Thursday, May 5, 2016

Langrisser Re: Incarnation -TENSEI- (3DS) Review

Sadly, I had not heard of the Langrisser series until a few years ago.  I understand why, since only one title was localized in the US, it was renamed Warsong, and was on the Sega Genesis.  Back then, I was a Nintendo fanboy (wow how the times change!), and didn't play a whole lot of Genesis games.  Many years later I sought to buy one and get a few of the gems that I liked or wanted to play, and Warsong was toward the top of that list.  Now, the latest entry, Langrisser Re: Incarnation -TENSEI- has come to the West on the 3DS, courtesy of Aksys Games.

After watching the nice intro movie, I started the game and was then faced with a questionnaire.  Hmmm.  Well, it helps to determine your starting class and your stats...I think.  I'm not fully sure.  While these are fun to do, I still prefer to just set the stuff directly, or at least would like to know what each answer affects.

I also quickly learned that the buttons are switched from "normal" Nintendo controls, and were more in-line with western Playstation or Xbox buttons.  Meaning the bottom button, (B in this case) was accept and the A Button was cancel.  It's not a big deal to switch over, but since I was previously playing a game that uses the more traditional Nintendo button layout, it took me a bit to keep it straight.

Langrisser is a strategy RPG with grid-based battles.  While most SRPGs have individual v individual combat, it is more focused on army v army.  This is accomplished by having commander units and mercenary units.  Your actual characters are the commanders, and for each battle you can spend points to give them some mercenaries (referred to here as "mercs").  Mercs have lower stats, but gain a significant bonus if they are within range of their assigned commander (this can make them stronger than the commander unit).  Therefore, while they are separate units, you will want to move them almost as one.  It definitely makes for some interesting battles, since enemies also follow this system.

If a commander is killed, any mercs assigned to them die too.  Well, since they are hired, it might be seen as running away, but there is a large explosion that claims them all, so I'm sure they just magically die.  You won't get any experience for mercs killed this way.  Therefore you have to make the decision to kill them one by one for the boost in rewards, or go for the quick kill.  Since there is no way to grind in the game, you are often better off if you go for the mercs before the commander, and try to have your mercs get the killing blows (they pass all exp to the commander).  However, there are times you might want to just cut the head off the snake, as it were.

Every unit starts the battle with the max HP of 10.  If you lose a unit, you will be out any points that it cost to hire them at the end of the battle.  Beyond that, there isn't really any penalty for getting a unit killed, which is nice.  Well, other than a character falling behind in levels, which can be very difficult to make up.  Since you don't reclaim points for any destroyed units, I would think it is possible to run low enough on points to make it much harder to proceed.  I didn't have this problem, so I don't know if it could actually happen, but it seems possible.  Before you confirm your attack, it shows about how effective your attack will be.  They range from Overwhelm - Advantage - Normal - Disadvantage - Danger (best to worst).  These aren't the best indicators of how much damage you will do, but at least it will let you know if you shouldn't attack at all.

In an interesting twist, character order is set by character class.  Healers go first, which is very nice.  Units that have large move ranges, such as cavalry, move later in the turn.  At first I wasn't keen on it, but it didn't hinder me as much as I thought it would.  It was a nice change of pace once I got used to it.  Once you start getting more and more mercs for your commanders, battlefields can become cluttered.  There are many choke points on the various maps, so you have to be careful of crowding.  It's also not very easy to tell your units apart if you have multiple of the same merc types, since they will have the same graphic.

However, while healers and mages tend to move earlier in a turn, they are also handicapped by another system in the game.  Skills and magic can only be used if you don't move first.  Therefore, you cannot move up to a unit to heal it.  You also have to already be in range to use an offensive spell.  Offensive spells are also pretty weak.  While the second spell can hit a bigger area, it doesn't eclipse the damage you can do just by attacking.  Added together, mages are just really bad in the game.  Mercs will heal some HP if they are next to their commander at the start of the turn, and if a commander doesn't move they can use the "heal" command to restore 3 HP and some MP.  Meaning, clerics and other healers aren't very useful either.  At least they can do some good damage by attacking.

When you do an attack, the game switches to a battle view that shows your unit/troops attacking the enemy unit/troops.  They use the chibi art style of having a big head.  Here, the head is gigantic compared to the body, being several times larger.  Maybe it's so they can display more models on the screen?  Regardless, I don't like that style at all here, and turned it off.  Besides looking better, it was easier for me to track the damage done.

When any character hits level 10, they will get a class change.  Until the last change, you can choose from 2 different paths.  One will be the upgrade of whatever they already are, and the other is a different type.  Before you finalize your choice, it will show the stat changes and any skills gained, so you can make an informed decision.  Each class has a strength and weakness.  In practice, I didn't really notice this in-game.  I've had plenty of cavalry units beat lancers (which they are weak against) and other similar match-ups.  I'm glad that it isn't an absolute system, so units can defeat their weakness, but it feels like it isn't in use at all, which isn't good either.

Like many other SRPGs, the terrain you move on affects your movement.  For some reason, everywhere has at least a move -1.  Even so, it doesn't actually seem to lower my movement.  Some areas, like water, are move -2, but seem to hinder it even more.  I don't get it, as the whole system is inconsistent.  It's also different per unit type (flyers have very few restrictions).  Even if a tile is impassable, you can attack over it with an archer or mage.  Sadly, that doesn't really make mages any better.

Each story has 25 missions, and they take anywhere from 30-75 minutes each, especially the later battles that are multi-part.  It took me about 23 hours to get through the first run.  Battles were not hard at all, even when I lost the occasional character, until the last few of the game.  The final 3 or 4 battles  seemed to bump the difficulty up by a notch, mostly by making the enemy generals have high stats.  Also these battles would have a second or third wave of enemies appear after clearing out the initial batch.

At a few points in the game, you will have to make a choice on what path to take, leading to multiple endings and party configurations.  These branching paths give the game good replay value.  My biggest gripe is any choice is made in or after a battle, so you can't save before doing one.  Yuck.  You can also sort of romance the characters, which will unlock a special skill and give you a CG image.  Problem is, you can ostensibly get one per run.  In theory you would need to go through the game a lot to get this for all 28 characters!  There's also hidden items on some stages to give you reasons to poke around.  While it is still an insane amount of playthroughs needed for full completion (especially for an RPG), there is a new game+ once you beat the story.  Your characters will keep their levels and class choices, but you will lose your equipment.  Subsequent runs will be much easier, but not a whole lot faster.

Langrisser Re: Incarnation -TENSEI- was actually fun to play.  I had a pile of small and medium-sized problems with the game, though.  Type match-ups and terrain effects were inconsistent, and not allowing the player to save before a crucial choice is really annoying.  The game offers a lot of replay value though, with several branching paths and a new game+.

The Good:
Despite its faults, I thought the game was fun to play.  There are multiple paths through the game, giving good reasons to play through it multiple times.

The Bad:
The chibi art style used in the game, the inconsistency in battle rules, and having big story choices after lengthy battles.  Have I mentioned enough how much I didn't like those?

The SaHD:
So after one of the later battles, you can confess your love to one of the characters.  I picked the one I liked best, and she had the highest level of affection.  However, she then shot me down cold.  I'm not sure why.  So, I put her in the next battle and let her...uh, let's say...retreat.  I stopped using her for a few battles (I don't need her) and she became useless when I tried putting her back in.  See what she caused?  Also, wow some of the character endings during the credits are just cruel to the character.  I guess it's more realistic but seems a bit too over the top.

(Review code for Langrisser Re: Incarnation -TENSEI- was provided by the publisher)

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