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Skankin' Garbage's Review of Langrisser V: The End Of Legend

"In ancient times, people had to battle in order to survive. Their battle for an affluent kingdom became a legend. That legend is known as ... Langrisser." Or, so says the various Langrisser series propaganda in worse English. This perfectly describes the ebb and flow of the story of the Langrisser series: A classic battle of good vs. evil, dark vs. light, The sword of Light, Langrisser vs. the sword of Darkness, Alhazard, etc. Even such a simple story can be effective - it's all in the presentation. In any case, Langrisser had done well with it for about four games, then along comes Langrisser V - The End of Legend. In a lot of ways, the good versus evil hooplah is still there...kinda; however, the final installment of Langrisser seems to lose its direction entirely, and, as par for the course with Langrisser gameplay, delivers a unique yet tragically unrefined gaming experience.

So, here you some kind of research laboratory. Some crazy cyborg lady identifies you as Sigma, and her as Lambda. She also claims that you too are a crazy cyborg. She then explains that you two were created to serve a master named Gizarov. Before you can learn too much more, the research facility falls under attack, and you and Lambda flee the research laboratory, and search for Gizarov.

Now, if you were to have played the fourth game already, you would see some interesting paralells - you would know that this is a direct sequel to Langrisser 4, and that the story of Langrisser 5 starts very close to the end of Langrisser 4. (Note: If you haven't played Langrisser 4 should.) Now, of course, this story somehow boils down to a lot of warring with bad guys, and fighting and making allies with nations and all that other stuff...but, it doesn't do it in the way you'd come to expect based on the previous installments. Langrisser 5 instead just goes from an intruiging start, to "okay, I don't really see why this concerns the two main characters of the game, but okay..." to "Wow, this is kind of ...this is ridiculous." Granted, a lot of the things that happen are really cool, like a fight to get rid of the ruling class on an entire continent. Also, sure, it's cool that you return to El Salia (the continent that the first three games took place on). Hell, I'd even say that it's VERY cool that Langrisser 5's main characters are all pretty dynamic - a welcome change to all installments prior to this one.

But, on the other hand, there's so many irrelevant or poorly done aspects to the entire storyline. For example, let's take the thing I mentioned before - the long war to abolish the ruling class on a continent. That was really cool; however, if they had taken that out of the plot completely, the plot wouldn't have suffered at all, because every relevant plot point that occured on that continent involved characters that didn't partake in the war at all - they were a set of plot points completely paralell to the whole war. For that matter, the way they get themselves into that situation is equally dumb. "Well, now that this is done, why don't we go do this, Sigma?" "Well, uh, okay..." Now, don't get me wrong: Cool; but, it's hard not to put the relevance of such a lengthy excursion into question.

For that matter, more than one of our heroes' lengthy excursions are put into question, because there seems to be no main antagonist to the game. Usually, it would be Boser, the avatar of Chaos, god of destruction (Doesn't that sound kind of HeMan-ish?). The games usually boil down to Boser being revived, and him using the humans' dumbness to ressurect Chaos - as I mentioned, an epic battle of good vs. evil. The only problem is, Boser has little to no part in this game (that's the most I can say without giving stuff away), and Chaos isn't even IN Langrisser 5 - just simply mentioned.

So, who exactly IS the antagonist? Is it Omega, the third crazy cyborg who seems to have it out for Sigma? No, not really - in fact, I question the relevance of Omega in the story altogether, as he has no desire to do anything but kick Sigma's ass. Is it Gaiel, the demon who gets ahold of Alhazard, the sword of darkness? You'd think so - it's generally the wielder of Alhazard in every game; but, Gaiel doesn't even start any trouble until so close to the end of the game, that it's almost an afterthought. What about Rainforce, the mysterious nobleman who needs Lambda as part of his equally mysterious scheme? Also en educated guess, seeing as he causes you trouble for the majority of the game (the aforementioned excursion not included); however...I can't even say how ridiculous it is when you finally find out his true scheme, feelings, and intentions. There was a lot of potential for that to be good, but they REALLY screwed that one up, by patching it up with something I could have come up with when I was like, seven years old. How I wish I could TELL you, but I can't. In any case, it doesn't seem like even the game can make a decision - there is no final boss, no final enemy in Langrisser 5. The game ends on a terribly underwhelming note.

Speaking of underwhelming, that about sums up how I feel about the combat, too. Combat is done in tactics RPG style, and is pretty basic: You have your main characters, which are 'commanders', and they are incredibly strong. All commanders have a troop of three to six various units. Every ten levels a commander gains (troops level up with the commanders), they are allowed to change classes, which will determine everything about the character - their stats, the units they can hire, the spells they will learn, etc. Commanders also have something called a 'commander aura', a set of space around them in which their troops will recieve attack and defense bonuses. The actual affair of fighting works like a modified paper-rock-scissors: Infantry units beat Spearmen beat Cavalry beat Infantry. There are also a few special troops: Flyers do moderately well against all basic units, but have low defense and lose to long range units. Archers can kill flyers and low defense units (for example, Cavalry units tend to have high attack and low defense units) easily, but are wasted easily in close range combat. Navy units rule in water, but drool everywhere else...You get the idea.

