retro charm with little sprites doing battle with each other. The music received the biggest upgrade, with a full orchestral soundtrack now backing up the gameplay.
In terms of gameplay, both Langrisser games are quite similar despite the more open-ended structure of the second game. In both games, resource management is extremely important and can be the key to success or defeat in battle. You can hire extra mercenary help ahead of a battle, or you can pocket the money and invest it in your core group of commanders and make them stronger. Too much of the latter might leave them exposed on the battlefield, too little and they end up being underdeveloped even though they survive a lot of conflicts thanks to your hired help.
Balancing these needs is a constant challenge, but this new release of the first two Langrisser games does feature a quality of life option that gives you a good amount of extra resources to start with. Consider it an ‘easy’ setting or a built-in cheat code, but at least it allows players to not worry about resource management as much and experiment a bit more with the battle dynamics.
Battles play out in phases/turns and units work in similar ways to what we now see in games like Total War – units do great against certain adversaries, but poorly against others. You generally want to position your commanders so that they stay safe, and let the brunt of the work be done by the far more expendable mercenaries, but this can be a challenge when there are more than a few dozen units on the map. This is the charm of Langrisser, further strengthened by surprising turns of events that can happen mid-battle – things like a third party suddenly getting involved.
With a lack of an engaging story these two Langrisser games aren’t going to be at the top of my best RPGs ever list, but they’re excellent examples of games that were released well over 25 years ago and held up well. In terms of tactical combat, they might even be considered to have been ahead of their time, so it’s great to play a piece of gaming history now that they’ve been re-localized and re-released.