Review by Sephirstein
Reviewed: 11/24/00 | Updated: 06/18/02
In short, borderline perfection.
Langrisser 2, also known as Lungrisser 2 or (incorrectly) Warsong 2, is probably the best pure Strategy-RPG on the Sega Megadrive. Released by NCS/Masaya in 1994, Langrisser 2 has deep and challenging gameplay, outstanding anime-style graphics, a magnificent soundtrack, and a gripping storyline. Combined, all these qualities should entertain anyone with even the slightest interest in strategy games.
Unfortunately, the original Langrisser, poorly localised and released, under the name “Warsong”, in North America by Treco in 1991, was a commercial failure. Thus, the sequel was never able to see the light of day outside of Japan. It is only thanks to the initial efforts of Alamone and his now-defunct group, Warui Toransu, who began the translation, the later efforts of my good friend Commander Stab and his group, Hiryuu Honyaku, who finished the bulk of the translation, and D-Boy, who is currently in the process of revising the current translation in addition to translating the game’s ending sequences, that myself, along with many other Langrisser fanatics, are able to play almost all of this game in English, using emulation, rather than in Japanese.
Wow! Langrisser 2 is a tremendous visual improvement over the original, making it quite obvious that the artists at NCS/Masaya did not sit on their hands for the three years between the release of this game and its predecessor. Instead, the company took the time to learn how to use far more of the Megadrive's underrated graphical capabilities. First of all, the character drawings during the introductory cut scene just have to be seen to be believed: they could have come straight out of an Japanese anime or a CD-ROM based game, as the vivid colours, the variety of character designs, and the details found on the characters are far beyond what I ever believed the Megadrive to be capable of!
The 2-Dimensional battle maps look more vibrant this time around, while the troops and commanders situated on the maps are far more detailed. No longer is a horseman a NES-looking soldier sitting on a NES-looking horse. Instead, said horseman looks like a detailed, anime horseman, right down to its detailed armour and its thrilling battle-charge.
During an actual battle, the troops are no longer amateurish pixels, as in the original Langrisser. They are now far more detailed and colourful, albeit somewhat blocky. Additionally, commander attacks and spells have been spiced up with some much needed pizzazz and variety. Like the original, each character class has one type of physical attack; however, commanders are no longer limited to throwing a single energy wave or a few rinky-dink fireballs at the enemies. They are now also able to charge into their opponents (common for lower-ranked soldiers and knights), shoot many different types of projectiles, toss a fireball into the air and watch it explode on their helpless adversaries, and wipe out enemies with a constant, long-lasting lightning bolt extending horizontally from their hands. The spell effects, however, are less impressive, lagging behind those found in Phantasy Star 4 or in the Shining Force series
In spite of my previous accolades, the strongest aspect of Langrisser 2's graphics is the character photos that appear in the dialogue boxes (think comic book or graphic novel) when the characters are “talking” or when one looks at their statistics. The artists put so much effort into the detail of these portraits that the facial expressions of these portraits actually change over the course of a conversation depending on the speaker’s mood. Overall, Langrisser 2 has gorgeous graphics that allow it to tower over all but the most well-known Megadrive games of its era.
Noriyuki Iwadare, duly respected in Japan as one of the greatest game music composers of all time, has conjured up yet another masterpiece. Iwadare's powerful, emotional style is perfect for games in this genre, and he certainly makes exquisite use of it here, developing a soundtrack that is as inspiring as it is atmospheric. Each major character's theme makes you feel as though you are fighting as -- or against -- them, and the remix of the original Langrisser's main theme will leave you breathless. In addition, Langrisser 2's music is insanely catchy, and many of the tunes will have you merrily humming along as you (hopefully) skilfully lead your army to yet another brilliant victory.
The sound effects, while not quite upstaging Iwadare’s dramatic soundtrack, go above and beyond what one would expect from a Sega Megadrive game. Different sound effects accompany the different types of attacks and spells, and the screams of death and pain are nearly as convincing as those found in Final Fantasy Tactics, a much more recent game running on exponentially more powerful hardware. Overall, Langrisser 2's music and sound are magnificent, as Iwadare's incredible soundtrack seems to push the Megadrive's mediocre sound processor far beyond its supposed limits.
