Classic tactical JRPG franchise Langrisser is coming to mobile for the first time12 Dec 2018 8
There’s a lot of potential in tactical RPGs on mobile, especially the classics from Japan. So far, wholesale premium ports have included gems like Final Fantasy Tactics, but the pricing model of these games can sometimes prove prohibitive to some. This, and the evolving nature of how people play mobile games, has led to an alternative offering via F2P strategy games like Fire Emblem: Heroes.
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These games attempt to marry the inherent richness of their forebears with the realities of the freemium economy. Some work, some don’t, but if you’re not able to afford something like Tactics at full price these games can offer an alternative experience.
Come next year, another classic will be making a comeback, not only on traditional platforms but on mobile as well. The name Langrisser may not be as well-known as Fire Emblem, but it’s no less as important to the history of Japanese turn-based tactical games. Originally released in 1991, the first Langrisser arrived the year after Fire Emblem’s original incarnation and was actually the first of the two franchises to make it out west. Older readers may recognise the name Warsong, the title of Langrisser I’s official SEGA Genesis translation that was released in North America that same year.
Langrisser and Fire Emblem’s rivalry would continue throughout the 90’s, with Langrisser II coming in 1994, Langrisser III in ’96, Langrisser IV in ’97 and finally Langrisser V in 1998. This year would also see Langrisser I & II ported to PC using a new engine, although the franchise went into hibernation as the original developers parted ways with their parent company to pursue their own projects.
Warsong would was the only game of the ‘classic’ era to get an official western release, but If you knew where to look you could get fan translations of Langrisser II, Der Langrisser (The super Famicom version of L2) and Langrisser IV: the all-time fan favourites amongst those who’ve followed the series since the beginning.
As a franchise, Langrisser was mainly known for offering a large-scale battle system, which stood apart from other similar games that focused more on individual characters and smaller squads. Players could control dozens, if not hundreds of troops on their side, and everyone was organised into platoons or battalions of units led by a singular hero-figure who would have a class and powers of their own. Like most of games of this genre, there was a rudimentary hierarchy in terms of which units were strong against other units, with order changing and evolving as the series progressed.
Featuring a medieval/Germanic setting with a noticeably Japanese spin, the series was also known for the narrative and story. 1995’s Der Langrisser introduced branching non-linear paths – with the player able to align with either one of three factions or go it alone, something which carried on into later games and remakes. This is now considered an important part of a narrative based tactical game’s DNA, and it’s something Langrisser and contemporaries helped refine. Relationship dynamics also evolved over the course of the series post-Langrisser III, giving the players multiple options for romantic partners depending on in-game choices and dialogue.
Two decades have passed since the ‘classic’ era of Langrisser, which ended with Langrisser V. There have been a few spin-offs and alternative projects since then, but it’s only recently that the series is making a real attempt at a come-back not only in Japan, but in the west as well. A compilation featuring a remaster of both Langrisser I & II is coming to Switch and PS4 next year, and us mobile users are getting our own bespoke Langrisser experience...
Twenty years on, Langrisser is looking to revive its ancient rivalry with Fire Emblem, and no more is this apparent than with Langrisser Mobile. It launched into open beta in China earlier this year, and now it’s being translated in English, positioning itself as an alternative to Fire Emblem: Heroes in the free-to-play strategy space.
While Langrisser Mobile replicates some of the basic traits of Heroes (given how similar these franchises have always been, not entirely surprising), it’s still carrying over the core identity of Langrisser, offering its own spin as it appeals to both new and old series fans.
Players of Heroes will recognise the dynamic of simplified turn-based combat with a focus on quicker matches, and also the idea of pulling famous characters from across the franchise into one game. But on top of that is many traits that come straight out of the classics.
The units you control on the map are still a grouping of a leader-like main character being supported by grunt troops, and each have their own health and attack stats for an extra layer of customisation and tactical utility. There’s even a nod to the series’ roots by asking players to do a quick questionnaire at the beginning, the results of which will determine the main character’s class evolution later in the game.
Beyond that, Langrisser is trying to offer more content to enhance the experience. For example, the maps can be as large as a 24x29 grid, and there’s a lot of them (as a quick comparison, Fire Emblem’s maps only go as large as a 10x8 grid). There’s also a full fleshed out central narrative that touches on key points and markers from the classic games and the tactical sphere even features terrain effects, which add on an extra dimension to fighting battles beyond class and type-trumping.
Japan has a great history of tactical strategy games, and it’s a shame more of them don’t make it out west. Whatever form it takes, it’s good to see forgotten players like Langrisser get revived for a new audience.
Langrisser Mobile is due for release sometime in 2019. You can go to the official website to register for the currently running Closed Beta Test.