This is generally how the Langrisser games have all worked, but Langrisser 5 differs from the the older installments in a few different ways, the most important of them being the "Judgement System." Introduced in Langrisser 4, characters acquire turns based on their "Judgement Points", a fancy name for "Speed." Under this system, 'turns' are just a set amount of game time used to determine the duration of stat-affecting spells. The only difference to the Judgement system in Langrisser 5 is that commanders and troops share judgement points - In Langrisser 4, commanders and their troops acquired their turns separately.

Beyond that, there are three new additions to the game:

  1. Commanders can now hire up to two different types of units at a time to engage in battle.
  2. There are a certain amount of 'points' accumulated every turn (maybe they're also called Judgement Points? I don't know Japanese, so I can't say for sure) that indicates how far a unit or commander can move or attack. By forfeiting a turn or two, a unit can accumulate more points, allowing them to move and attack even farther than they could have previously; however, there is a maximum amount of points that each individual unit can accumulate. Incidentally, the implication is that you can move, attack, and move again if you have enough points.
  3. Instead of having a conventional grid-based movement system - in other words, the battlefield is divided up into equal squares of space, and all units occupy one square of space - Langrisser 5's grid is composed of several tiny squares, and units take up a certain amount of tiny squares; for example, most units take up '2x2' squares, larger units and commanders take up 3x3 squares, cavalry commanders take up 4x4 squares, some monsters in the game are even larger (though I'm not sure how much larger), etc. The point of this is that movement is still done based on the smallest increments possible - one tiny square in any direction. This allows you to do things like stagger your units in such a way that they aren't adjacent, though not allowing enough space for any unit to pass between them - in essence, you can now set up a wall of defense with much fewer units.

Now, by this point, you're probably thinking, "Well, this actually sounds pretty awesome. What's the big deal?" Well, it's not the core gameplay - the paper rock scissors, the leveling up, the classes, etc. that are the big deal; the big deal lies within all the other gameplay innovations.

Let's start with the Judgement System. This is a great idea, and several other tactics RPGs have pulled off the concept of having a Speed stat that determines when they acquire turns. The problem is that it's implemented somewhat poorly. The key to the problem lies in how a commander's troops acquire turns. In Langrisser 4, troops had a separate Judgement stat from their commanders, which had its ups and downs, though it caused a sort of artificial difficulty within the game. For example, if you need to send troops through a chokepoint guarded by powerful long-range units, you had to either risk sending in your commander alone, allowing all long-range units to target the commander, and likely kill them; or, you had to risk sending in all the commander's troops alone, forfeiting their attack and defense bonuses, allowing them to be wiped out easily before your commander can catch up.

In Langrisser 5, this has been 'fixed', and commanders and troops share the same turn. There's only one problem with that, though; Langrisser 5, as opposed to Langrisser 4, is way too EASY as a result. In Langrisser 4, one of the checks and balances of the game was that your troops might be slower to accumulate turns if they were very powerful. In Langrisser 5, if your commander has a high judgement stat, and really powerful troops, the commander and the powerful troops will get several turns, allowing you to plow through enemies incredibly easily. You might be thinking "Well, only a few commanders can take advantage of that, right?" Nope. Infantry commanders, particularly Sigma, acquire turns about as fast as mage-type characters, which are supposed to be the fastest units. When your infantry units are moving at light-speed versus passive-aggressive Computer AI, it's pretty easy to control any battle in the game.

And from there, the 'easy' just trickles down and renders every other gameplay innovation inept. So what if commanders can hire two different types of troops? Langrisser 5 defaults half of your commanders to infantry anyways, so it's not as if you really NEED to have a lot of diversity in that regard. Your other three commanders have specialty units, so you can either use your best units available, or use lame, not-the-best units. So what if you can move, attack, and move again? So what if the grid-based system is unique and awesome, allowing you to devise super-cool new strategies in battle? You'll never find yourself in a situation where you need to exploit these new features, because the game is so damned easy!

Not much else really needs to be said. The music, done by Noriyuki Iwadare is good, and appropriate to the style of the game. The graphics are nice. The only big differences between the Sega Saturn version and the PSX version is that the Saturn's music sounds much nicer, while the PSX version offers a 'Hard Mode.' And that's about it - it's only fitting that I end my review on an underwhelming game on an underwhelming note as well. It wasn't a terrible game, but it's a pretty big let down for being the end of a legend.