Langrisser Re:Incarnation -Tensei- Review (3DS)

Langrisser-1

Let me start by saying that this is a terrible game. This would be less a review and more a lesson on how not to make a strategy role-playing game.

It has been a long 15 years since the last Langrisser, and while I am personally glad the license for the series is finally being put to use, let me walk you through the bad part by part. But before that, a short sypnosis of the story.

Sypnosis:

Our hero, Ares, suddenly finds his town under imperial siege. While retreating into a nearby church, he chances on the holy sword Langrisser (what a coincidence). He repels the invasion and meets with the forces of light. From there, he gets embroiled in a war between the forces of light, darkness and the imperials. Depending on the choices of the player, the story will diverge towards one of three possible routes.

And now for the bad.

Terrible UI:

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The preparation screen

This is the first and most glaring issue with the game that could test the limits of your patience. To make it easier for reading I’ve made a list of how not to design an SRPG:

  1. No soft-reset. Which is fine if you have an in-game option to return to the start screen or bring up a menu to load a saved game, but you have none of that either. Once battle commences, you have to close the game and re-open it.
  2. No quick-save feature. Or any save features once battle commences, for that matter. Considering each battle could take up to half an hour or longer if you are playing for maximum experience, you’re screwed if the 3DS battery goes out midway.
  3. The minimum party size is the maximum party size. Like most SRPGs, the game gives you a pretty big character roster, so you eventually get restrictions on the number you can send to battle. Unlike most SRPGs, you cannot remove characters from battle, and it will always default to your starting lineup (of which you need to replace). This means you cannot sit out the extra 5 characters even knowing you can ace a stage with 3. More time spent skipping turns!
  4. Mercenary strength is unknown at time of hire. You can hire different mercenaries from the guild based on each commander’s class, yet their strengths and stats are unknown until you see them in battle. Wrong hire? Restart the battle!
  5. Weapons/Armor don’t show you their stats. You can purchase weapons and armor from the shop, but the actual attack and defense numbers are only visible after you’ve bought the item. What any other non stat-raising equipment does is only vaguely hinted at in its description (Rods increase range of magic, wands increase magic damage. By how far and how much respectively? Find out in battle!). Bought the wrong thing? Load a save!
  6. You cannot unequip/remove equipment from a character. Nope, it’s not a joke. Once a character has equipped an item, the only way you are getting it back is if you equip another item on to the character. This means items like accessories that cannot be purchased from the shop (of which I obtained 3 on my entire playthrough) are pretty much character-binding.
  7. No preview for class ups. Characters get 2 choices for each class up, but apart from the increase in stats, all other perks that come with the new class (spells and mercenaries available for hire) will only be revealed to you on a second screen after you have selected the class, without the ability to return to the selection screen. Don’t like the class? Restart the battle!
  8. No viewing of map from the deployment screen. You can only see around where your characters are deployed, and it’s not a generous view. Considering you can see the entire mini map on the bottom screen prior to battle, the design choice is baffling. Made a bad placement? Restart the battle!
  9. No battle speed options. This is fine for the first few battles, since enemy units are sparse. But once the game approaches 30-40 units on the map, you will really wish you can skip watching every single one of them sluggishly move about.

Terrible Graphics:

Langrisser - 5
Budget issues? (Default zoom setting)

You would think that after 15 years and on a newer system the graphics would have improved by heaps and bounds. You’d be wrong about that. The sprites representing the characters on the map are extremely low resolution, made uglier if you decide to zoom in (There are 3 zoom settings, the furthest too tiny to properly make things out even on the 3DS’s larger brother, and the nearest too big to make any sense of the surrounding without excessive scrolling).

Langrisser - 3
What in the royal eff is this bullshit. (Original source linked)

The biggest offender is what you see above – a redoing of the battle scene in the form of super-deformed chibi figures approaching each other and exchanging attacks. At least there is an option to turn off the animation, which you would likely use to keep it turned off for the entire duration of the game.

Langrisser - 4
It looked far better in the old days. (Langrisser II)

Comparing that with the way the previous titles in the Langrisser series were animated (above), you will realize it also took away one fundamental advantage certain Commander classes had – the ability to strike first in battle. They really should have stayed 2D.

Terrible Gameplay:

Langrisser games are turn-based strategy RPGs which proceed in a linear fashion across stages (which they term scenarios). There is no “stage selection”, so experience is limited to the number of scenarios in the game. Characters level up separately, so some prioritizing between members is necessary. Once characters reach level 10 they class up to one of two different class choices, and this is done 3-4 times (depending on whether you reach the ‘secret class’ of that character based on your final tree).