The original Langrisser had a rather interesting plot, although Treco’s inept localisation butchered it quite a bit in the North American release. Langrisser 2, however, improves upon the original’s story a hundredfold, due to its complexity (by videogame standards), its characters, and its translation. You take on the role Elwin, a wandering young warrior who lost his parents as a child and lost his mentor -- to an evil Demon Lord -- at an undefined time before the game takes place. You begin the game at a village in which Elwin's companion, a young wizard named Hain, asks you to help him defend Riana, a childhood friend of the latter whom the Blue Dragon Knights of the Rayguard Empire are trying to capture for purposes yet unknown. Following this incident, you are thrown into a war between the Karxath, a benevolent kingdom protecting itself from conquest, and the militant Rayguard Empire, who intends to use Riana in its quest to capture the evil sword Alhazard and conquer the world. Naturally, the story becomes more complex as one progresses through the game’s 28 scenarios, with new characters, intrigues and twists rapidly introduced. Central to the plot is the holy sword Langrisser, whose power combines with the evil sword Alhazard to unleash the minions of Chaos, a being created from the universe’s destructive forces.
Thus, on one level, Langrisser 2, like most post-1990 Japanese role-playing games, functions as an interactive novel, with the games twenty-eight tactical battles interrupting the dialogue and the scenario description. The obvious side-effect of the plot’s flow, which may be construed as positive or negative depending on one’s tastes, is the linearity that goes along with it. In other words, Langrisser 2, for better or worse, holds you by the hand, providing very little freedom and exploration. (a trait common to Japanese role-playing games, although never to the degree found in the Langrisser series)
The already-brilliant story is bolstered by Hiryuu Honyaku's outstanding fan translation, which currently translates the entire game, with the exception of the ending sequences occurring after the final scenario. Hiryuu's translation features witty dialogue and a fluid pace, as each character is given an interesting personality. From the Dubya-like incompetence of Imperial Commander Zolm, to the calculating cruelty of Zarvera (a mistranslation of the German word “Zauberer,” which refers to a specific type of magic-user) Eggbert, to the completely unaristocratic brashness and tomboyishness of Princess Sherry, not one of Langrisser 2's characters is underdeveloped enough to turn you off from playing this game. Despite the stupendous translation, a few of the translated place names and character names are questionable, though nowhere near as flawed as Treco’s inept butchering of the original Langrisser. In spite of this minor problem, Langrisser 2's story is exemplary and should be experienced by any Langrisser fan, or any RPG fan for that matter.
Langrisser 2 represents turn-based strategy gameplay at its finest, consisting of twenty-eight well-designed scenarios and four optional secret scenarios (although only three are accessible without cheating). Each scenario consists of a prologue, where the situation is described and the story and the goal explained; a pre-battle setup in which you are able to configure and outfit your gallant army; some dialogue between characters, enemies, and NPC allies; the actual battle; some post-scenario dialogue; and perhaps a story interlude to bridge the gap between the current scenario and its successor.
he setup allows the gamer to examine their enemies, buy and distribute troops and battle equipment accordingly for each character (general), and, unless it is a forced arrangement, to position each general's armies accordingly. This preparation is vital to your success, as selecting the right troops and arranging the generals correctly usually makes the differenced between a decisive victory and a crushing defeat.
The actual scenarios, fundamentally glorified chess matches, are played out beautifully, taking place on a two-dimensional battlefield and divided into turns, which consist of a phase for your generals and allies to move and attack, and a phase for monsters and enemies to strike back. During your army's phase, you have a number of different options. Each general can either move themselves and the units under their command, forfeit their turn, (although their units can still be moved) restore 3 hit points (to a maximum of 10) and (if applicable) 2 magic points (to a maximum that varies depending on the character and the character's class), or engage the enemies. Note that it is possible to switch between your generals as many times as you would like while it is your phase. Once you are finished moving or acting with whomever you choose, each general's troops that have not yet moved are arranged automatically to ensure optimal offensive or defensive positioning (unless you disable this feature for that specific general), and the enemy gets a phase to move their troops and control the pace of the battle.
