Review: A highly anticipated sequel of a cult Super Nintendo classic, Ogre Battle 64 is the epitome of real time strategy RPG gaming on any console.
This game, by expert storytellers Quest, is doubly important to Nintendo fans. It not only signals the return of the beloved Ogre Battle style of gameplay, last experienced on the Super Nintendo or as a limited edition port on the Playstation, but also marks the first true RPG experience on the Nintendo 64 since the dubious release of Quest 64, early on in the console's life. OB64 is chapter 6 of the Ogre Saga, which is made up of a series of Ogre Battle (real time) and Tactics Ogre (turn based) strategy RPGs. The games were never released in any particular chapter order, and each tells a self-contained tale that further adds to the world's history.
OB64 is the tale of Magnus Gallant, a minor noble recently assigned to the Southern Division of the Palatinean Army after his graduation from the military academy. The Ogre games were always long tales of sweeping political discord and social strife. The entire continent of Zeteginia (of which the Palatineans are only a part of) is slowly being absorbed into the invading Holy Lodis Empire, who buys off nobles and strips the common masses of rights, religion, and dignity. Palatinus is a kingdom of Zeteginia who has signed a treaty with the Holy Lodis Empire, wherein they retained their autonomy but whose king actually answers to the Empire's religious leader. Magnus' life reaches a significant turning point when he thwarts the abduction of his prince and childhood friend, Yumil, by a band of oppressed rebels. He slowly comes to grip with the status of the commoners, his background as a noble, and the son of an accused murderer, to eventually arise as the champion of an entire people, or their greatest foe.
The game itself is extremely open-ended. As Magnus Gallant, you are eventually placed in charge of an entire army (which you may name) and must oversee all decisions concerning it, both before and during fights. You choose which regions to invade or defend, which cities to liberate and which to capture, which units to combine into teams, which teams to equip and deploy, and even the progression of every individual unit's equipment, rank, and character class. The game attempts to ease you in with several simple scenarios involving a relatively rudimentary combat force. However, to the uninitiated, the heavy number crunching and statistics tracking that is necessary for success can be overwhelming. Furthermore, to maximize your armies' potential, you will have to efficiently deploy them, manage your equipment and funds (the currency is referred to as ?goth'), and plan-ahead when evolving your units into new and hopefully more powerful character classes. Furthermore, you will need to strike a careful balance between the various melee and ranged classes, sorcerous and healer classes, beast- and dragon-taming classes, and the ultimately rewarding miscellaneous classes such as the animals, dragons, and undead.
Depending on how you play the game and the decisions you will be forced to make, you will be able to participate in up to approximately four-dozen separate scenarios, each taking place on a map within the Zeteginian continent. You will deploy your teams (composed of up to five units each) from your headquarters, and will pursue a variety of goals, including total domination of the map, the defeat of a particular enemy unit or boss character, the capture of a certain property, or (later in the game) actual assaults on fortified castles. A variety of NPCs (non player characters) are available to interact with, and depending on those interactions, will either become your enemies or your allies. Furthermore, these decisions will ultimately effect which of a variety of subplots you will be following, what treasures you will be able to hunt for, and what Magnus' role in this chapter of the Ogre Saga will be, ultimately affecting the game's ending.