Ogre Battle: March Of The Black Queen - Retroview

See What A Touch Of Madness Can Do..?

By: Zachary Lewis

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 5
   Plot 5
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 4
   Visuals 4
   Difficulty Very Hard
   Time to Complete

100-200 hours


Title Screen

   Over the years, Atlus has garnered itself the master of tactical RPGs. From the quirky, to the great, nearly all the games they make are fantastic. Whether they're aware of it or not, a good portion of their fans generally consider the Ogre Battle saga to be the flagship series, by which all their other games are compared. Quite the reputation to uphold...

   Combat in most RPGs is a very personal experience, where a lot of character evolution begins. This is not true of OB. Inside actual battles, the player has virtually no control over anything that happens. You can't control what spells your wizards use, who each member you your unit attacks, or even the use of items. In fact, there are only 3 things you do control.
You have the power to invoke miracles - with widely ranging effects - through the use of 'tarot cards'. Clearly, using enough tarot cards in conjunction would be a fantastically easy way to beat the game. Unfortunately, any enemy killed by tarot cards has the experience gained from slaying it instantly given to the Lord, rather than the party fighting it. When you're being seriously hammered by a unit, but don't want any of the characters in yours to die, you have the power to force retreat. There isn't any scenario where you're forced to continue fighting an enemy, but there are some areas that it might not be a good idea to. Aside from retreating and tarot use, you only control the general tactics that your unit's members will use. By setting your tactics to 'leader', everyone will try to directly attack the enemy unit's lead character. Likewise, you can set the tactics to 'weak', 'strong', and 'best'. While set to the 'best' tactics, the artificial intelligence designed into the game will cause all your characters to attack whomever is the greatest threat to the unit as a whole. By carefully manipulating the tactics of your unit, you can actually have a fairly large amount of control over what enemies will die first, and which stragglers you'll leave to be picked off later.

The Dusky Eve
The Dusky Eve 

   While there isn't a particularly large selection of music, considering the length of the gameplay, what music there is can only be described as 'epic'. Atlus pioneered a revolutionary concept with the PSX rerelease/remake of the game; they slightly edited the instrumentation used in each song to more accurately use the powers of the new platform. And, even after this many years, they're one of the few companies that do it, still. If you listen carefully to both versions, you can just barely tell the difference... One aspect of the sounds that were not altered in the change of platform, were the SNES sound effects. They remain the same, which is not to say, 'bad'. The sounds accurately portray what is going on, which is really the best you can hope for. Another SNES to PSX mishmash took place in the spell effects in the game. The majority of the spells were totally redrawn and animated for the PSX version of the game, whereas the actual in-game graphics are virtually identical to their SNES ancestors.

   Ogre Battle has a long and complex story detailing a myriad of political conspiracies. The main character helps lead a rebellion against an evil empire and must choose how the rebel army fights, as well as who joins it. Of the 29 available map/scenarios, only a scant few are necessarily completed to beat the game. Granted, with 13 endings to see, and virtually everything you do as the leader of the liberation army having some effect on the outcome, each area you skip will invariably contain some special item or extra character that is required to view the best ending. Be aware that if you plan to see all the endings to the game, you could very likely have 10 memory cards worth of saves, or be playing the game for thousands of hours. Essentially, it would be nearly impossible to see every single one of them.

Paladins, Master Samurai, & Master Ninjas; Oh My!
Paladins, Master Samurai, & Master Ninjas; Oh My! 

   Although the menus in the game use icons, rather than actual text labels, most everything is fairly easy to figure out. Equipping items is a hard idea to get used to, but as long as you remember that if you equip an item to a character who already has one, the first will be removed and the second will be attached, the SNES version of items should be much less frustrating. The only really bad thing I can say about the game, in general, is that the PSX version has a little bit of lag-time before menus actually open. Oceanic areas that have a lot of on-screen animation are especially prone to this problem. Another area that has some minor flaws is the localization. While nothing was necessarily censored out of the U.S. version, there are some grammatical mistakes that make a few of the conversations and information boxes really difficult to understand without reading through them a couple of times.

   Unless you really have some all-consuming wish to 'do it all' in OB, you probably won't have much reason to play it more than once. The game is huge and takes a phenomenally long time to complete - between 100 and 200 hours. When you add the difficulty factor of the game into this mix, the replay value drops like a rock. One reason that OB is so difficult is that, if you're playing it with the intent of getting the best ending, you have to keep your reputation meter almost full for the majority of the game. This usually entails having all your units on about the same level and not ever letting one unit become some sort of God-like group of characters, capable of utterly decimating everything in their way. It also prevents you from getting a good portion of the really powerful classes of characters, e.g. Ninjas, Black Knights, Liches, etc. Of course, there's always the 'Spell of Persuasion' item, but who has 50,000goth to throw around between every level when they're trying to walk the path of good..?

   It's hard to fully realize the potential in a game like Ogre Battle, unless you actually play it. And, even if you don't like it, you'll at least have the satisfaction of knowing that you've touched one of the few copies of the game that exist.

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