I’m not going to pretend to have played Langrisser games in their 90s heyday, though I will admit to being vaguely familiar with them. They’re the epitome of 16-bit exotica, with only the 1991 original making its way out of Japan, and even then only doing so in North America and under the not-quite-so-striking title Warsong. After that the series remained in the east, where it built up a reputation as a solid alternative on Sega’s platforms to Nintendo’s burgeoning Fire Emblem series.
Given the rise in popularity of Fire Emblem in recent years – and especially after last year’s breakout hit Three Houses introduced a whole new audience to the appeal of strategy RPGs – it makes perfect sense that publisher NISA and developer Chara-Ani would try and repeat the trick with Langrisser, and the recently-released remakes of original developer Masaya’s first two games does a fine job of it too. This is a luscious package, presented with care and thought.
And they present two very robust takes on the genre, admirably untouched by more modern concerns. Which is a polite way of saying these are two very old school takes on the genre, with few of the flourishes you find in contemporary Fire Emblem – something which I’m sure many will take as a blessing. There’s no tending to a curriculum, or taking time out for tea – this is purely the serious business of battle (although it’s worth nothing that Langrisser 2 does introduce branching paths in its story).
The battles in Langrisser are pretty brilliant too, and they’ve got a flavour all of their own. Here you’ve a few named characters you can take into battle, with the brilliant twist being that they bring with them a gaggle of mercenaries who can be hired before each round. It presents a neat inversion of the typical Fire Emblem approach whereby you’re gingerly pacing the battlefield in order not to have key characters slain – here, you’re free to hurl expendable units with abandon, lending Langrisser’s combat a rhythm that’s at once more urgent and more relaxed.
Beyond that it’s a simple thing, but simplicity here is a virtue. There’s a breeziness to Langrisser and its sequel, backed up by their relatively short length as well as the handsome presentation. You’re free to switch up between the original artwork of Satoshi Urushihara, and the original 16-bit backdrops, or change to the reworked art from Ryo Nagi as well as gently updated backdrops – or play with a combination of your choosing. It’s only a small shame that the character models themselves aren’t quite so handsome, and aren’t open to the same level of customisation.
Still, it’s a small gripe to what’s otherwise an enjoyable game, and as an introduction to a much-loved series this does a fine job. If you’ve burnt through Three Houses already and are looking for a more straight-up serving of strategy, then Langrisser 1 and 2 are well worth a look.