Langrisser I & II is a sleek, simple, and addicting tactical RPG that sucks you in, just like your own reflection on a set of big, polished shoulder guards.
Back in 1987, three years before the first Fire Emblem game, a Japanese company named Masaya launched Ethlead Senshi, a tactical RPG for Japanese PCs. The game had all the basics found in every tactical RPG nowadays such as stats, skills, and different classes of units including those of the flying and naval variety. A few more tactical RPGs later, Masaya launched Langrisser I on Megadrive in 1991, a simple, short, but addictive and intense tactical RPG, taking place in a world named Ethlead and using lore from Ethlead Senshi. Released as Warsong outside Japan, Langrisser I ended up being remade together with Langrisser II multiple times in Japan. And now, a brand new remake, Langrisser I & II is upon us on PS4, Switch, and Steam. I can tell you right now, it’s definitely the best way to experience or rediscover these classics.
Langrisser I released in Japan during a golden era where a character’s power level was directly proportional to the size of their shoulder guards. Cool elves, sexy dark elves, along with detailed magic systems and worldbuilding were the norm. Record of Lodoss War was in full bloom, and Slayers had just started. Japanese people wanted fantasy, and Langrisser I delivered. The story stars Ledin, a prince who must suddenly flee his kingdom in the face of an invasion from the empire. Together with the friends he makes along the way, he ends up retrieving the legendary sacred sword, Langrisser, in order to fight an ancient, resurrected evil threatening the world. It’s a pretty straightforward fantasy premise, and nor the characters or the story rarely get any deeper. The remake, however, has plenty of different story routes you can end up on depending on your actions during battles, allowing for a lot of replayability. One run alone won’t take you more than twelve hours to beat.
Langrisser II, seeing it’s a sequel, originally released three years later in 1994 and greatly improves on the first game’s weaknesses and has a much more memorable cast. You’ll probably encounter more story development and characterization in the first five chapters of Langrisser II than in all of your first Langrisser I run. And while the battle system didn’t change an inch, maps, battle situations, and objectives are more varied overall. Beating Langrisser II will take you longer than Langrisser I, and it has even more story route bifurcations, including hidden stages.
In both games, using the story chart, you can go back to any previously cleared story chapter, while keeping your items and levels to try out other routes. For those seeking a challenge, Langrisser I & II both include a New Game+ where you can inherit (or not) your items and levels, and choose to increase the difficulty. However, note that the story chart resets itself in New Game+, which is a choice in this remake that I cannot comprehend and is pretty annoying overall. I vividly recommend keeping a save right before your run’s final battle.
The battle system of Langrisser I & II is similar and yet extremely different than nowadays’ more popular tactical RPG series such as Intelligent System’s Fire Emblem or Bandai Namco’s Super Robot Wars. While there are various types of terrains, each granting attack or defense bonuses, there are no elevation-tied systems, nor are there differences in whether you target a unit from the front, sides, or back. There is no permadeath, either.
In Langrisser I & II, each named character in your army is a Commander, a powerful individual who can recruit Mercenaries. The type and amount of Mercenaries a Commander can recruit will be based on their Class. Each Commander has its own Class Tree, and they can switch Classes after garnering enough Class Points, earned after each level up. While the original Langrisser I & II were pretty strict with this system, this latest remake is generous with Class Points. It also allows you to switch back a Commander to any previously unlocked Class to adapt to the situation.
Mercenary Units also each have their own strengths and weaknesses, with Infantry defeating Spearmen, Spearmen having an advantage over Cavalry, and Cavalry overwhelming Infantry. This is a simple triangle, which is complemented by many other types of units and weaknesses, such as undead monsters, marine units, archers, and magicians. As long as you properly check enemies’ stats and magic before rushing in, most Langrisser I & II maps won’t pose you too much trouble and are pretty well balanced.
During battles, Mercenaries accompany their Commander and get a significant stat boost as long as they stay inside their Commander’s Area of Command. Moreover, the more HP a Mercenary unit has, the more powerful they are. Mercenaries also recover HP when standing adjacent to their Commander. As such, the basic strategy in most of Langrisser I & II’s maps will be to stick together as you march toward enemies, using your Commanders’ offensive, healing or buffing/debuffing magic spells adequately. The last trick to it all is how all Mercenaries will disappear when their Commander is defeated. Defeating the Commander first will result in less experience and money, so you’ll be constantly thinking about whether to farm or try to remove a threat as quickly as possible. The battle system is simple and yet extremely addicting, intoxicating, and never gets boring. The games are also just the right length, to avoid being repetitive.
