Langrisser Re: Incarnation Tensei - 3DS Review
A Tactical Bore
Tactical RPGs can be found dotted all over the video game timeline and are one of the oldest video game formats. Most of my tactical RPG experience lies with the Game Boy; playing games like Advanced Wars, Fire Emblem, and more recently, Code Name: Steam. So you can imagine how excited I am to be reviewing a tactical RPG for my first 3DS game: Langrisser Re: Incarnation Tensei. Though new to me, the Langrisser video game series isn’t a newcomer with releases on PC, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, and many others. The latest installment into the series, created by Extreme Co., Ltd. and Masaya Games, looked promising after an intro video full of stylish characters, menacing demons, and a pretty kick-ass original song. Now visually compelled and expecting the best, I propped up a few pillows, took off my socks, and select “new game”.
I am first pleasantly greeted by Jessica, who is envoy for the Goddess of the Light: Lushiris. By asking me a series of questions, she draws conclusions on what kind of player I am, and suggests a few starting classes. I choose Magician, hoping to up my range game, while still being able to lay waste with powerful spells.
After a few character introductions, my character Ares and his maid Maiya found themselves in the heat of battle. Emperor Autokrato IV has ordered his forces to destroy Ares’s hometown and kidnap him, fearing Ares’s connection to the true bloodline would damper his plans at world domination. Fortunately, our heroes take refuge in the local church, and stumble upon the legendary sword Langrisser. Being of an ancient bloodline has it’s perks, as the fabled sword chooses Ares to become a hero of legends to come. Now with the Langrisser in hand, I’m given my first lesson in gameplay.
For a few sets of pictures I will be displaying two photos, one on top of the other. These are what is being displayed on both screens of the 3DS at that moment. I know it seems redundant to explain, hopefully it helps a few. If there is only a single photo, it will show what is being displayed on the upper screen only.
As you can see above, allies and opponents are all displayed on the map in “top-down” or “bird’s eye view” fashion, on the upper screen. This is where you will be doing almost all controls. In fact, the lower screen holds very few interact-able functions. When a character is not selected, the lower screen displays: turn order, mini-map, Win Conditions, Loss Conditions, and number of turns. I found the most useful of these to be the turn order display, and used it frequently to choose which targets to kill first. Win Conditions were almost always to defeat all enemies, defeat certain enemies, or to escape; not much variety in objectives there. Loss Conditions were even worse with the first 9 missions’s game over being achieved if Ares dies.
The mini-map display reminds me of tiny Lego pieces, and is sadly the best use of touch screen controls in the entire game. There are battlefields of impressive size in Langrisser that harbor enemies at each corner; tapping the mini-map display instantly changes my top-screen view to where I tapped. Other than to select between menu displays, this seems to be the only other use for the touch screen. I was deeply saddened to learn I wouldn’t get to direct my forces with a point of the finger.
Controls can be confusing at first; using the “B” button as a select button and “A” as back/cancel button is counter to what most are used to, but not game breaking. Players are forced to use the D-pad to navigate menus, leaving the analog stick to collect dust. Pressing “Y” or “RB” will move the cursor to select whichever unit’s active turn it is; handy after surveying the map and planning an attack. “LB” can be used to zoom in and out of the map, but at the cost of graphics. Lastly, pressing “X” will open access to Lists: the Allied Commander List, the Enemy Commander List, and the NPC List. These lists contain everything about everyone on the battlefield; each displays every units set of skills, what equipment they have on, and their current status.
Selecting the unit whose turn it is will display a field of light blue squares around the unit; this is the units range of movement. Players can spend turns positioning units, laying enemies within target range or simply heal themselves by holding their ground. Melee attacks require a unit to get close and personal, while ranged bow and magic users have a lot more area of coverage. Once an enemy is in range, the Attack command will appear. Selecting attack and then a target will bring up a pre-battle summary screen, like the one above. This screen is your best friend! It displays what the outcome will be of the posed battle:
Danger: Your unit will take severe losses.
Disadvantage: Your unit will take more loss than the opponent.
Advantage: Your unit will take less loss than the opponent.
Overwhelm: The opponent takes severe loss.
Once the attack is finalized, you’ll soon be subject to a horrible 3D fight sequence like the one pictured above. These sequences are the bane of Langrisser Re: Incarnation Tensei’s existence, as units are poorly designed “Chibi” versions of their 2D counterparts that participate in battles that look more like friendly games of Red Rover Red Rover. It is comical to watch Ares battle skeletons while they both walk on water, but I find it hard to believe battles were intentionally designed for laughs. Certain skills and magic abilities will not display this screen at all when used, but instead perform a minor graphical effect on the map screen. All units start with 10 health points and once lowered to 0, will die. Whichever strategy you use, once Win Conditions are met the level scenario is complete.
In between scenarios, players enter a War preparation screen. Think of this as your base of operation in between battles. Here you can catch up with the troops, assign mercenaries, plan future battles, and fashion your army with the latest weapons and armor. Not all features are unlocked right away, but saving in between battles is a must, as there is no in battle save system that I can find.
