Langrisser II - Reader Retroview  

No, Not Langlisser.
by JuMeSyn

35-50 hours


Rating definitions 

   The Sega Genesis didn’t have an enormous library of RPGs in the first place, let alone an enormous library of RPGs that never made it across the Pacific akin to the Super Nintendo. Comparatively little Mega Drive material was forever stranded in Japan, but one title Genesis owners would have been quite happy to play in English is Langrisser 2. The Tactical-RPG branch is one that the Genesis actually had fair representation in, but this title succeeds in being worthwhile even when set against the Shining Force titles also on the system.

   The story of Langrisser 2 represents a significant improvement over its predecessor, although it has the odd effect of making the player’s antagonists more memorable than the protagonists. Elwin and his newfound friend Hain are sucked into big things when Imperial generals attempt to kidnap a cleric from the town they are currently staying in. The cleric, Riana, is sought by the Empire because she has the ability to unlock the power of the dark sword Alhazard, sought by the Emperor Bernhart in order to end the constant warring by uniting the continent. Bernhart himself shows up less often than his commanders, all of whom (with the possible exception of Imelda, the woman who cheerfully sacrifices her troops in the cause of victory) have distinct personalities and reasoning behind their actions beyond simply being evil, which is unusual for a Tactical-RPG released in 1994.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road - who was that short guy trying to kid when this is CLEARLY tan?? Follow the Yellow Brick Road - who was that short guy trying to kid when this is CLEARLY tan??

   Of note is the fact that Langrisser 2 is available only in Japanese. Playing the cartridge means anyone (like myself) lacking comprehensive Japanese knowledge will miss out. There are two means of circumventing this; one requires a dip into the murky world of ROMs. The other is a simple visit to GameFAQs, where a translation of the ROM’s text is provided helpfully. The story of Langrisser 2 takes a rather larger chunk of playing time compared to the original, so learning exactly what is being said is recommended.

   The battle system of Langrisser 2 is at heart the one that was pioneered in Langrisser 1 (Warsong). Battle takes place from an overhead view, akin to Shining Force or Fire Emblem. All characters, player-controlled and enemy, are commanders with (on the player’s side) at most 6 troops to be purchased prior to battle. Commanders are far stronger than their troops, but troops help to protect their commanders. When troops are within a certain distance of their commander (helpfully highlighted whenever moving them) a bonus to their basic statistics is granted. Troops are completely expendable, with no reward being granted for their survival. If a commander is defeated, all the commander’s troops fall simultaneously. All units have a maximum HP of 10, with fighting prowess being partially determined by current HP. Magic is possessed by most commanders, and has a myriad number of potential effects. All commanders have the ability to heal themselves, which restores 3 HP and 2 MP each time the command is used. Once a player-controlled commander reaches level 10, a class change occurs unless the character has already reached his/her final class.

   Changes from Langrisser 1 to 2 are present, though not overly intrusive. The reduction in maximum troops from 8 to 6 for each commander helps to speed up battles slightly, especially considering how long it can take to move 10 commanders (the maximum number under player commander) and their troops, then waiting for the computer to move all of its units. There are quite a few new spells, some of them very useful (Zone removes the bonus to troops granted by their leader, which can be incredibly helpful). The number of potential class changes has been increased from 2 to 4 (instead of 3rd level being the final possible, 5th level is for most commanders). In the main, though, any RPGamer who disliked the battles of Warsong will not have his/her mind changed by its sequel.

AAAAARGH!  I DO NOT WANT your literature!  Let me watch my program in peace! AAAAARGH! I DO NOT WANT your literature! Let me watch my program in peace!

   Interaction is about the same as in Warsong. There are several AI settings for the troops of commanders to act upon, although the AI is still stupid. Or the player can set the AI to manual, and move every unit individually. Be prepared for battles to drag out if this setting is pursued…. Moving, attacking, and spell-casting are easy to do. Items can be bought and equipped, along with the purchase of troops, prior to battle. There are two small caveats here: one is that the game has a limit of 16 items that may be in inventory. The other is that frequently a character, after changing class, will be unable to equip an item. This comes into play when trying to change the character’s equipment, because if left alone unusable items will continue to perform their functions. Otherwise the menus work smoothly.

   Visuals represent a distinct improvement from Langrisser 1. Every interaction between the player and the enemy is animated with much larger figures than were present in the first game. Magic continues to be used on the battlefield at large instead of unit-by-unit, and the grandest magical spell effects are reasonable considering the limitations of the Genesis (some spells do nothing more than cause units to flash, which is less than impressive). Langrisser games are not known for their technological prowess, however, so RPGamers in search of hardware-straining graphical effects need not apply.

   The audio of Langrisser 2 is also somewhat more than serviceable without being quite top-notch. Noriyuki Iwadare again composed the music, and the majority of the music is indeed catchy and better than tolerable. The length of the battles means that almost all of the music will be heard repeatedly, however, and will eventually grow old to the eardrums. Sound effects are decidedly unimpressive, but can be tolerated. The sound quality is typical to the Genesis; anything resembling a real instrument is not to be expected.

   How long Langrisser 2 takes to complete will depend upon a number of player decisions, such as how many troops to take into battle and whether to pursue maximum experience by attacking all troops of a foe or going straight for the kill. Rushing through the game will result in unconquerable situations, however, so a fairly long play is guaranteed. Langrisser 2 also packs a challenge, though part of it can be ameliorated by reading a translation of what is taking place in order to better approach the battles. Fortunately player characters do not die permanently in this title upon defeat in battle, removing an incredibly irritating feature of the predecessor. Certain battles face a time limit, however, or the need to protect certain NPC’s whose AI is at best unworthy.

   Replay is not an enormous incentive in Langrisser 2, but there are a few hidden battles to unearth. There is also the temptation to try out different class-change paths for commanders, as the game will play out rather differently with different commanders in charge. Some hidden items are scattered about that are frequently worth tracking down, also. The central story does not change however.

   In retrospect it is unfortunate that Warsong sold so poorly. It appears to have forever limited Langrisser titles to Japan, which is sad when they all appear to represent improvements upon the original. Langrisser 2 would have been a welcome addition to the Genesis RPG list had it been translated, and still represents one of the highlights on a system not necessarily known for its RPG listing. Even without a translation it is quite playable and enjoyable, while understanding exactly what is being talked about within the game makes it clear that the story was somewhat ahead of its time.

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