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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Game Boy
Atlus Software
GENRE: Strategy
PLAYERS:   1-2
May 06, 2002
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber

 Written by Ilan Mejer  on March 06, 2002

First Impressions: Essentially chapter 6.5 of the Ogre Saga, this ?gaiden? side-story is nearing release for Nintendo's Gameboy Advance.

Originally titled Tactics Ogre Gaiden (Japanese for side story) by the developer, Quest, Nintendo once again promised to localize the project only to demur, leaving it up to Atlus' capable hands instead. The same company that translated and brought us Ogre Battle 64 is now hard at work at localizing Tactics Ogre ? The Knight of Lodis. Despite having a more official name, TO is still not a true chapter of the Ogre Saga. Taking place between chapter 6 (Ogre Battle 64 ? Person of Lordly Caliber) and chapter 7 (Tactics Ogre, a Super Famicom title ported to the Playstation), this TO game tells the tale of 15-year old Alphonse Locher, a member of the Holy Lodis Empire's Holy Flame Cavalry. This elite force is dispatched to Ovis Island, which has recently been subjected to the brutal and unforgiving ?enlightenment? policy of a brutal and voracious empire ruled by its church, an empire that is intent on converting the rest of the world to their worship of St. Lodis.

Fans of Ogre Battle 64 will remember that the Holy Lodis Empire's primary method of subjugating a country is catering to their nobility. They bring their massive military might to the negotiating tables, ?convince? a country's nobles to serve the Empire's cause by buying them off, and consequently reduce the common masses to livestock, stripped of all rights, culture, religion, and dignity. Geographically and politically, Ovis Island is a mess, divided into three distinct regions with minimal communication between them. While Alphonse's role in the story is still unclear, it is known that his youth and inexperience make him unsure of his Empire's harsh and imperialistic policies, and with previous games as examples, will probably have him defecting from St. Lodis and joining the cause of the people of Ovis. Despite being a handheld adventure, the deep political and social issues that the Ogre Saga is famous for have not been compromised. While not focusing on quite as many branching paths as the original Tactics Ogre, Quest has confirmed that the game will have multiple endings, guaranteeing a certain degree of depth and replay value as well. Not much more of the story has been disclosed, save that it will lead up to the Valerian War that preceded the original Tactics Ogre.

As a Tactics Ogre follow-up, much of the gameplay remains intact. It is a departure from the real time Ogre Battle system, which involved armies composed of teams, which were comprised of individual units. Tactics Ogre gameplay is turn based, much like the Shining Force and Fire Emblem games that preceded it, and replaces armies with task forces composed strictly of a limited amount of unique and individual units or characters. Like its predecessor, the gameplay is focused around isometric, tiled maps, roughly 32 by 32 in size. You may bring into play up to eight characters in any given encounter, but unlike the original TO, turn priority is no longer determined completely by statistics. Your side will get a turn, and then the enemy will move. Furthermore, attacking will end a turn, even if you still have movement points left over. This is a drastic departure from the TO style of gameplay, and while more reminiscent of Shining Force and Fire Emblem, it is less cheap and requires more forethought and strategy. Finally, unlike Ogre Battle, where all of the battles are story-driven, your forces will encounter the occasional random combat while traversing previously conquered territories.

The Ogre games, be they real time or turn based, all offer a very similar system for statistics, character classes, and equipment management. Tactics Ogre GBA is no different, although the system has been streamlined to require less number crunching. Restrictions on weapons have been lightened and there are less limitations pertaining to class evolution (a system that is relatively unchanged from Ogre Battle 64.) Instead of tracking your statistics and tailoring them to suit a particular character class, you will need to acquire class ?Emblems' that will grant you access to character classes. These Emblems must be earned in game by completing the relevant actions that pertain to the character class whose Emblem you seek to win.

The newest addition to the franchise is the Quest mode. Occasionally, you will gain access to combat trials outside the main arc of the story line. Success in these battles will net you ancient scrolls, that when accessed in conjunction with save files, will open up new missions. These new missions will allow you the opportunity to acquire new and potentially powerful equipment not otherwise available to you throughout the main story, as well as adding to the game's replay and exploration values. Another feature that makes TO GBA unique is its dynamic and interactive weather system. Changing weather will dramatically affect gameplay, and consequently, your strategies. For example, icy rivers can be defrosted, creating new barriers, and snow can be melted, converting land tiles to impassable water tiles. The magic system is directly linked to the manipulation of the weather. Furthermore, while previous Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre games have been rather dry in the animation department, TO GBA has taken a cue from OB64 and features extensive sprite and background animations to liven up the on-screen action.

Final Thoughts
Like Ogre Battle 64 before it, Tactics Ogre ? The Knight of Lodis is a title to look out for. With emphasis on strategic gameplay, intelligent characters, and expert political storytelling, it is not a title that older Game Boy Advance owners will want to pass up. While Tactics Ogre veterans may groan at the inclusion of another mandatory training mode, no one can deny that the potential for multiplayer gaming is massive. Two players will be able to train together in the game's tutorial, winning a variety of items for their victories, or link up in order to swap items and troops in the main quest. While in a plotline sense TO GBA may be a side story, as far as features go, it is a true sequel to the original Tactics Ogre, and one that I personally greatly look forward to.

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