The “Set” screen allows you to customize the starting positions of your commanders on the next battle map. Commanders are any named ally you acquire along your journeys, and can be more intimately conversed with at the “Talk” screen. Within the “Talk” screen, players can speak with up to 3 commanders between each battle, in hopes of creating a stronger bond. Once selected, you’ll be entered into a conversation with the commander and be given three options to choose from that can alter the relationship with said commander. So far my commanders have gone from “Acquaintance” to “Infatuated” to “Fond of” regardless of sex, and I’m not too sure what benefits I receive from doing this, but the tutorial promises special surprises.
In the mercenary guild, players can hire back-up units for each commander you have on the field using points. Points are rewarded for completing scenarios, and for keeping mercenaries alive through the battle. The type of mercenaries a commander can hire depends on the commander’s class. Cavalry commanders can hire units like Horsemen, Gunners can hire Musketeers, magic user commanders enlist holy units like Abbots, the hero Ares can rally Militia and Bowman, and confusingly my Pegasus riding White Knight can hire dragon riding units named Hawk Riders.
Mercenaries are literally cannon fodder and can be used to farm experience for their corresponding commander without putting their commander in danger. When a commander or a mercenary within that commander’s leadership kills an enemy, the commander is rewarded experience and eventually stat points at each new level up. As an added bonus, when mercenaries under the same commander, including the commander, stand near said commander they receive increased attack and defense. Placing a wounded mercenary in a square next to his commander will also heal the mercenary 3 points for every passing turn.
Don’t be too careless with your mercenaries, as they do provide additional points if they survive all the way till the end of battle. Pictured above is an example of unit strengths and weaknesses: infantry is effective against lancers, lancers against cavalry, and cavalry effective against infantry. Learning this web of effectiveness is key to keeping your mercenaries alive. There are still other units types like archers and clerics, and terrain bonuses that continue to add complexity to the battle system.
With all this, I hope you can see how Langrisser Re: Incarnation Tensei tries to be complex. Battles can be planned to meet a player’s desires, but still requires attention to unit type and, with limited supply of points to spend on mercenaries and shop items, frugality. I said the game“tries” to be complex, because once you’ve mastered these aspects, the game becomes relatively easy and way to repetitious. I’m not too sure just how many scenarios are in the entire game, but I was able to get to scenario 13 with ease and without new trails or mechanics to face.
I’m going to start off by admitting I turned off battle animations midway through the 6th level, and honestly that was probably 5 levels longer than I should have. I kept holding out for new creative attack animations or better designed 3D models, but none came. Action sequences are grisly displays of pixel slaughter; models look almost nothing like their 2D counterparts and half the time don’t seem to have eyes. Friends and enemies slowly move to meet in the middle of a childlike-designed battlefield, to only leave you staring at the screen, jaw open as strikes and arrows appear as dismal flashes and streaks across the screen.
Slain enemies simply disappear from screen that honestly seems to bore your in game character as much as you. Character designs and attacks are often confusing and unimaginative. Why are my Hawk Riders on dragons (pictured below) and why do run headlong into the enemy like kamikaze pilots?
The game soundtrack is excitingly full of midi rock ‘n roll guitar rifts that would fit right at home in a Sonic the Hedgehog game, but still manages to channel a journey of 8-bit symphonic fantasy. As good as the soundtrack is, the sounds effects for movements and attacks are rather dull and short. There was an obvious division of attention and effort in producing the sound quality of the game; sound effects shouldn’t sound like tearing paper or running facets with such an awesome song produced for the intro video.
2D Character designs are very creative and enjoyable to look at. Many characters like Christiane above, are donned with stylish battle armor or majestic robes. With a creative cast of warriors, clerics, and demons, there is great variety in character design, staying true to Langrisser’s heritage of anime art style. One thing is for sure, Langrisser has a few scantily clad young characters. Jessica (below) may not necessarily be human and therefore not a child in lore standards, but the character sure looks like a little girl to me. Her outfit, along with a few other characters, is a little too revealing for me, but hey I understand the artistic style. Hell we all knew Kirsten Dunst’s vampire character in Interview with the Vampire was now vampire and not a little girl anymore, but that didn’t stop her sexuality in the movie from feeling wrong.
The Langrisser family bloodline is an old lineage that runs deep in tactical RPG history, but it’s latest generation’s blood must be really thin. When placed next it’s predecessors, Langrisser Re: Incarnation Tensei falls short. Previous titles may not wow your socks off, but still managed to deliver a product that reflects the technology of its time; Langrisser Re: Incarnation Tensei does not.
Even if promised with new content and mechanics, I personally will not continue to play this game. Story branches and Voguish character designs that attract my eyes like the gorgeous demon Patsyr pictured above, only let me forgive so much.
Blurry battle maps like the one above and chibi-battle scenes like the one below, make my eyelids heavy, with the only thing stopping me from falling asleep is the fear of dreaming of pixelish nightmares. It is most grievous for me to label my first 3DS review with such a low score, but it is imperative that players understand: I don’t even think most fans of the series will like this game, and if fans won’t like it, newcomers will definitely not.
Thank you for reading. Nolan — Totaltoad
Langrisser Re: Incarnation Tensei gets a 4/10 (Bad)
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