|Ogre Battle (64) Episode VI: Person Of Lordly Caliber - Retroview|
What Is The Difference Between Right & Wrong?
| Battle System
| Replay Value
| Time to Complete
Ogre Battle helped to pioneer the tactical RPG sub-genre. Although it's virtually nothing like Hoshigami or Final Fantasy Tactics, it too, can be considered amongst them. You see... Instead of the usual and typical 3D tactical planning based on turns and with manageable characters with personalities of their own, you get macromanagement. Instead of being a smallish group of comrades, you're an entire army that must be organized. Obviously, this presents a good number of troubles highly specific to this series alone, but - all-in-all - I'd have to say that they're some of my favorite games of all time. OB64 included.
There are only a small number of things that you can control when it comes to fighting. You can organize your army on a 3-by-3 grid to help them maximize their effectiveness. You can select which array of opposing characters they attack most frequently (the weakest, strongest, best, or lead unit). You can use elemental Pedra (sorta like summoning, but it takes a long time to figure out this aspect of the game). And then, possibly the most important thing you have control over is when to make them flee. I've never seen a unit forced to stay and fight when you want them out of there... There is one other aspect of combat that you can help control. As your military units move about the screen they will eventually collide with the enemy units. To make sure that your unit is exactly how you set it up, you MUST run into the enemy when your unit is facing it. Many a battle can be lost merely because you're running away through terrain that slows you down and an enemy battalion ambushes you from behind.
Once a battle has actually begun there is little you can control of any consequence. Obviously Pedra are the exception. Running from battle can be a very good idea sometimes. It is always better to run away and save your soldiers than to have them slaughtered by something terrible (an Ogre, for example). This is primarily because you cannot replenish the little guys just by hiring them at the local market. You must fulfill the specifications of a combat operation to get them to join you. Even then, your level of success and prowess is what really determines how many join you. It is these little characters that have seemingly no consequence, that can either make or break your gameplay. Without them levelling up into stronger classes of characters, you can't gain more powerful units unless they join you in a cutscene. It might be possible to get an item that can convert an enemy unit to your side (as in the previous game) but, if there is, I never found it.
|Who Needs A Truly 3D Map?|| |
The other vital thing to remember when you're designing your army is that there about half a million different character class/sex combinations you need to work with. The basic low-level female class is the Amazon, an archer of sorts. But, as the Amazon gains experience and her alignment and physical attributes (not those ones!) change, new classes open up to her. There is another strange thing that can happen. You start the game with an item that lets characters change their sex when they level up. What use is that? Simple. There have traditionally been no male bowmen in Ogre Battle. If, however, you level up an Amazon and have used the item on her, she becomes an archer. In this way, new classes of characters can 'open up' so that when your soldiers gain enough experience to change classes, there's a whole new array of things for them to try and become.
Menus are both the shortcoming and the good side of Ogre Battle 64. There are so many different menus in the game that unless you have an eidetic memory, you'll soon become hopelessly lost unless you decide to take a few minutes early on to play around with things. Most of the menus are composed of simple icons-and-text or plain text. They're usually pretty intuitive but there are some draw backs. Without a mouse, the game really loses a lot. In fact, the original SNES Ogre Battle used the same mouse interface (optionally) that Mario Paint did. Alas, the N64 (as far as I've seen and heard) has no mouse. That would have made the game a thousand times as easy. The plus side of the controller being so inacurate is that Quest compensated for that deficiency by having the pointer automatically move to whatever icon it's closest to when it gets pretty close to it. This can cause some major problems when you're trying to position a unit in a VERY specific place right next to a target but not actually on it. The plus side to this is that almost every option that could get you into that kind of trouble, gives you the chance to reneg before it actually happens.
Strangely, I wasn't 'specially impressed with the sounds and music of the game. Tactics Ogre and Ogre Battle both had fantastic work in this department and so I can only assume that the already colossal size of the game cartridge made Quest choose one aspect of the thing to drop like a rock. Music is the thing they chose. There are few tracks to the game, really. Most of the time the battles have one of two songs being played as do the map portions (most of which are just remixes from the original Ogre Battle). It's the repetativeness of the music that grinds this score down. The sound effects are okay, at best. After Ocarina of Time, there would need to be some seriously gnarly sound samples to impress me.
If you've ever played either of the other two OB games, you probably already know what the story is like. The evil empire/kingdom is oppressing the common man and henceforth must be overthrown. There are quite a few twists along the way that tie in with this review's title, though. Expect anything and keep an open mind.
|Screen Shots Just Cannot Do The Game Justice...|| |
As is typical with Nintendo and their partner companies, the translation and localization of OB64 are fantastic. With as much text as there is in the game you'd think I could come up with some obvious and neon-glowing flaw. I can't. The text is as error free as any game could ever be. Who needs Working Designs, 'eh? >;)
Long is the only way to describe even the shortest foray into any Ogre Battle game. Even if you were to somehow manage to continually defeat major areas of the game without wiping out all your enemies and training for hours to gain experience, the game has enough battle stages and map running to keep you busy for at least forty or fifty hours. But, since I'm almost positive that anyone trying anything that foolish will get turned back before the end of the second 'Chapter', 60 is what I'll say is the lowest limit. If you want to thoroughly complete the game and find all the hidden treasure, character classes, friendly monsters, and everything else under the sun, you'd better be ready to buy the guidebook or resort to a FAQ... That and spend a couple hundred hours at your N64.
All you need to do to see why the game got a 10, graphically is start a new game and watch the prologue. If ever another 2&1/2D bests the graphics of OB64, I will be absolutely astonished. The game is... Well... Glorious. Everything fits into the Ogre Battle niche of art and style. It is a virtually flawless marvel of what the N64 could have become.
I cannot stress enough how hard Ogre Battle games are. There are some stages in the game where you'll be outnumbered, outmatched, and running-out-of-time. And still you must persevere. The only thing I can say that might relieve some of the agony of destruction late in the game is that you must, must, must train every chance you get and have as many non-soldier characters as possible the further into the game you get. There is simply no way to win using soldiers when you're confronted by enemies such as Rhade, Jeal, and any type of Ogre (the series is named after them for a reason).
|If You Don't Like Lots Of Menus, Stay Away From Ogre Battle|| |
More than any other kind of RPG in the world, tactical RPGs aren't just something you can play over again at the drop of a hat (unless you have more free time than me - which is probably not likely). Ogre Battle poses a serious problem to replay. It's a great lot of fun and you can forever be wanting to play it another time. Just know that if you're in the habit of playing only 1 RPG at a time and you can't just stop part way into one, either, you're in for a lot of time spent with these games when you replay them.
Ogre Battle 64 is the game that the N64 had been missing for so long... Having almost no other non-action RPGs to compare it to on the console puts it entirely in a class of its' own.