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Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber - Review
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What we've all been waiting for

By Mikel Tidwell

Review Breakdown
   Battle System8
   Interface9
   Music / Sound6
   Originality8
   Plot10
   Localization8
   Replay Value9
   Visuals10
   DifficultyMedium
   Time to Complete50-60 hours 
Overall
9
Criteria
Ogre Battle 64

    Ogre Battle is nothing new to the the RPG scene, and not even a newcomer to Nintendo's systems. The first Ogre Battle game released in North America was originally for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. With the unfortunate circumstance of being released right at the end of the SNES era, the game did not do as well as expected. Hoping to recapture some of the lost fans, a second release of the same title was released for the Sony PlayStation. While quantities were limited, many fans did pick up and explore this new kind of strategy game. Then came Tactics Ogre, also originally for the Super Famicom. Unfortunately, North America never saw Tactics Ogre until it was ported to the PlayStation. Now the third title of the series has arrived.

    Whether Quest decided to take advantage of the graphical superiority of the Nintendo hardware for character details and effects, or maybe to simply tap into the RPG market nearly starving on the Nintendo 64, no one truly knows. However, take advantage of the graphics they definitely have. Producing the best looking console strategy game released to date, Ogre Battle 64 is a sight to see. Powerful spell effects and well-designed characters and monsters look and feel alive and ready to fight.

Your mission...
Plan your attack carefully  

    And fight they will. Like most strategy games, our hero, Magnus, is a center point of conflict, fighting and conquering other armies. The story of Ogre Battle 64 is constant conflict. The upper class has lived off the sweat and blood of the lower class for years. Under the protective power of the ominous one known as Lodis, the upper class has had little to fear from the oppressed. The will of the common folk never breaks, and now they intend to strike back at those they feel are the cause of all their hardships. With numerous choices to accept or reject help, there opens up different ways the story may lead.

    The difference from other strategy games is that the player does not control the actual fights. Instead the player places units and armies in the correct places and positions. When the army comes in contact with an opposing army, the fight begins. Placement of the character will decide how that character responds in battle. Each class has an optimum location that will reap the most reward. Learning these locations, as well as making sure that the army is not ambushed from the side or behind, are major keys to staying alive.

    To control the battlefield will require more than simply designing the perfect army. The player will control up to ten separate armies at a time. The opposing forces are not limited to ten, so outnumbering them is not an option either. To send the enemy home crying, mastery of planned advances, using the land as barriers when possible, and designing land-specific as well as flying armies for the numerous terrains that must be traversed. Maintaining control of each stronghold is vital. While an army rests in a stronghold, which can be either a castle, or just a town, fatigue diminishes, and Hit Points for all units increase steadily. Also, if the stronghold has a shop or a Witch's Den, the resources can only be used as long as you keep control of them. In later battles locating and capturing the Witch's Den, the only effective way to revive fallen allies, may be the only way to stay alive. As a final note about revival, any character that is deceased at the end of a mission will turn undead. While undead units may be able to regenerate, they may not wear armor, have weaker attacks, and really knock down the alignment of the other units in the army.

Organize screen
Organize your resources  

    Don't get the wrong impression -- every battle is not a gritty struggle for each castle, inch by inch. Each mission will typically build a large collection of opposing armies around one stronghold. The main opposition will usually be located around that specific stronghold. Once Magnus's army has succeeded in capturing that stronghold, the rest of the mission consists of hunting down the remaining units, and marching on toward the final stronghold. Make sure that the lower units are the ones finishing off the enemy units, so they gain the most experience from it, while concentrating stronger units on weakening the remaining enemies. This will help keep the levels even throughout the battalion, which matters a great deal later on.

    Building up talented units is possibly the most enjoyable thing in the game with the possible exception of the story itself. The basic idea is that a unit will be recruited as soldiers. Soldiers are a unit of three men. When they lose 1/3 of their HP, one of them falls. When they lose 2/3, another falls. The soldiers can not be replenished while on the battlefield, so it's important to protect them. When they survive past a certain level, the solider will transform. If the leader of the army is male, the soldiers change into a Fighter. If the leader is female, they change into an Amazon. Once a unit has gained a single class, it can earn the ability to change to other classes in accordance with its stats. With many different classes, the options for building armies can be overwhelming. By use of stats and testing in battle, finding what works and what doesn't can be a long process. After each mission, more options may open up, creating more possibilities and combinations. Add in wild creatures that can be convinced to join your side, and it could possibly be the most complex creation process yet. All is well with Ogre Battle tradition.

Run for cover
Chaos on the battlefield  

    With all the complexity, the menu layout and system could possibly make or break the game. The design is almost flawless. With the use of the C buttons found on the Nintendo 64 controller, navigation becomes almost intuitive. Making sure to use clear icons and excellent structure, players will find army management very efficient. Moving armies around the battlefield is just as easy. The pointer locks on units and strongholds. If there are more than one in the area close by, a menu appears allowing you to choose. Using the R button tho choose what the pointer locks onto for destinations, targeting an enemy or location can be achieved with minimal control movement.

    Unlike the translations that have been softened by Nintendo's typical censorship in localizations, Ogre Battle 64 has left the true, harsh language completely intact. While no one condones an overuse of adult language, certain characters can only be portrayed correctly by using vulgarity. Atlus has done a wonderful job of portraying the characters' variety of emotions with vibrance and feeling. One will feel the sorrow, the anger, and the triumph throughout the story. It goes to show that one does not need FMV to keep a player interested.

    Finally, the only reason the game did not earn a perfect score. The music of the game, while fantastic, has only a limited number of pieces. For the majority of the game, the overworld and the battles have the same music throughout. There are certain locations with different music, and the final boss of each mission has its own special piece, but other than that, the music can become repetitive. Perhaps the cart limited the number of choices, since each one sounds so vibrant and meaningful. There is simply not enough variety for over 50 hours of game play.

    Ogre Battle 64 is exactly what was needed to feed the legions of RPG-starved fans with the Nintendo 64. Taking advantage of the superior graphics, while dealing with the limitations of the cart form, Ogre Battle 64 may easily be the game of the year. If you like strategy games, this one is a must have. But make sure to buy it as soon as possible. The number of copies released initially was cut back a bit, and the second batch may not reach stores for another two months. So if you see it, grab it. You won't regret it.


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