Warsong - Reader Retroview  

Some Series Start Slowly
by JuMeSyn

40-50 hours


Rating definitions 

   The Langrisser series is one that has eluded English-speaking audiences ever since a brief attempt to translate it failed due to insufficient sales. That attempt is to be found here in Warsong, the English translation of Langrisser 1. Unfortunately for the English-speaking world, the first time was most assuredly not the charm for Langrisser. While not terrible, every element in Warsong was to be improved upon in follow-up installments.

   Langrisser is a Tactical RPG series, so clearly combat is where the majority of time will be spent. Fortunately for the player, Warsong possesses a compelling fight system. The player will select up to 8 commanders prior to each battle, and each commander may purchase units of soldiers, also prior to battle. These soldiers surround the commanders in the battle, and enemy commanders with their attendant soldiers will battle with the player’s soldiers. As befits a Tactical RPG, there are a variety of different soldiers to purchase prior to battle, though what specific units a commander is able to purchase varies between them. The commanders themselves impart unto their soldiers a massive combat bonus provided the soldiers stay within a certain range on the map. Also, whenever enemies combat the commander directly, said commander will powerfully counterattack. It is possible to go ‘commando’ and not use soldiers at all in battle, so strong can an individual commander on the proper landscape be. Commanders can also heal themselves each round for 3 HP, and when the total HP never exceeds 10 this means taking a commander down can be quite the task. Soldiers also heal by 3 each turn they are directly adjacent to their commander. Spells are present for commander use also at higher levels. Experience is obtained for commanders both from killing enemy soldiers and from killing the enemy commander.

Donkeys? Camels?  Ponies?  You don't have to decide now when you'll see  them hundreds of times! Donkeys? Camels? Ponies? You don't have to decide now when you'll see them hundreds of times!

   Hampering player interaction is the prototypical nature of the combat in Warsong, and the decision on the part of the English-translators to revamp the story and change the name of just about every character. Battles in Warsong are long, and the option to turn off battle animations that would appear in subsequent titles is nonexistent here. Frequently the player will be accompanied by AI commanders whose AI is sadly quite lacking, and when these commanders must live to complete a battle frustration arises. AI did not greatly improve in the subsequent series entries but did improve slightly upon what is seen here.

   The translation team at Treco apparently decided that the original Langrisser title was too foreign. No other rationale comes to mind that would explain their significant alteration of the story in the now-Warsong, along with their touching-up of character portraits and assigning of new names to most characters (Jessica becoming Calais, for instance). Not only did Treco alter the story, but what text does exist is poorly written. I believed that after 12 battles the game was effectively over, since the major menace had been defeated – but more things kept popping up until the rather confusing end. Fortunately (?) Langrisser 1 possesses a story that takes up very little time. Garrett (or Redin in the Japanese) is a prince whose kingdom is being attacked by nasty guys who showed up out of seemingly nowhere. The first battle is getting the inexperienced Garrett out of harm’s way while his father fights a doomed defensive battle, then Garrett must gather allies and strike back. The gathering of allies and fighting the enemy is essentially the entire story until the aforementioned defeat of the main menace, at which point the game just keeps going with some further unexpected fights.

   Music suffers from being overly repetitious in Warsong. Even though this is an early effort of Noriyuki Iwadare he isn’t able to craft tunes strong enough to withstand the enormous playtime each will be heard over, although a game try is made. Sound effects are unremarkable early Genesis fare, and clearly voices are not to be heard on an early Genesis title. Visuals are no more remarkable. Indeed, there is very little that could not have been accomplished on the venerable NES here save for the slowdown not being too pronounced. Anyone interested in a visually stimulating title should run away – FAST.

The opening of the game, ladies and gentlemen, in all its grandeur. The opening of the game, ladies and gentlemen, in all its grandeur.

   Warsong can be rather difficult, but not always for the right reasons. The above-mentioned AI shortcomings must be factored into play. Another, possibly nastier shortcoming might result from the minimal story present. In later Langrisser titles the developers probably did not want to need rewrites of the story depending upon characters being alive or not, and so death of commanders did not happen. Warsong, however, is like Fire Emblem. If a commander goes down, s/he is dead. Everyone except Garrett has no story sequences after the parts in which they are required to be alive, so if a player let it happen then Garrett could be alone in the final battles. And even without these two significant difficulties, several battles (battle 12 in particular with one’s forces inadvertently split in two between powerful enemies) are challenging.

   Thanks to its lengthy battles that frequently require much thought and/or unit moving, Warsong is not a fast title to complete. Once completed however, the only reason to replay might be testing out different classes for the commanders.

   In Warsong can be seen the seeds of potential, but they are half-grown and unimpressive at this phase of development. Sadly Treco’s effort to bring the Langrisser series out of Japan was a financial failure, and the company went bankrupt afterwards. Copies of Warsong now require a substantial commitment of funds on eBay to acquire. And any of the further, superior installments of Langrisser must be experienced in Japanese.

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