Genre: Tactical turn-based overhead RPG (think Shining Force, Fire Emblem)
Japanese Release Date: 06/30/95
Complete English Fan Translation Release Date: 06/08/07
webpage for more info on English translation patch (works on both ROM and actual cart) here
+ Show Spoiler +
English Translation Credits
Derrick Sobodash (system text, Initial path, some Light and Independent, all secrets)
Eddie Stemkowski (most of Light path)
Hsing “DragonMasterX” Chen (some Imperial, all of Chaos, most of Independent)
Benjamin Whitting (some of Imperial)
ElfShadow (some of Light and Imperial)
Editing and Localization
John “MK” Grathwohl (testing and editing to reflect who is speaking)
Derrick Sobodash (style, formatting, second-pass editing)
Tyson Anderson (editing of the entire game)
Eric H. Krieger (editing of Initial path)
Derrick Sobodash (logos, new ending, all fonts used, window colors)
Original Developer Credits
Planning and Scenario
Composition and Programming
Noriyuki Iwadare [my note: of Grandia and Lunar fame, although the music here is quite different]
Satoshi Urushihara [my note: some relatively known manga artist]
Producer and Director
What is this game?
Der Langrisser is an excellent strategy RPG set in your typical medieval-styled fantasy world, a game in the somewhat known Langrisser series, an extensive remake of Langrisser II. Langrisser I was released in the US as Warsong on the Genesis; the rest of the games are pretty much Japan-only and also released on Sega consoles. As for the title of this remake, the Japanese just think German is cool or something (e.g. Xenosaga's subtitles like Der Wille zur Macht); don't think too much about it. The English translations for this game has been going on and off for 10 years, with different people starting and dropping projects, until one team finally pulled through and finished the translation just recently. For those of you not familiar with the scene, by "translation patch" I mean something you take with a nifty utility to merge with an original Japanese ROM or cart, resulting in a completely translated game with all of the Japanese translated by hand into English and hacked into the original so that it plays like it had an official translation shipped offshores.
Der Langrisser follows many conventions of the genre that you're probably familiar with. On any given turn, you can select each one of your units to move to anywhere within its movement range--mounted units can move farther than foot units on the road, but both are slowed down by water or mountains, while air units have no mobility restrictions--and upon finishing movement, can initiate combat with an adjacent enemy unit. Terrain plays a factor also in giving defense bonuses: a fort or a forest provides better cover than a field. After you move all your units or elect to end your turn, it's the enemy's turn to be controlled by the CPU for all of their actions. The outcome of a battle is determined by whose units have better stats, what terrain and unit type considerations there are, and a little bit of variance due to luck. Standard TRPG rules apply: infantry > pike > cavalry > infantry in a classic weapon triangle, archers > flying, sea units get bonuses in water, priest units > monster and undead type, etc.; a weaker pike unit will still beat a horse unit, although if the cavalry is far superior they'll come out on top. Some characters can also cast healing, offensive, support, or summon magic for their turns. In one scenario you may have a winning condition like killing all enemies or killing a certain enemy; when a scenario is won you advance to the next. When you begin the game, there's even a character creation quiz that will determine the main character's stats, first class, magic, etc., something along the lines of the Ogre Battle series.
In this game, you follow and control the actions of a young traveling swordsman by the name of Erwin. The lands of El Sallia are again torn by war, with an ambitious Kaiser Bernhardt seeking to unite all under his rule. But inevitably, in his search for power, the cursed sword Alhazzard, with the power over demons, and the sword of light Langrisser will again be centerpieces in the ages-old struggle between the Descendants of Light, the demon hordes, and this time, a powerful man with his own vision of the future. What will Erwin's role be in the ensuing conflict? The following video shows the introduction of the game after a minute or so:
Der Langrisser may at first just seem another mediocre game in the genre, but it's how it implements those standard components with features of its own that make it the worthwhile title it is.
