"I found Langrisser I & II’s battles to be an invigorating challenge, and I ended up ultimately having fun with them once I figured out the appropriate tactics for each individual fight scenario."
I'm not overly familiar with the Langrisser SRPG series, having never played any of the games that were localized previously. My curiosity for Langrisser was piqued largely due to the cosmetic similarities the series holds to another strangely titled SRPG series that I happen to adore called Growlanser: thus, I decided to give the Langrisser I & II remake compilation on the Nintendo Switch a try. Ultimately, I found the experience to be both challenging and rewarding.
Langrisser I tells the story of Ledin, a prince who survives an attack on his country. His quest to put a stop to the empire that started the war and reclaim his throne ends up becoming a battle against the forces of darkness. Naturally, those forces can only be subdued using the power of the legendary holy blade Langrisser.
Langrisser II is the story of a young man named Elwin who travels the countryside. Elwin and his friend Hein are drawn into conflict with the powerful Rayguard Empire when they put a stop to the empire's attempted abduction of Liana, the Priestess of Light. The Rayguard Empire wishes to use both the sacred blade of light, Langrisser, and the cursed blade of darkness, Alhazard, to completely subjugate the world and enforce peace through the use of sheer power. As a Descendant of Light, young Elwin is the only one who can truly harness Langrisser and halt their ambitions.
Both games' plots are something gamers have no doubt heard before, but there's a certain old-school charm to their presentations that I enjoyed. I particularly liked Langrisser II from a plot and character stance, though certain characters in Langrisser I such as Narm and the surprisingly complex Lance stood out as well. Again, the characters aren't the most original, but they're likable enough that you probably won't hate them as you progress through their tales.
Speaking of tales, there are many to be found here! What I found to be the most impressive thing about these Langrisser games was the varying story routes that are available as you play. Depending upon player actions in battle, the outcome of fights (such as whether certain characters survive or not), and decisions made over the course of the story, you'll set Ledin, Elwin, and their comrades down certain narrative paths. There are a wealth of different branching points in both Langrisser titles, adding an extra layer of replayability to the mix. Even things such as confessing romantic feelings to a character in Langrisser II, for instance, will have plot and ending significance.
Given the various routes the stories can take, both Langrisser games come with a story map for players to peruse. The story map helps gamers see the direction their given playthrough is going, and even clearly labels the specific events or choices that helped make that route happen. Players also have the option to use the story map to once again play battles they have already fought with their carried over levels and abilities, offering the opportunity to forge a different outcome for that particular fight if they so choose. Upon completing a route in either game, players are given the option of creating a Clear Save File that allows them to restart that particular Langrisser title from the beginning with their levels, money, and skills intact, adding yet another replay option.
Both games in this compilation are worth checking out. Langrisser I rapidly throws players into the deep end of the game's battle system without much explanation, and I had to figure a lot of things out through trial and error as a result. This is a bit different from Langrisser II, which did try to offer something resembling tutorials. However, because not much changes between the two games as far as gameplay is concerned, you already have an idea of what to expect from the sequel by the time you reach it. I'd definitely recommend playing Langrisser I first. Langrisser II is a more fleshed out experience overall and the stronger game, though Langrisser I is enjoyable in its own right. Ultimately, I think you appreciate both games more by playing them in numerical order.
As you could probably surmise, battles are the main meat and potatoes of Langrisser I & II, and you'll no doubt have a bit of familiarity with the battle system if you've played SRPGs such as the older Fire Emblem titles. The key difference in Langrisser I & II is the use of mercenary units, characters recruited to fight in battles under a Commander character as the player uses funds to pay for their services. Each Commander has access to a certain number of mercenary units and types of mercenaries depending on their chosen job class, ranging from Elven Archers to Aquatic Lizardmen and Flying Gryphons. The differing types of mercenaries all have specific strengths and weaknesses to keep in mind when choosing who to bring along to battle.
Because funding is limited in the game, careful thought is put into the usage of the mercenary units. Can you get away with a cheaper variation for this particular fight? Does Chris really need all four of her Elves or can she survive with only two? The placement of mercenaries adds a surprising level of nuance, especially since they get bonuses such as healing a portion of their health if they’re beside their Commander. Only Commanders gain experience through destroying an enemy unit even if it is a mercenary who does the killing blow; targeting opposing Commanders is always a viable strategy for thinning out enemy numbers quickly, as destroying them will in turn get rid of their mercenary units.