This cycle of phases is repeated until either side achieves its goals, which can result in you moving onto the next scenario, being defeated, or, in rare cases, finding a secret scenario. To add an extra dimension to the game, it is very common for reinforcements to appear for your side, your enemies, or both sides. These reinforcements can make a desperate situation winnable, make a precarious situation for your side even more disastrous, and/or introduce a new character into the game. Luckily, since scenarios tend to last from 25 minutes to over an hour, you are provided with the option to save the game in the middle of a scenario.
An actual battle occurs when an attacker chooses to engage a defender. The battles occur automatically, although you can see your troops go to blows with the enemy. The outcome depends on the units’ respective attack and defensive strengths, the terrain on which each unit is standing, and their proximity to their general. Units receive an attack and/or a defence bonus when they stand within a certain range of their general. This bonus, referred to as the general’s “revision,” does not apply to the general him/herself or to allied units under the command of another general. Additionally, the outcome of a battle can depend on the types of units that are fighting. To give just a few examples, horse units have the mobility needed to easily overtake soldiers, the spear of a pike unit can easily throw a horseman of its horse, and the heavy armour of soldiers make spears ineffective against them Other units include sea units who have weak defensive capabilities but gain HUGE bonuses when fighting in the water; sky units, who are also weak defensively, but have high attack, reach their enemies extremely quickly, and fly through rugged terrain without sacrificing any mobility; and archer units, who can attack enemies from up to three spaces away.
Naturally, no Strategy-RPG is complete without character evolution, and Langrisser 2 takes its predecessor's winning formula and improves upon it. Each character begins the game as a certain character class, such a soldier, a warlock, a knight, or a cleric. As your characters gain levels, their attack strength, defensive strength, and magic points increase, and upon reaching Level 10, they are given a choice of between one and three more powerful classes into which they can evolve. New classes grant characters new spells, new units, better revision, and different mobility attributes. Additionally, the character sometimes switches attack-styles upon changing classes. Finally, depending on the evolution path taken by a character, they can either evolve to a powerful fourth class, which also varies based on the evolution path taken, or they can evolve further, becoming a semi-secret fifth class and earning even more powers. When all is said and done, it is hard to find flaws in Langrisser 2's gameplay. It is friendly, deep, well-balanced, and simply a joy to play.
Many people who have only played the first five or six scenarios will probably disagree, but Langrisser 2 can be extremely difficult. For one, you cannot replay earlier scenarios to beat up on weaker enemies and strengthen your character in the process. Additionally, from Scenario 8 onwards, with very few exceptions, the enemies are merciless, and nothing short of perfection will bring victory, for you anever out-number and seldom out-muscle the enemies, and will be forced to think carefully to out-strategize them. Luckily, the game lets up a bit following Emperor Bernhardt’s first defeat about 2/3 of the way through the game, though it never again becomes anywhere close to easy. A final reason for Langrisser 2's challenge is the good artificial intelligence of your enemies. The AI is not recklessly offensive like in the first Langrisser, nor cripplingly defensive like in Der Langrisser (Langrisser 2's 1995 remake), nor utterly stupid like in the Shining Force games. Fortunately, while Langrisser 2 may seem intimidating, the learning curve is excellent, and the earlier scenarios do a great job of adjusting you to the dynamics of the game without overwhelming you. Overall, Langrisser 2 is a hard game, but the challenge stems from strong artificial intelligence and well-designed battles, as opposed to cheap deaths and unfair traps, for it is always possible to win if you allow all of your characters to gain battle experience and if you make a concerted effort to research the various evolution paths to determine what is best for each character.
Despite its brilliant gameplay and outstanding story, some gamers will not be tempted to replay Langrisser 2. Unlike its Super Famicom remake, Der Langrisser, Langrisser 2 has no branching paths that allow you to join the Rayguard Empire or explore other storyline possibilities. Additionally, some of the scenarios are so difficult that many will not wish to play through them again. In spite of all these flaws, Langrisser 2 is still very replayable. Finding the secret scenarios and exploring different paths by which characters can change into more powerful classes are more than enough incentives for many Langrisser fans to replay Langrisser 2. Besides, the game is still extremely fun to replay, and anyone who’s enjoyed playing through it now would be depriving themselves by not replaying it when D-Boy eventually releases his revised translation.
