The last two Mercenaries Saga games have proven to be some great, inexpensive finds on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Mercenaries Saga 2 and Mercenaries Saga 3 sport excellent strategy RPG combat and class systems that have won them many fans. However, the original game that started the series seemed to be stuck in Japan... until now.
Mercenaries Saga Chronicles brings the first game, Mercenaries Saga: Will of the White Lions, to western shores along with its two siblings, bundled into one package for the Nintendo Switch. For players who haven't tried a Mercenaries Saga game, these are fairly traditional strategy RPGs. Battles take place on a grid-based map and elevation also plays a role. So, it's nothing that hasn't been done before, but the combat is well executed with a variety of melee, ranged, and magical units making up a party of up to six characters to fight off the rogues, opposing mercenaries, or wildlife threatening the party.
However, what makes the game shine is the class system, which allows for some great party customization. At the end of each battle, the participating characters receive skill points that can be spent between missions to acquire and level up new abilities. Each character starts with an assigned class, and then has several others — six advanced classes for each base class in the first game — to unlock and work through. New classes unlock based on character level as well as requiring the spending of that precious skill points, with some late-game classes needing a special item. It's great that it doesn't lock characters into a class; once a class is unlocked, abilities from it are available regardless of whether it is currently equipped. It's fun determining how to customize the party; deciding whether a mage will become a powerful spellcaster, or instead a summoner conjuring spirits to do their bidding.
The story in these games have always been serviceable, though the localization of Will of the White Lions has more personality than I remember from my time playing Mercenaries Saga 2 — I could just be paying more attention to the plot this time, however. Once again, it centers on a mercenary group that starts out taking odd jobs but gets slowly drawn into broader political intrigue. It gives a perfectly good reason to keep fighting the battles, but no one will mistake it for Shakespeare.
Between the three games, there are eighty-two story chapters with a similar number of optional battles that reuse the maps for grinding. Depending on the difficulty chosen — with easy and normal options available at the beginning of the first game — some grinding may be necessary. Both the graphics and music have a pleasantly retro feel, though neither stand out in any particular way. It's truly the battle mechanics that shine here and everything else just serves as a delivery device for them.
I'm about halfway through Will of the White Lions and, based on what I've played, it seems the games have easily made the transition to the Switch. That's not too much of a surprise since the games started on mobile, but the second screen isn't missed as the Switch easily accommodates the map plus all the necessary information. The games look fine in both handheld and TV mode, though personally I prefer playing the game with a Pro controller due to its superior D-pad. There are instances when the camera stutters as it pans around large maps, but as a turn-based strategy RPG, it doesn't interfere with gameplay. The localization has some issues, which won't be a surprise to players of the other Mercenaries Saga games. The accessory descriptions are jumbled and there is the occasional line of dialog that could use better punctuation, but there is nothing that gets in the way of playing the game.
It's too early to pass judgment on the package as a whole, but Will of the White Lions seems to be a worthy addition to the series. There is nothing I've seen so far that would stop me from recommending it to fans of the other two releases. It appears to be another good Mercenaries Saga game and I've found the combat so engrossing that I haven't touched another game since I received it. Players looking for a good strategy RPG experience on the Switch should keep an eye on Mercenaries Saga Chronicles.