Oh yes. Get ready for some long posts because you know damn well that I want to do Langrisser justice. It’s no secret that Langrisser is one of my favorite game series ever made.
While many people associate the SRPG genre with Fire Emblem – and rightly so – what a lot of people don’t realize is that Sega had an answer to Fire Emblem. And that answer was… no, it wasn’t Shining Force. (Hiroyuki Takahashi explicitly stated that he never played FE and was influenced by Dragon Quest and Silver Ghost; SF is great but it’s its own thing, and shares very little in common with FE.) That answer was Langrisser, known internationally as “Warsong,” the subject of this post. For 24 years, Langrisser 1 remained the ONLY Langrisser game to ever be officially translated in English. (The second was Reincarnation Tensei in 2015.) This explains its relative obscurity. Warsong, to its credit, is actually decently well-known though, due to its international release.
Back in the 80s, Masaya/NCS had developed a trilogy of three games for the PC Engine, known collectively as the “Elthlead Trilogy:” History of Elthlead, Crest of Gaia, and Guyframe. These games followed in the tradition of other Turn-Based Strategies (TBSes) of the time, such as Master of Monsters and Famicom Wars. These games allowed the player to control vast armies and while some of them did have rudimentary level-up features, the RPG elements of these games was never the focal point. It’s the central reason why I reject the classification of these early TBS-style games as being “SRPGs,” given that a HUGE part of SRPGs lies in the “RPG.” These TBSes are great games in their own way, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not SRPGs. Anyway, why does any of this matter? Because this sets the stage for Langrisser 1. You see, Langrisser 1 also places a heavy emphasis on vast amounts of troops. The influence from the Elthlead Trilogy is obvious to anyone who’s played these games. But Langrisser 1 was distinctly a RPG as well, likely due to some peripheral influence from Fire Emblem.
Fire Emblem 1 was the first true SRPG; it’s what rocked the boat and led to the SRPG boom in the early-mid 1990s. Thus, I have no doubt that Langrisser 1 owes its existence partially to FE. In addition to level ups, class changes, and spells, there are other similar elements such as a “Jagen” archetype – an old guy who starts off overleveled but then falls off as the game goes on – and permadeath, two elements which would never again feature in any Langrisser game. Well, actually, there is a Jagen archetype in Langrisser Wonderswan, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Point is, Langrisser 1 continued the legacy of the Elthlead Trilogy while modernizing the formula with a dash of Fire Emblem.
Perhaps the most well-known thing about this game is the sound design. You can’t turn off battle animations, and so you’ll have to sit through hundreds of battle sequences like the one pictured above. Thankfully, they’re all quite glorious, as befitting the majesty of the Sega Genesis. During these fight scenes, your ears will be regaled by the screams of your enemies
and the lamentations of their women. These screams are some of the most comical, over-the-top “WHOA” and “AGHH” sounds I’ve heard in any game. I love it.
One persistent myth among casual SRPG fans is that Fire Emblem invented the idea of the Weapon Triangle. This is patently not true. The first Fire Emblem game to feature a Weapon Triangle was 1996’s FE4 (Genealogy of the Holy War). Meanwhile, Langrisser 1 was doing weapon triangles back in 1991, a whole five years before FE got that idea. In Langrisser 1, horsemen beat soldiers, who beat archers, who beat horsemen. This triangle would eventually shift, with pikemen replacing archers in later installments (starting with the 1993 PCE version of Langrisser 1, and 1994’s Langrisser 2), but the point remains, as far as weapon triangles go, Genesis did what Nintendon’t. Until 1996, at least.
The thing that makes Langrisser so interesting when compared to every other SRPG franchise is the simple idea of troops. No other SRPG (except for Conviction, itself a Langrisser fangame) really does this. In Langrisser, each commander will oversee several troops, all of whom gain bonuses when within close proximity of that commander. Meanwhile, Langrisser games also follow typical RPG conventions of level ups, spellcasting, and class changing. The result is a game which wonderfully hybridizes the best ideas of both genres for a truly unique experience.
Langrisser 1 itself was a groundbreaking game. Perhaps not as groundbreaking as Fire Emblem 1, but it kicked off a legendary franchise which to this day remains one of the finest SRPG series in existence. There are some imperfections, like how the plot wasn’t very robust (it was 1991 though, granted), and how there’s a hefty bit of unexplained RNG. There’s also some bit of early installment weirdness: no other Langrisser game had permadeath, no other Langrisser game allows for 8 troops on the battlefield per commander, and in no other Langrisser game can one troop conceivably destroy 10. Still, it’s a refreshing alternative to Fire Emblem 1. I love Fire Emblem of course – you really can’t be a SRPG fan and dislike that series, can you? – but if every SRPG were a FE clone, the genre would be a lot less interesting. Langrisser 1, in summary, remains one of the most important and revolutionary SRPGs ever made, even if its influence isn’t as strong as that of Fire Emblem 1. And you wanna know what else? The series got even better!
Fun fact: Langrisser 1 was the first English SRPG ever released and was the second one to be released in Japan.
Console: Sega Genesis/Megadrive
Developers: NCS / Masaya
General Langrisser tips:
We don’t have a walkthrough for this game, but RPG Classics Shrine has a very good one!
Translation patch to change Warsong -> Langrisser 1: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/5474/