On the other hand, that also means players will want to keep their Commanders in safer positions when possible to avoid the enemy doing the same to their forces. This had me being overly cautious in my playthrough of Langrisser I with Ledin, since his defeat would usually mean a battle was lost, making him sorely underleveled compared to my other Commanders for a majority of fights. Fortunately, I was able to remedy that particular tactical flaw of mine with a few strategic victories against higher level opponents as the campaign progressed. By the time I played Langrisser II, I was more confident in putting Elwin on the front lines since I was used to Langrisser's battles by then.
Players can switch Commander job classes once they accrue enough CP (Class Points) to do so, granting those characters better stats and more powerful abilities and magic. Changing job classes also gives you access to more mercenary units, with higher leveled and more expensive ones becoming available with the more advanced job classes. The type of mercenaries used in the field depends largely on playstyle preference. For example, I often went with the heavily armored Phalanx troops to protect my mage characters instead of the squishier archers or monks they could also use. Langrisser I & II offers a lot of tactical variety when players consider the utilization of mercenary units out on the field, and I found that experimenting with them was rather fun and made combat more engaging. However, because so many different units could be placed in fights, I often found that battles would drag on, even when I was trying to finish them quickly by focusing only on enemy Commanders. I found that a typical battle length was about an hour or so, at least based on my playstyle.
Not only do mercenary units offer some level of strategy, but unit placement on the maps can also be viewed tactically. My approach to a battle altered significantly from one fight to the next depending on enemy placement and ease of travel from one area of the map to the next. Objectives also differed quite a bit depending on the battle, and that would alter my approach to certain fights. Enemy or ally reinforcements would often show up in the middle of scenarios too, effectively causing my strategies to shift quickly. Strategy and tactics are definitely the core of Langrisser I & II's fights, as expected of the SRPG genre. I found Langrisser I & II's battles to be an invigorating challenge, and I ended up ultimately having fun with them once I figured out the appropriate tactics for each individual fight scenario.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the AI for allies and villagers is absolutely atrocious during these battles, however. My eyes would twitch every time an objective to keep defenseless villagers alive popped up because they often threw themselves into the fray with suicidal abandon. Allies or characters you didn't necessarily want to die would also make questionable safety decisions out on the field. To be honest, it was a miracle I somehow lucked out and got the Lance ending in Langrisser I because, by golly, did he not want to live whenever he was an ally! Letting the AI take turns with your own units instead of moving them yourself also led to some dubious maneuvers.
There aren't any difficulty modes to speak of in Langrisser I & II. However, beginners can choose to start either game using what is called Easy Start, a mode which provides things like extra funding and CP to help players have a less difficult start. Those gamers who want more of a challenge can opt to forgo Easy Start entirely.
While I enjoyed the overall stories of both games, I thoroughly admit that these Langrisser I & II remakes definitely carry a sense of budgeting, given their presentations. Story scenes play out in visual novel form, with seemingly only two characters allowed on screen at the same time. Occasionally a still art piece gets thrown in for good measure, just to differentiate from the visual novel scenes. Character sprites are rather cute at first glance, but seeing them duking it out constantly whenever units clash can grow old after a while. Fortunately, you can skip those sequences if you'd like. Character deaths, both in battle and in story scenes themselves, were usually presented by a character sprite blowing up, which could be inadvertently (and inappropriately) amusing, especially in what were meant to be emotional and moving narrative moments.
Speaking of visuals, the remakes give players the option of choosing between the original art and character designs by Satoshi Urushihara or the new designs by Ryo Naga. Which one you pick really just boils down to personal preference, especially since you can choose to switch between the two styles at any time while playing. No matter which artist you end up choosing, the women of the Langrisser series apparently subscribe to the "less is more" style of clothing, which leads to rather impractical armor that only fanservice can provide. Personally, I like both artists' takes on the characters for different reasons, though I went with the updated designs for my playthrough given that they are new to these versions of the games. For those feeling really nostalgic, Langrisser I & II also provides the option for playing with the battle maps from the original games.
I found the music of both games to be rather catchy, though the first Langrisser suffers from having only a handful of tracks that get repeated often. I did like the variety of the music choices in Langrisser II, though, and found myself humming along to some of the tunes even after I'd stopped playing the game. Langrisser I & II's voice acting is completely in Japanese, and I found the voices to be extremely hit or miss depending on the character. The script is excellent and very much helps to capture the old-school charm of these games through the dialogue, however it isn't necessarily always a direct translation.
Overall, despite knowing next to nothing about the Langrisser series before diving into these remakes, I enjoyed my time with them. Fans of old-school SRPGs will find two excellent games here for the price of one, with quite a lot of replay value as well. I'm certainly hopeful that other games in the series receive the same remake treatment after having played this collection, as Langrisser I & II are solid games if you can get past their hiccups.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.