Unlike the other games in the Langrisser series, Der Langrisser features a full branching storyline. Langrisser II, in fact, which Der Langrisser is based on, is fairly close to what the Light path is. Which path you go down is determined by Erwin's answers to questions and on-field actions. There are four separate main branches: Light, Imperial, Independent, and Dark, each with a different ending, and each with different levels and enemies to subdue. For example, in the popular Independent path, Erwin's ideals lead him to making enemies of the forces of Light, the Kaiser himself and his legendary generals, and the demon hordes. Each path has a different set of playable characters--some may even be former teammates. In the Imperial path, you get to use many of the Imperial generals that you'd be fighting in another path. To give you an idea of the extent of the branching, which includes sub branches of some of the larger paths, the first branch occurs after scenario 7, each path is 21 scenarios long (except for a couple optional secret ones), and there are 78 scenarios in the game.
The game's plot is surprisingly interesting, albeit not exactly a true masterpiece. However, the branching paths allow for different vantage points with which to see the characters interact. How the game reveals the underlying motivations of many of the characters differs by the differing paths. One great thing about the game is that nobody is purely evil, and many antagonists prove to be the most noble of foes, fighting only for their ideals. In fact, the goal of almost everyone, including Erwin on his various paths, is lasting peace. Ironically--and the game explores the irony--all factions must wage war to end war their own way.
Many characters have such things to say before handing your ass to you
Character selection and development
There are 18 playable characters in the game spread amongst the different paths, and each path only gives you 8 at the most. There's also a branching character development scheme in this game and the rest of the series--for example, Liana's character progression paths look like this:
You get experience in this game for killing enemies, and after ten levels in one class, you get the two options for your next class. If she's a Paladin and hits level 10, she can either go to Saint or Mage; Priest goes to High Priest or Sage. She starts as a Sister, which has healing spells. There are mage type, priest type, flying type, lord type, swordman type, water type, cavalry type, and other kinds of classes. Each class gives the character different stat bonuses, spells (some have no magic), movement range, troops, etc. Generally, the classes with lots of helpful magic suck more in actual combat. It's actually fairly well balanced. As you can see, Liana has the option with staying with healing magic. However, going to Cleric and down to ArchMage will give her a couple decent heal spells and a good summon as well as ArchMage's great area effect attack magic in Meteor.
All characters have their own unique set of possible routes--most have more physical classes than Liana, who as the main female lead gets more spellcasting options. There are about 60 different classes, but there's a good deal of overlap among the characters. Thus, you can balance your party however you want: certain playstyles may value offensive magic more and send more people to become mage classes--of course, several units don't have a single mage class. Each character can equip a weapon and armor/accessory; equipment selection is also determined by class. Combining this flexible character development system with the branching storyline gives you a lot of options when playing this game. Two more sample class progressions for reference: + Show Spoiler +
Before each scenario, as in other Langrisser games, you have to buy ordinary troops with your money for each commander. So in Der Langrisser, you control not only the commanders (the plot characters with the branching development paths detailed above) but ordinary generic troops under each commander. This allows for more flexibility in battle strategy, and more epic, large-scale battles, as generics are expendable. Which troops each character can buy, however, depends on the character's class--each new class gives a different set of troop types to choose from. Lords can buy either basic infantry or basic pikemen, while the mounted Silver Knight can buy troopers on horses. However, as your characters progress, multiple types of troops often become available, so you can place your characters and buy troops pre-battle according to the scenario at hand. Each commander is limited to 3 to 6 troops to buy for each scenario, the number depending on the class path.
Each commander has his or her own command range, the area in which the commander's commander stat bonuses apply to hired troops. Troops in the command range of the commander gain a stat bonus dependant on that commander's class. For example, a High Lord gives +3 Atk/+4 Def to all troops within a range of 3. This applies to enemy commanders as well, of course.
At the start of a turn, all troops adjacent to their commander will gain 3 HP; this is useful free healing without the need of spending a turn casting magic. Dynamically adapting your formations is key to winning in Der Langrisser. In many scenarios, enemy reinforcements will come and surprise you, and you may have to shift units to completely wall around your powerful but frail ballistae with pikemen, for example.
