Langrisser Millenium - Staff Retroview  

Consign It to the Ages
by Mike Moehnke

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Very Easy
Less than 20 Hours
+ Short and easy
- Mushy controls in combat
- Uncontrollable allies
- No strategy whatsoever in an ostensible strategy game
- Lousy equipment setup
- No way to do anything while paused
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   Langrisser Millennium exists because Masaya refused to be dissuaded from milking the name by the fact that NCS, the developer of every prior Langrisser game, had gone on to make the Growlanser series. Masaya handed the development of Millennium to Santa, and sadly all the eager gamers got a lump of coal for a gift. Santa's idea of making a game that mimicked Dragon Force was sound, since that game and its sequel are still unusual among tactical games. Langrisser Millennium unfortunately demonstrates how wide the gulf between good intentions and good results can be.

   The concept of choosing from one of many characters at the beginning of the game and going on to conquer the world is borrowed directly from Dragon Force, and represents Langrisser Millennium's best moment. After choosing from one of five characters, their introductory story arcs are unveiled. The characters' circumstances differ somewhat, but all are required to conquer the world, and eventually find some confused gods trying to auger in a strange and deadly deity that must be defeated. Nothing particularly interesting or deep is in evidence, making the lack of a translation less dispiriting for importers.

   The world is comprised of plentiful castles, and the player must conquer all of them. Numerous characters will join as the game advances, and the player can form them into units of up to four that operate under a player-chosen leader. The Dragon Force parallels cease at this point, thanks to several nonsensical facts regarding castle conquest and unit movement. There is no limit on the number of characters who can occupy a castle, but the defeat of one unit boots all of them out and into the nearest castle under their nation's sovereignty, even if there were no land routes available. When units are advancing they are visible on the map, but after a defeat they instantly reappear at the closest castle with no travel time. Occasionally one character will be lost to the enemy in battle, but most of the time defeat carries no consequences other than a need to sit still for hit point recovery. All of these factors result in an ostensible strategy game absent of much need to think.

   There are no weapons to equip in Langrisser Millennium, but each character can use a single item. Two things make this a nightmare: every castle has a different inventory, and the game does not display any equipment effect except in combat. The first makes remembering which castle has good items a guessing game, and the second also makes a good memory indispensable when one is trying to figure out which item is better. The game can easily be played without items, however, making this an optional gripe.

See those four characters?  All of them move as if underwater, and three can See those four characters? All of them move as if underwater, and three can't even be controlled.

   The game's obvious aping of Dragon Force makes another interface issue obvious; the inability to do anything while the game is paused. In Dragon Force and Dragon Force II it is possible to monitor forces on the move, set up offensives, reorganize units, and many other things while the game is paused, to be carried out once the player resumes action. In Langrisser Millennium only moving around the map is possible while paused, and this is unnecessarily aggravating when many things are happening in a short period of time.

   All the other problems pale next to the combat itself, which is a bad sign in a tactical game. The leader of a unit is the only one the player can control, with the other three characters running around stupidly. They can be given vague orders, but tend to do dumb things regardless. The mission of the one character under direct player control is to move toward the enemy characters and beat them up. Beating up enemies is done by hitting the A button when the leader appears to be locked on, though appearances are often deceiving thanks to the time it takes characters to make an attack and the tendency of enemies to move around. One magic spell is available to every character, the use of which requires that character to sit still for several seconds while making an ear-splitting screech to annoy the player. The incredibly slow movement of everyone on the battlefield must also be singled out for shaming, since it feels like every character is underwater.

   The goal of every battle is to defeat the enemy leader. Once the leader is beaten, the battle is won. If the contest is one-on-one, it is pathetically easy for the player to simply hit the enemy, move away from the enemy's counter, and continue for a victory. If more than one of the enemy is present this method is very difficult to use, because being hit before an attack is completed resets the character, instead of letting the attack be used anyway. Apart from the environments being hard to see around and requiring guesswork, there is no need to think during these battles. Levels also rule all, with weak characters being defeated in one or two hits from powerful opponents.

The <i>Dragon Force</i> influence should be obvious here - just because it <b>is</b> obvious. The Dragon Force influence should be obvious here - just because it is obvious.

   Visuals in battle at a glance look fairly good, especially for 1999. The graphics have a problem aside from the struggle with aiming, and it is a pathetic lack of animation. Kaishaku actually created some very nice art for the game, art that is barely animated by the 3D models. Every character has just a few movements, all of which will be seen after one or two battles. The music ranges from moderately catchy battle themes to completely forgettable everywhere else, and the standout sound effect is the horrid cat-in-a-blender screech heard every time any character casts a spell.

   As if to make up for the fact that the final boss is the only time the game becomes at all challenging, Santa included an extra ending for each character if defeated there. The replay value is genuine, but requires spending more time with the game, which counts brevity for a tactical title among its few virtues. It is easy to rush through Langrisser Millennium in less than ten hours, and players will be thankful for the reprieve.

   It is the ghost of Dragon Force that spares Langrisser Millennium from being total garbage. Though but a tiny vestige of the property it is channeling remains to be seen, that remnant is just enough to capture a glimmer of the potential this game had. Instead of realizing that potential, Langrisser Millennium manages to tarnish two of the finest series in tactical gaming's reputations. Sadly, it was so successful in that capacity that both series have languished for years with no new installments. Langrisser Millennium has much to answer for.

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