Langrisser Re:Incarnation -TENSEI- (3DS)
Despite all the negative remarks about it within both the Langrisser fanbase and having totally been shrouded in obscurity almost instantly, I still felt compelled to give it a shot, and I am glad I did. This game is becoming pretty rare.
: You have a set of 10HP commanders to place on a map to commence battle with a prepared enemy and this party can grow or shrink with the story. Each commander has a class that you can advance in time which has inherent strengths and weaknesses, and learns new skills as they get stronger. Each commander can also hire up to a number of units they have access to which can assist in fighting. Money can be tight, so the choice of buying gear or hiring troops in between battles is important. Oh, and you might be ambushed mid-fight by units you aren't made aware of commencing the fight. Sometimes multiple times. Keeping troops in your commander's aura range is important for not only bolstering their stats, but protecting your commander from getting picked off, which will cause their whole squadron to retreat.
Most Langrisser games have phases alternate between the player moving their commanders and units and initiating attacks and the enemy performing theirs. In this one, turns are based around a unit's priority and phases are a cycle of giving each squadron a turn rather than player then enemy. Having played Final Fantasy Tactics, this is something I could get used to easily since the active turn-based speed system was a similar concept, just you don't have a unit that can have two turns before any other unit gets just one here. As normal in Langrisser, you can move and attack, just move, or you can cast a skill but be denied a chance to move. Positioning units adjacent to the commander will heal the units. Commanders can't rally to heal stall indefinitely so battles don't get drawn out over an hour per scenario like they can in some earlier titles like Der Langrisser
The map design is mostly awful though: it is far too expansive for the number of units on screen. Walls that you would think reach a ceiling can be flown over or slowly jumped by infantry, rangers, and lancers while the cavalry are logically stuck going around it. This can be exploited for tactical advantages because some units don't have the right mobility to catch up to you while you do things like retreat to heal or spam fireballs from the opposite side of the wall. I really enjoyed the maps which have some sort of objective other than defeating all enemies, such as the ones where you have to race to the center and guard a shrine or shut down a railgun. Secrets in the maps are well-hidden and often yield useful stuff, but I wish there were more scenic clues. The only one I could organically find was positioned by a waterfall in a cave.
Difficulty seems pretty balanced. As always with Langrisser, endings are unforgiving if you have had a commander retreat even once because they cannot get a positive ending. I think this is at least desirable compared to the Fire Emblem approach of "dead forever" that was in the first Langrisser game.
Classes have types that are strong and weak against one another. When a commander reaches a certain level, they can upgrade to a number of new classes with new stats and units to hire, but they do not inherit the advantage and disadvantage of their previous type. Balancing your team's classes is important to be prepared to take on units they have advantages against where a level deficiency can make a big discrepancy in stats. That said, sometimes a few units advanced to their top classes are more powerful than a diverse crew just developed enough to hold their own against those they are strong against.
Apart from battles, in between there is an opportunity to build your bonds with your fellow commanders. You will converse with up to 3 of your choosing and listen to them about whatever is on their mind. Depending on how you answer them when they inquire about your opinion, they may grow more fond of you. Continued attention can turn into a full-on love and once they confess their love to you, they get a special exclusive talent unlocked.
I chose Conny for her endearing personality and being so hyperfocused on her work with aircrafts, and her +3 movement made her so unbelievably powerful that the only thing I had to worry about was stopping her too close to archers. You also get their confession saved to a gallery that you can review any time from the main screen.
: The character art and scenery backdrops are very clean, and though it is not drawn by the series' longtime artist Satoshi Urushihara, these characters have a different kind of charm. It looks a little more FFTA-ish and I think the faces look more distinguished. The demon tribe is full of
and the clothing doesn't leave much to the imagination, so I can not say I would play this in public because of the art. I prefer the modesty of the empire myself.
Battle maps, spell effects, and sprites look Sega Saturn-quality, and sprites scale badly when zooming in or out. The 3D slider definitely makes it look better.
The battle animations though, oh my God, I am convinced someone went out of their way to make a mockery of Langrisser to deliberately make this game undesirable. They look like Playmobil toys and they run up to each other, swinging sticks and anyone who is defeated falls backwards in a fireball explosion. I had to turn them off because they were so silly I laughed myself to tears and felt despair and confusion. Even in the older games, armies would actually charge up to each other and you could see them scuffle with uncertainty in whether a unit would fall, e.g. in Warsong this was well-executed. This is just so bad though - it would belong on LeapFrog if it wasn't medieval + steampunk war simulation.
: The sound effects get the job done but are nothing spectacular or out of place. Music, on the other hand, done still by Noriyuki Iwadare, is impressive as always. Some tracks got recycled from Der Langrisser
which I don't agree with, but the new compositions have a lot of personality. Some story tracks are playful when appropriate, some songs convey a standard confrontation with an air of confidence, some have that "long way to go" sort of thinking-and-wondering music, others are very tense feeling of impending disaster, some feel like songs that suit a tiring, deadly struggle you didn't want to have this way, or dark with full-bodied atmosphere that makes you feel like you are in a cave in evil's territory where no doubt some rituals take place. There are songs appropriate to every situation and some of my favorite in the series here. I believe every single one of these songs made it to Langrisser Mobile
as well for cutscenes.
: Ares's town is under attack by an empire and he manages to pull the holy sword Langrisser which gives a fighting chance to him. He loses his sister Licorice, whom he sets out to find. In doing so, he will not only learn the motivations of the empire, why they are seeking him, and what became of his sister, but be torn between several factions in conflict with each other in the process of deciding what is more important to pursue. The way the war progresses changes a lot depending on Ares's decisions so each route you take will yield a different gameplay experience past each pivotal battle, as well as which characters you can build relationships with and develop in battle.
The characters' personalities are developed and they start to share some of their personal lives with you if you give them bonding time, meaning you will have to play through multiple times to really get to know them since it is not exposed to you through the scenarios. I find that I did favor the characters I gave more time to whose personalities I liked in that I wanted them to be strong and well-equipped; I took good care of them. That is because they were written in such a way that some appealed to me personally, reminding me of my own quirks. There are others that are royals, or servants, or any other number of things. If you want to laugh hard, I strongly recommend to talk to Tsubame and Lucretia. If you want tactical minds, Towa and Werner are good. If you want a socially awkward but diligent researcher, Conny is the one. Everyone is distinctive.
: I certainly would like to remap some more buttons since it does feel like it's an unnatural layout for the way this game plays, but there is really nothing that is terribly easy to do by accident once you know what is confirm and what is cancel. The menu navigations during battle are really weird because of the control layout, but they do have valuable information to help you plan accordingly.
: I like it but it's not very good largely because of the battlefield layouts and the weird controls. The characters and story provide drive and the soundtrack is strong. Some battles are incredibly memorable and others are badly designed. The graphics are inconsistent in quality and sometimes downright silly or embarrassing. If it does appeal to you, there is a lot of replay value.
Just look above you...
If it's something that can be stopped, then just try to stop it!