Mercenaries can each be moved manually, and doing so will be crucial at certain moments. However, their movements can be automated, with four different global strategies to order them, Attack, Rush Defend, and Standby. This, however, brings us to Langrisser‘s biggest flaw. While the Mercenaries’ movement process can be automated, you still have to wait for it to happen. When both your army and the enemy side each have over six Commanders, each with four or more Mercenaries units, Battle Turns in Langrisser can be really long. This is true even if you can skip the battle animations, which are represented with super cute SD versions of the Mercenaries skirmishing and also include pretty cool character artwork cut-ins. While the character movement speed on the map is quite fast, an even faster speed-up turbo function would have definitely benefited this remake. This is the main reason why I’d highly suggest playing Langrisser I & II on the Nintendo Switch for its portability over other platforms.
Langrisser I & II is fully voiced with Japanese voiceovers with a cast including popular seiyuu such as Ayane Sakura and Saori Hayami. The cast all did a great job portraying the characters and their emotions. Even the story summary between each chapter is voiced, narrated by Eri Kitamura, who also voices Langrisser‘s recurring character, Jessica. Music-wise, the rearrangements of this new remake are pretty nice overall. For veteran fans, the original Megadrive OST can be activated, bringing back the works of Hiroshi Fujioka (not to be confused with his homonym, Segata Sanshiro’s actor), Isao Mizoguchi, and Noriyuki Iwadare (nowadays highly popular outside Japan for some of the Ace Attorney games).
Langrisser I & II‘s localization is also pretty good. There are sentences where one or two minor details were left out, but that’s inherent to translating Japanese under time constraints and with few contexts. It’s not something you’ll notice anyway if you can’t understand the voiceovers, and 80% of the time, a few sentences later you get that missing detail conveyed in another form. I’d also point out that surprisingly, the game can be set to other languages; Chinese, Korean, and Japanese are all included, which is nice for those willing to practice other languages through gaming.
Lastly, I cannot speak about Langrisser without mentioning the biggest defining aspect of the franchise: its character design by Satoshi Urushihara, one of the best character designers and artists of all time. The game’s Japanese Limited Editions took full advantage of this fact. This remake also allows players to switch anytime between Satoshi Urushihara’s original designs, and brand new redesigns by Ryou Nagi, the original character designer of the Ar Tonelico series and Heavy Object.
Sadly, the new character designs by Ryou Nagi are very hit and miss and tend to remove a lot of the characters’ individuality, which is extremely weird as Ryou Nagi is usually an excellent artist. The difference in detail is like night and day when you look at the different versions of Betty, a brand new Langrisser I character created for this remake, who appears in one of the new story branches. The first Betty artwork above is the Urushihara’s version, the second one is Nagi’s version, and the third one is from the recent Langrisser Mobile, and its redesigns are much better than in this remake.
Ryou Nagi also recently redesigned the characters for the remake YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World, and I believe this remake and both Langrisser I & II suffer from the same character design problem. This is a rather disappointing aspect of this remake, though I believe most people discovering the series or who aren’t longtime anime fans won’t even care. It’s important to note, however, that playing with the Ryou Nagi redesigns also add story event CG scenes to the game. They are numerous and pretty well drawn.
As a side note, I’d also point out that except for some of the female cast’s revealing clothes, there is virtually no sexual fan service in Langrisser I & II, whether you were looking forward to it or apprehending it. Though I’m sure the bikini armors by themselves can be off-putting for some, and I understand that. However, you shouldn’t judge Langrisser by its cover, as it has great themes and strong female characters. This is actually unsurprising when it comes to Fantasy Japanese works like these. I’d definitely recommend Record of Lodoss War, Slayers, and Langrisser I & II, to those who think that kind of Japanese stuff is inherently sexist, such as certain people at Sony of America.
Overall, this new Langrisser I & II remake is definitely the best way to get into the series and enrich your tactical RPG culture. Sure, the Sega Saturn remake’s cool anime cutscenes weren’t added in this new remake, but you can always watch them on YouTube.
The Langrisser series was pretty silent this past decade. The latest brand new game in the series, Langrisser Re:Incarnation Tensei, released on Nintendo 3DS in 2015, is notorious for being particularly bad. This new Langrisser I & II remake is definitely the kind of spur the series needed, and it seems that both this remake and the previously released mobile game are setting up the foundation for a full revival. Hopefully, developers Extreme and Chara-Ani, the companies who now own Masaya, have remakes of the other Langrisser games in the works, so more around the world, myself included, can finally discover the series.