A fan of the Ogre Battle series since its debut in '93, I was excited to find out that a new installment was destined to grace my newly acquired Gameboy Advance (gotta love Golden Sun). Not foreseeing the huge lack of shipment, I was left (like many others) waiting for available copies to pop up. Running from store to store checking to see if they might have this gem tucked away in a dark corner…
Finally, a week ago, my local video game store (yay Microplay!) rang me up and gave me the good news; My copy of Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis was in and waiting for my greedy paws to snag it up.
Rushing to the scene not five minutes later (yes, its that close), I giggled like a school girl with a crush as I sat down in the store, pulled out my Gameboy Advance and proceeded to play on the spot! Luckily I know the owner and I'm a loyal customer (I get away with a few things).
Control an army! Though rather small...but they save the world!
Like its elder, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, the game is turn based. You move your 8 (instead of 10) little soldiers then pray they survive the enemy's counter. So, if you're one of those people who are used to Final Fantasy Tactics or Vandal Hearts 2, this game is much easier to manage in that aspect, but don't be fooled by the simple façade that covers a deep tried, tested and true ways of Strategy Role Playing Games.
Under the meek surface lies a huge game that, at first, may seem rather overwhelming but is so easy to grasp that you find yourself immersed within an hour tops.
If you've played any other game in the series, you know it likes to focus on your characters' stats rather than their level when it comes to shifting classes. This one is no exception in that aspect, you still need to get your stats to a certain point in order to take on a more rewarding class, but this time you have to fulfill certain tasks in the game. These tasks can be anything from using a curative spell 15 times to blocking 3 attacks in a row. Once you've achieved a given task, you're rewarded with a pretty emblem for your troubles.
But that's just the start of what emblems can do for you. Some modify your stats permanently while others aid you behind the scenes with what is known as biorythm (the game's way of calculating your luck factor, don't ask, you don't want the essay answer that comes with it).
Gear up for war!
Financially, the game starts off really (no, I'm serious, really!) slow. You'll find yourself selling off items in order to equip some of your soldiers with an upgraded sword. But, that's where quests come into play. Throughout the game, you'll receive a number of books that lead you to locations where great treasure can be had! This is where you find your item upgrades and this is where you'll be doing all your banking needs (aka gimme da money!)
This is one of the more interesting twists this game has to offer. Gone is the town-to-town shopping spree and welcome to hours of battles to get uber items and gold galore. But wait! This sounds repetitive and boring? Its not! Because they give you the option to limit the amount of turns you get and the focus of the battle. Want an easy win? Put down 99 turns and go strictly after the leader. Want a challenge? Take it down to 7 and go after the entire party. The harder the setting, the more rewarding it is, item wise. Also, unlike the main battles in the game, you'll be limited to 5 party members.
There are a few hidden items in the game, but that's no surprise coming from this game.
My life for Ner'Zhul…err…freedom!
Again, you don't have to worry about who's moving next and where everyone is on the field. Your entire party moves (yes, you always start off the battle) and does their thing then you hand over the key to your opponent.
A few things that is different in this game (from my memory anyway), is that you have to move your character before he is allowed to execute any action. This adds a layer of challenge (read frustration) to the game that some fans might enjoy.
Another thing is summon spells' accuracy depends highly on your level and your position related to your target. The higher your level is compared to him and whether or not you're in his line of sight both play critical roles as to how well the most powerful spell (in my opinion and excluding secret spells) in the game will perform.
Random battles, though very rare, help you level without going into training mode. This also gives you a safe way of performing certain tasks (acquiring the Arbitration emblem, for instance) that can only be done in a real battle without having to risk facing enemy bosses.
A major ability in battle is the power to save at any time. We all know some battles can drag on for hours, and this is a game that was made (somewhat) for those on the go, so this feature is your best friend. This also makes for easy cheating. Afraid your next move will prove to be fatal? Save the game prior. If all works well, keep going…if something goes terribly wrong? Load up the suspended game and you'll know not to make the same mistake twice.
Massage therapy highly recommended…
You all know the drill. Either have a built-in light source, cringe at that ugly exterior light what-cha-ma-call-it or learn yoga in order to clearly see what is going on in that little screen of yours. Ok, it's not that bad, but it's obvious that you'll need a light shining directly into the screen from time to time.
Other than the fact that the game has a lack of brightness (though this isn't entire the game's fault), the graphics are very good considering its sitting in the palm of your hand. Compared to the Tactics Ogre for PSX and you'll see very little difference. Is that saying that the PSX game had poor graphics or that this one has sweet ones is up to you to decide, it's a matter of opinion.
Don't expect to be wowed, but I highly doubt you'll throw the game down because of the graphics. I couldn't sit through Dragon Warrior VII for PSX, but I had no problems playing this dimly lit game.
They lived happily ever after…or do they?
Recently adopted orphan who happens to be best friends with the Duke's son (sound familiar, doesn't it?), you take on the role of 15 year-old Alphonse, a newly appointed knight on his first mission abroad. Your best friend, Rictor, is commanding for the first time and obviously, he expects much from you in terms of support.
You land on an island by the name of Ovis. Your mission is to aid the southern region in repelling the sudden attacks from the north. Near a cliff, an assassination attempt goes down and you leap to Rictor's rescue as you fall into the water. You wake up in the presence of your leading lady, Eleanor, who captures your heart. Soon after, you learn that your mission was merely a guise to get Lodis troops onto Ovis soil…and the plot thickens…
Following the series' tradition, this game features multiple endings, 5 to be exact, or so my sources say. It all depends on how you answer certain questions and how you go through the game. I won't say more than this since it would give away too much, but suffice it to say that Tactics Ogre games always have great replay value.
One thing that needs to be said is the length of dialogue in this game. If you hate reading endless conversations and somewhat corny lines, get ready to hit that "A" button frequently. Though the game does manage to pour out some interesting lines from time to time…
"Comparing ourselves to others is a way of measuring our existence." Alphonse…
And the whole story near the end will have people asking questions about God, angels and the human race for years to come. Like they haven't already?
Ready the stereo with 5 discs changer!
Yes, I did not enjoy the music of this game one bit, well, maybe the first 10 minutes at the game store while I was completely under the influence of a new game. The score is mediocre to say the least and the sound effects don't merit mention at all. Luckily, they knew this and gave you the option to turn off the sound outright.
The only reason I give it a score so high is because, well, its for the Gameboy Advance, do you expect "Suteki da ne" quality music for something you carry around in your pocket? The little guy is trying it's hardest and I'd give up sound completely for a game with strong foundation, storyline and gameplay, which this has in spades.
The bed summons me…
That's what I went through the past week. This game and its story was just what I needed in this RPG drought. A solid all around effort by Atlus and a great addition to my RPG collection, it was well worth the wait.
If you enjoyed the Ogre Battle series, this one is a must have for you. If you love Strategy Role Playing Games, you'll want to check this out. And if you're bored and looking to kill about 40 plus hours, this will do the trick.