Langrisser V : The End of Legend - Staff Retroview  

All Good Things...
by Mike Moehnke

Click here for game information
More than 80 Hours
+ Varied and interesting battles to fight
+ Plentiful customization options for characters
+ Rocking soundtrack
- New features are not always for the best
- Lacks the branching paths of its predecessor
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   It began in 1991 on the Mega Drive and PC Engine, and was brought under the name of Warsong to North America, where poor sales killed its localizer. The series continued from the Mega Drive, to the Super Famicom, to the Saturn (with PlayStation versions coming after the Saturn received them). The Langrisser series had highs and lows, but sustained a high level of quality over the years. Career Soft's final entry into the series is Langrisser V: The End of Legend, and while it is not the greatest Langrisser game to exist, it nevertheless represents a worthy effort that does not demean what came before.

   All of the Langrisser games are related, but V is the most directly connected of all. Its story begins in the middle of Langrisser IV, as two cyborgs named Sigma and Lambda find themselves under attack by a man named Lainforce. Their memories have been wiped, but they know a man named Gizarof created them, and they seek him out with hopes of learning whom and what they really are. Their journey eventually encompasses others, and shifts from seeking to be Gizarof's tools to fighting against the forces seeking to take advantage of the unrest a continental war brought in Langrisser IV. Most of IV's cast plays a role in V, and the tale is compelling. A translation is easily accessible online to aid those who do not understand the Japanese language.

   Langrisser V's combat shares many aspects with its predecessors. Prior to every battle, the player can purchase troops for each commander to use. V features a maximum of six troop units that each commander can possess per battle, of two types. As in many tactical titles, there are strengths and weaknesses to all the troops. Pikes beat cavalry, cavalry beat infantry, infantry beat pikes, archers can attack without being counterattacked, airborne units are unaffected by terrain but have lower defense, and waterborne units are very strong in their element. As in other Langrisser games, commanders and their troops have a symbiotic relationship: the commander imparts significant bonuses to troops that stay within a visible command radius, while the troops can deal with adversaries the commander is unable to. As in all prior Langrisser games, the death of the commander means the death of all its troops, but extra experience can be acquired by killing the troops individually. Every unit has ten hit points throughout the game. Troops regain three hit points if a turn ends while they stand next to their commander, and a commander can regain three hit points by healing itself at the expense of doing anything else for that turn.

   One change from prior games is the way V deals with movement. In a departure from most tactical RPGs, units can move after attacking. Two ranges will be displayed when the player selects a unit: its attack range, and its movement range. Attacking something nearby will usually leave plenty of leeway to shift the attacker away and let something else into the space it used. While it is occasionally frustrating to have enemies just barely beyond the current attack range of a unit, the system allows for interesting strategies that are not commonly available in the genre.

   The other major change from prior games also relates to movement, but is considerably less pleasant. Instead of the battlefield being divided into obvious squares for units to occupy, much smaller increments are used in navigation. These increments are roughly one quarter the size of a standard foot unit, and do allow for precise positioning. They also allow a bit of one unit that is occupying part of a space to block anything else from going there, despite the difference between an open space and a closed one being minuscule to the eye. In cramped quarters, of which there are many, this is an irritating facet of the game. Also new to V, units have different sizes. Troops using their own feet are smaller than cavalry, commanders, and most flying/swimming units. These units being about four times the size of others makes confined battlefields even more confusing, since they will block the paths of others easily.

That type of general attack hits fast, so only the survivors will be able to strike him. That type of general attack hits fast, so only the survivors will be able to strike him.

   The Judgment system from Langrisser IV returns, and is improved by having troops and commanders move simultaneously. Its basic tenet of units taking action faster by doing little or nothing remains, with magic requiring a wait period before it can be used, and the current turn order can be viewed at any time by the player. Indeed, doing nothing will make a commander's turn come again frequently, and the game takes an inordinate amount of time showing commanders doing nothing repeatedly before the player can finally act again. This problem was never present to such a degree in any other Langrisser, and seeing it here is disconcerting.

   The battles, at least, are interesting and varied. Very few of them are straightforward, new predicaments are introduced often. Whether the enemy wants to run away rather than fight, or the environment forces special considerations upon tactics, or civilians must be protected, staying alert is key at all times.

   Along with the battles being varied, the means of fighting them keep changing also. As usual in Langrisser games, each character has multiple class options to choose from as levels are gained. The classes chosen do make an enormous difference in how the game is played, since the spells and troops available are dependent entirely upon the commander's class. Without the branching paths of some previous Langrisser games, the class system is the major replay incentive, and it is a fairly good one.

   Interaction outside of battle is simple enough. A shop is available prior to every encounter, and the effects of equipment are visible before purchase. Other highlights of the accessible menus are: troop procurement is intuitive, the player has free reign over how to arrange the commanders in their starting positions, and the game allows saving at any time. Having a translation handy for the frequent choices Sigma must make that affect how females feel toward him is wise, but their being in Japanese is not the interface's fault.

Dumb civilians, getting in the way... MOVE your lazy butts! Dumb civilians, getting in the way... MOVE your lazy butts!

   Langrisser games have never been known for their awesome visuals, and V continues in that vein. The game does not look bad, and a few of the enemies are actually very impressive sprites, but the vast majority of playing time will be spent looking at small sprites maneuvering around battlefields. These sprites do not tax the Saturn overly, though they are easy to distinguish quickly, and the lengthy load times of combat animations in Langrisser IV have been cut down.

   Sound has usually been a highlight of this series, and Langrisser V's music is one of Noriyuki Iwadare's best scores. A variety of rock and electronic battle themes change during battle frequently to keep the sound interesting, and the compositions are almost all very catchy. Voice acting is almost constant in the game, and most of the voice actors give good performances, with a few low, monotone voices to drag the bar down.

   Langrisser battles have never been short, and V has a longer main storyline than any game in the series (except III, but it plays differently than the others). When each battle takes several hours to complete thanks to all the units maneuvering around the field, plus the computer's need to slowly show all units that do nothing instead of skipping over them, V is probably the longest game in the series. As if to make up for this, there is an unfortunate lack of branching paths to prompt replay quickly. Sigma does have the ability to court all three females in the party, and the one chosen does affect the ending, but this aspect has no effect on how the game plays. By absolute standards Langrisser V is a difficult game, but by the standards of its predecessors it does not present a daunting challenge, so veterans of the series will not have much trouble.

   Langrisser V: The End of Legend is a high-quality tactical game in almost every aspect, but it is not the pinnacle of this series. Der Langrisser and Langrisser IV had multiple paths that completely changed the game, along with units that were much easier to maneuver. This game occupies a tier just below those games, and veterans of the series will find it a fitting conclusion to one of tactical gaming's finest.

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