For example, main character Ares, based on the choices you made at the beginning of the game, can start as a Fighter. His class path can look like this: Fighter > Lord > High Lord > General > King (his secret class)

If you make a mistake in sending a character down a path without his/her secret class, you can start again at level 1 of the first class with a rune stone, an item you have to find on certain maps by moving onto that exact square – which I only found one of the entire game, and that’s all the use I’ve gotten out of the item menu (although with experience limited as it is, do you really want to do that?).

The trial-and-error way of guessing continues with the relationship system, which allows you to speak with the characters to deepen your bond, and therefore increasing your likelihood of assisting each other if within range during battle, taking priority over assists by other nearer characters.

Once you reach a certain scenario, you can choose to confess to one of the characters, and if reciprocated (based on the affection level) you will unlock a new skill for both characters, which differ between characters. Some skills, like Rosaria’s Charisma, passively increases attack and defence, making it good for all classes. Others like Jessica’s Elementary Magic gives a passive increase of magical damage – utterly useless if Ares is a melee class. Unsurprisingly, the confession option happens after the battle, so if you wish to re-do it you’ll have to go through the battle again.

Langrisser - 6
Red dots represent your enemy… and your forces. They ran out of colors.

With regard to the turn system, characters take turns moving on the grid, and the turns are indicated on the touch portion of the 3DS in tiny pictures. Yet due to the increasing number of enemies on the map, players will find it easier to simply memorize the turn order instead (Healers, Mages and Footmen first, Horsemen and Winged Riders last). The map is touch-enabled, so you can use it for navigation…if it wasn’t so tiny that you can only get an approximate area with the stylus.

Terrible Map Design

Langrisser - 7
A huge space with nothing much going on.

This brings me to the 2nd biggest issue of the game. The maps are stupidly huge. Take the above picture for example. Your team starts on the bottom right, and your objective is elimination of the enemy forces at the top right corner, leaving the left side of the map completely unused. This is not an isolated case either, as nearly all the maps in the game are colossal in size compared to the number of enemies.

This means there’s a lot of turns that are wasted on simply getting your characters to go from Point A to Point B while the enemy largely waits until you come within range. The biggest maps can see many turns without an engagement, translating to a rather boring experience and will doubly frustrate completionists hunting for items hidden across the map.

Langrisser - 8
Hidden items are off the beaten track (position circled in red). Enemies here also only show up on the right side. The left side is complete filler space.

Terrible AI

Compounding the lack of experience points in the game, the AI’s programming also makes some rather mystifying decisions. The game rightfully points out in the tutorial that defeating the enemy commanders will cause all their soldiers to simultaneously explode with them, but also losing out on the experience granted by defeating each individual soldier.

Yet the enemy commanders will usually be the first to attack any target that comes within range, even if it means suiciding themselves against a vastly superior opponent (Ares takes priority as a target, and he’s pretty invincible as a footman).

This forces the player to make silly decisions like diving into the enemy flanks to kill the soldiers, deliberately taking damage (magical or physical) so that your commanders/troops are unable to kill opponents immediately (a 9 HP commander will only max out at 9 damage, unless there’s a critical hit), or bombarding the enemy commanders with spells of your own to bring their hp below 8 so that they heal instead of attack (the AI will never heal until the 7 HP threshold is breached).

The Not-So-Terrible

The game does have its saving graces though. One of which is the soundtrack, which does manage to hit the nostalgia element quite nicely. It’s no Bravely Default,  but even without stand-out compositions it feels unmistakably Langrisser.

Voice acting is partial in most scenes, with one phrase of dialogue uttered per text box during story sequences. Full voice acting is only found in the confession scenes and the final ending scene of the chosen character (Ares still only gets partial voices in those scenes though). There’s little to fault with the effort gone into the voice work, as the cast were able to give their characters adequate personality despite the limited lines of dialogue.

There is also some replay value to the game, with the multiple endings, both storyline and character-wise. You have the option of starting over from a cleared save file, allowing you to carry over all characters’ levels, skills and earned money, and resets the affection counter. A helpful mechanic for those looking to avoid multiple grinds.

Comparisons

I loved Langrisser I-IV, having completed all 4 games. The game could have turned out a lot better than it did if it took a page off its predecessors. Many of the issues brought up here (like battle speed settings) were already available in the previous games.