-Langrisser 2 is a tremendous improvement over the first Langrisser.
-Beautiful character design and outstanding anime cut scenes will wow your eyes.
-The changing facial expressions on the character portraits really add a touch of class and emotion to the game.
-Iwadare's soundtrack is very atmospheric and thrusts you into the centre of a desperate war.
-The sounds of the weapons and the screams of war are among the best sound effects to ever grace a 16-Bit game.
-Being able to plan your attack at the beginning of each scenario adds a tremendous strategical dimension.
-The battles have a lot of depth and require quite a bit of thought to win.
-The path-based character evolution system has been expanded and refined since the original Langrisser.
-Being able to save your game during a scenario saves a lot of frustration.
-The learning curve is fair.
-The AI is excellent.
-The game is challenging for all the right reasons.
-The story is exciting and the translation outstanding.
-Secret scenarios and the character evolution system make this game very replayable.
-Some of the character and place name translations are questionable.
-The ending is not yet translated to English.
-The length and difficulty of some scenarios detract somewhat from the replay value.
-This game was never released outside of Japan.
-Langrisser 2 is the best strategy-RPG on the Megadrive.
-Langrisser 2 also popularised the Langrisser series in Japan and spawned many sequels.
Anyone who enjoyed Langrisser 2 may wish to try Der Langrisser, an official 1995 remake that was released for the Super Famicom and that has already been partially translated by No Life Translations and Warui Toransu. Der Langrisser features an enhanced soundtrack, and the opportunity to make choices that will alter the course of the plot. More negatively, however,Der Langrisser lacks the stylised graphics of Langrisser 2 and suffers from a comical lack of challenge. Either way, it’s worth giving a chance.
Even more interesting is the German influence on Langrisser 2. The word “Langrisser” is actually a German word meaning “Long Tearer” (a suitable name for such a mighty sword), while the emperor of both the Rayguard Empire and the original Langrisser’s Dalsis Empire is frequently referred to as the Kaiser, a German word meaning “Caesar” that was used by Germans and Austrians for their respective emperors. Additionally, a few of the names found in Langrisser 2, such as Bernhardt and Hain are also German in origin, while the word Zarvera, referring to a class of magic-users, is a corruption of the German word Zauberer. This corruption occurred because when the word was translated from Japanese to German, Zarvera was the closest sounding word to “Zauberer” that could be written using Japan’s Katakana alphabet. (The Katakana alphabet is a simple Japanese script usually used to transliterate foreign words into Japanese) Finally, Alhazard, the aforementioned sword of evil, seems to be Arabic in origin, as it has a structure similar to other Arabic loanwords such as the English “algebra” and the Spanish “almuerzo” (lunch).
Langrisser 2 is so close to perfection, that NCS/Masaya’s failure to get this game published in North America is a travesty on par with Nintendo’s failure to finish localising Mother - Earthbound’s predecessor - or Square’s failure to publish Final Fantasy 5 overseas . The graphics are outstanding, the music is possibly Iwadare's best effort, the gameplay is deep and addictive, and the story is magnificent. Is a shame that the first Langrisser game, released in North America as ''Warsong,” was met with apathy for the gaming public in spite of the critical acclaim it received from Electronic Gaming Monthly and a number other respect gaming magazines, for it was an outstanding game whose Japanese success paved the way for a masterpiece of a sequel. I suppose it's for the best, as no publishers, save perhaps Working Designs, could have given Langrisser 2 the high quality translation that Hiryuu has blessed us with. I strongly suggest that you download the ROM and get the translation patch, regardless of whether or not you have the time, the money, or the desire to find an original copy. Otherwise, you will be missing one of the greatest and most overlooked gaming experiences to have ever graced the gaming public.
Final Score: 9.5/10
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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