Curiosities of Battle
There are three main stats in this game (aside from MP, magic power, magic defense, movement, movement type, command range, commander bonus): HP, attack, and defense. Each unit and commander always has 10 max HP, in a system similar to Advance Wars. The HP left determines the fighting strength of a unit--generally, a unit with 5 HP does half the damage of a unit with 10 HP.
Area of effect attack magic usually does 1 or 2 HP of damage to a group of units; however, this can be combated by a Heal 1 spell, which already heals 3 HP to an area. Attack magic is good for softening up enemies at the start of your turn so that your troops have an advantage, but any enemies not killed during your turn may be quickly healed by enemy commanders in theirs.
In-battle attack types also play a large role. Most enemies attack by charging the other side, so when the two forces make contact, they'll both be doing damage to each other. However, fliers, archers, and many commanders, as well as a few others, attack in different patterns. A Mage in actual combat (not casting magic) shoots out fireballs quickly at the enemy. If a Mage (counts as infantry, weak vs. cavalry) with mid-high attack and atrocious defense were to fight a horse unit with high attack and low defense, the Mage's fireballs would destroy most if not all of the enemy troopers before they reach him; thus, the enemy's fighting strength is reduced before they start to attack him. Were instead another infantry unit with the same stats as the Mage but without the fireball attack used, it would get totally owned by the troopers.
Summary and Miscellany
Der Langrisser is a pretty good Tactical RPG bolstered by a great character development system and branching paths, both of which really enhance replay value. The graphics are pretty standard for the time, but the music is pretty nice, definitely not the Iwadare from other series but probably even better here anyway. The game is somewhere in the moderately easy range in terms of difficulty even without heal abusing for experience, which is one of my only complaints with it--it's no Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 in terms of challenge. In fact, it can be beaten without too much of a problem if you know what you're doing without buying any troops at all (commanders are generally stronger than generics anyway, even with the command bonus). It's rare for an SNES game to be punctuated by so many bouts of epicness, but Der Langrisser pulls it off. The translation patch, again, can be found in the downloads page here (same link as at top). No, I won't tell you where to find the ROM, but it shouldn't be hard to find if you're so inclined.
Here's a gameplay video to see you off. Note that the battle cutscene animations can be completely turned off, as is also common to the genre:
note: most pictures, videos were from the translator's website, credit to Derrick Sodobash; character progression chart from zero0723, changed to image form to preserve mono-space font
Hopefully the above sections gave you a good sense of the game. This concludes my lengthy first review--please tell me what you think so I can improve, or give general comments about the game. Any and all comments are appreciated.
edit: added some comments about difficulty, changed the video so that it actually was a gameplay video
edit2, new content: I feel like I should also note other TRPGs with completed translation patches. + Show Spoiler +
Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu (aka Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War aka FE4 for Super Famicom) has a 0.87d patch that's almost complete. Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 (aka FE5 for Super Famicom) has an even more complete patch. Fire Emblem: Fuuin no Tsurugi (aka Fire Emblem: Sword of Seals aka FE6 aka the Fire Emblem that stars Roy of SSBM fame on GBA) also has a patch that's all but finished. Those Fire Emblem games are by Intelligent Systems and represent the most popular TRPG series in the world. FE7 (aka Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken) was the first FE released in the US; all subsequent games have offshores releases.
FE4 has immense replay value through the extremely high customization of characters (to say exactly how is a huge spoiler) and features huge maps with many objectives in each--there are twelve levels IIRC in the entire game. FE5 has a lot of complex rules that add depth to the gameplay; also, it's known as being one of the hardest mainstream TRPGs ever. FE6 is familiar in style and engine to anyone who's played FE7 or FE8--all of the GBA FE games are very alike.
Bahamut Lagoon, an imbalanced yet somewhat fun TRPG by Square for the SNES also has a full translation patch. Front Mission, a mech-styled TRPG also by Square has a full translation as well; however, the game blows. Square's releasing a remake (or is it port? I have no idea) on the DS; US release date is in October of '07.
Those are just the games I know off of the top of my head. Please inform me of other TRPGs with playable unofficial translations if you know of others.