Despite bringing back the class changes, there is a very poor sense of progression due to the dearth of abilities granted onto each new class. Whereas you could expect at least one to two new skills every class change from previous entries, here you get one or none per change. Your characters don’t feel any stronger than they were before, making you wonder why you bothered scrimping every experience point available in the first place.

Changing the artist of the game might upset a number of Langrisser’s veterans, because Satoshi Urushihara’s designs are practically synonymous with the Langrisser franchise. I fancy his beautiful characters myself, so seeing it change to more generic moe archetypes does dampen the overall happiness of seeing one of your favourite series brought back to life.

Closing

Crushing disappointment would be two words that aptly describe Langrisser Re:Incarnation -Tensei-, both for series veterans and newcomers. If the title does get localized, I hope it would include some of the missing features integral to a handheld. I’m also not ruling out an update to the game that can bring such improvements.

As it stands now though, this is a game to avoid. Although with the region-locked 3DS, it’s unlikely you’ll be importing a copy. Even if you could play the game though, I’d recommend sticking with its more polished rival, Fire Emblem.

Update (Nov 2015)

The game received a single update in September 2015, fixing problems with items changing during certain story sequences, erroneous combat predictions and display issues when damage dealt is over 10, none of which I found bad enough to mention in my original review. Aksys Games has announced its intention to localize the game, but at this juncture I’m no longer hopeful of the numerous issues being addressed.

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11 thoughts on “Langrisser Re:Incarnation -Tensei- Review (3DS)

  1. i would like to ad an interresting point about summoner classes. Dispite the fact that summoned creatures do not benefit from the summoning commanders aura wich usually grants units extra attack and defence points, ( here it comes) if the summoned creature defeat’s a foe (hard enough without the bonus stats), the commander of that creature will get absolutely no experience what so ever. wich kind of makes the whole idea of summoning creatures stronger than your regular units somewhat meaningless.

  2. another negative point about the game is that you have to move one group at a time, meaning if some characters of a different group you control is standing in the way, you can’t do anything until that other ones group’s turn has come for you to move them out of the way. unlike previous langrisser games where there was one big turn where you could move any character from any group of yours the way you needed or wanted it, not depending on some weird commander turn order funktion. That and the very crappy animations in this game compared to the previous langrissers are the reason i regret buying it.

    1. Well, you can take comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one who has been burnt by the purchase. Fodder units (the cheapest ones) are useful to keep the enemy commander healing up instead of suiciding itself while you kill off his minions. 🙂

      I think at the end of the day, Masaya’s motivations for releasing this crappy title is only so as to continue to “own” the Langrisser name (and not lose it to a dispute for simply squatting on it).

  3. I really like Langrisser, yes it has some issues, but it has game play depth. Too many RPG’s reward players without progressing the game play, like Fire Emblem Fates, shortly after the story splits, your character can basically be a one-person army mowing down all resistance. Langrisser continues to challenge the player and force you not to rely on your avatar. On thing I would like to see changed-I would like characters to gain experience for combat not just kills. I like story content, too, but not at the cost of game play-Langrisser delivers both.

    1. Um….this is exactly the case with Langrisser. It got so bad that just to see the “confession” scenes where I had to repeat the entire stage, I had Ares rush out himself, selected only horsemen and pegasus knights (whose turn priority are the worst) so I could end their turns all at once, and just did that until he killed everything on his own. Frankly, they should have just stuck to the “Your Turn/Enemy Turn” formula. 😀

  4. Oh wow. Thanks for the warning! This popped up as a recommendation for me since I like tactical and turn based games, but this sounds hideous. The lack of ability to look and see what the stats are for equipment is ridiculous.

  5. Too bad, i had a suspicion it would end badly because no Urushihara, chibis and you cant name the MC like previous Langrisser games (Heck they were even fully voiced unlike this new guy) so it seemed like these guys didnt knew the fundamentals of the series.

    Though this game being revived gives me hopes that Growlanser will someday do (And the team is still at ATLUS so it has a chance)

    1. Haha, that’s if you consider a game that’s as ‘revived’ as Dungeon Keeper mobile. It’s unlikely that we’d see another game illustrated by Urushihara, but there’s always a chance for other tactical RPGs to make their way back to the localization table (Except…I dunno, super robot wars?). Atlus is busy sticking Persona everywhere, so maybe not in the meantime.

      Personally, I would love to see games like Jeanne d’Arc featuring other historical figures (considering how popular the Fate/Stay series is). Or maybe the Shining Force series returned to its tactical roots.

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