Langrisser III - Reader Retroview  

Third Strike, It's Out!
by JuMeSyn

Click here for game information
60-80 Hours
+ Deep battle system...
- ... marred by new mechanics
+ Plenty of challenge
- ... partly because of mechanics
+ Love system affects how to fight
- Kanji knowledge or FAQ essential
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   The Langrisser games of the 16-bit era were of a piece. Certainly Warsong had some issues to work out, but its combat was still quite good. Langrisser 2/Der Langrisser trumped it. And then Masaya decided to do something different with Langrisser 3. Certain aspects of the Langrisser experience remain, enough to make 3 worthwhile to fans. But ONLY to fans, because the frustrations inherent to this game will turn off any new players promptly.

   In some ways Langrisser combat remains the same. At the beginning of battle the player buys troops for the characters, which are cheap and expendable insurance policies against the defeat of said characters. Langrisser 3 does things differently in battle however; instead of being able to move commanders and troops individually, moving the commander will make the troops tag along and they fight as one unit instead of a commander and however many (up to 8) units of 10 troops s/he happens to have along. The unit liabilities and strengths with respect to other troop types remain; pike soldiers take down cavalry, cavalry take down infantry, infantry take down pikes, archers can strike from afar but get massacred up close, fliers have mobility on their side, water-borne soldiers are much less effective on land. New to Langrisser 3 is the ability to change formation every turn; the standard formation maximizes attack, while the speed formation lowers attack and defense to increase movement and the guard formation does not increase attack but does raise defense to a higher level while making the unit immobile. Characters in Langrisser 3 do not have fixed class changing, instead they are able to change class at the beginning of each battle based upon current level. More experience in battle increases levels and increases the options of troop types available and the classes necessary to use those troop types. While handy, there is one annoying caveat to the class changing; if the player changes class to something that cannot use what is currently equipped, that must be remedied by the player. The game will remove anything the character can no longer use and not replace it.

Thrill to a spastic camera not showing things that make no sense! Thrill to a spastic camera not showing things that make no sense!

   The single largest problem with Langrisser 3's combat system arises once movement occurs. This happens once the player ends the turn, and both the player's force and the enemy move at the same time. Frequently the player's units will bump into the enemy and stop there. This is an annoyance in and of itself, because VERY often the player will want to move someone elsewhere but an enemy in the way will block that path. This is a problem because the movement detection is so firm in not allowing diagonal movement if something is in the way; the player will have to waste a turn sending a character in one direction until the hazard is cleared. This is not the only difficulty in the new battle system; far from it. Though the troops of commanders are not controlled directly, they still appear on the battlefield. Once all movement is over the computer starts popping them into view again, and if there are many units in a small area the troops of a commander will end up scattered all over the landscape with no control from the player whatsoever. This is bad if an infantry unit far from its commander finds itself touching some cavalry. This happens in reverse also, but it still means that intricate strategies can be fenestrated in a moment thanks to the computer's idiocy.

   One other item that deviates from Langrisser tradition, and for the worse, involves healing. Because commanders and their troops move as one now, it seems Masaya thought it necessary to balance out the relative weakness of a solitary commander. This means that, until the commander is defeated, every soldier in a unit can be revived. The effect of this is to drag out already long battles against enemies that are being healed constantly, either through their own Treat command or through their allies using healing magic. In fairness there is no better way Masaya could have constructed this mechanic, because player casualties occur all too easily and should not be permanent, but constantly getting an opponent close to death and then seeing him/her revived becomes very annoying. Another deviation from past Langrisser titles is in the effect of healing; while it replenishes HP, it no longer replenishes MP. The player now needs to use items for that purpose. One other break from the past is that commanders are no longer limited to 10 HP; their HP increases with level now.

Luna flies.  Luna is awesome. Luna flies. Luna is awesome.

   Interaction is respectable without being sterling. Buying and selling of items is fairly straightforward, with a handy display conveying the effects upon every commander of the items (though either a FAQ or kanji knowledge is necessary to pick up any of their less obvious effects). Two big issues take the interaction into the annoying realm from time to time; the need to manually assign every commander to a starting place on the battlefield, and the inability to use items outside of battle. This means that using a statistic-increasing item can only be done by sacrificing a commander's turn, because in Langrisser tradition movement cannot be combined with anything else.

   The plot of Langrisser 3 involves Dyhalt being forced to flee both the forces of Regilia and the forces of Bahralu separately launching assaults before he is able to start leading a counterattack against their onslaughts. Along the way Dyhalt will pick up numerous allies (by the end of the game 16 commanders will be on the player's side) and the swords of Alhazard and Langrisser, so integral to Langrisser 1 and 2, will be forged. Not part of the main story but nonetheless important is the love index; Dyhalt can take certain actions and will be asked certain questions as the game proceeds that affects how Tialiss, Luna, Rifany, Sofia and Freya view him. Near the end the player will choose one of these five to confess Dyhalt's love to, and this affects the ending. Getting Freya in particular is difficult because she is Bahralu's princess, and if things are not done just right she'll choose to die instead of joining Dyhalt's force. And of course the game is in Japanese, so a FAQ will be helpful to all the gaijin.

Why can Why can't the things buried in a graveyard ever STAY DEAD???

   Outside of the battle animations, Langrisser 3 does not look ugly but neither does it look like what the Saturn can do. Instead it looks like a somewhat more sophisticated version of Der Langrisser, with the only thing that a 16-bit console would have been unable to reproduce being some of the background effects. Should the player allow the battle animations to proceed, wild melees resembling Dragon Force if viewed from another angle with no player control and an imbecilic camera will result. Some of these battle animations are quite funny (watch cavalry commanders surround themselves in a dome and randomly fly around the battlefield) but are uglier than Dragon Force and take way too long to finish. Aurally there is a fair amount of voice acting, with several of the actors visibly cashing their paychecks (Artemyura, I'm looking at your seiyuu) but most doing a respectable job. Noriyuki Iwadare doesn't have his best work on display here, but the music is still good enough to warrant listening throughout.

   Langrisser 3 is a long game. If the player does not turn off the battle animations, at least 20 hours will be taken up with them; they take that long and are bug-ridden with frequent instances of nothing happening for long periods only to finally shut off. Turning the animations off will shorten the game considerably, but it is still a lengthy one that will need at least 50 hours to complete. There is the love system prompting replay, along with plenty of hidden items and a few hidden battles to uncover, along with the need to do things just right in order to access the true final battles and ending. All of these are around to prompt replay. As for challenge... not only is the game a Langrisser title, and thus for advanced players already, the aforementioned issues with troop placement can make it even harder. Several scenarios feature the need to protect fairly stupid NPCs or enemies that can win by reaching a certain target.

   With all the negatives I have listed, it should be understandable why I do not recommend Langrisser 3 to most players. For this to be the one Saturn-exclusive Langrisser is unfortunate. And yet for Langrisser veterans the game manages to be worthwhile. To those with no Langrisser experience, pick up an earlier game and try it out. Only attempt 3 if one feels a need for deep but frustrating combat that only additional Langrisser can meet.

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