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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 September 06, 2002

Review: Essentially chapter 6.5 of the Ogre Saga, this ?gaiden? side-story provides a unique experience to hand-held gamers.

It's been a few months since Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis' release for the Gameboy Advance handheld system, and though our preview of the game might still make for interesting, if somewhat obsolete reading, it's high time we revisit Quest's final game with a dedicated review. As outlined in the aforementioned preview, the story is set up such that 16 year old Knight of Lodis, Alphonse Loeher, is sent along with a troupe of his count's men, led by the count's son and Alphonse's close friend, to the island of Ovis in order to quell the uprisings and discontent that is a result of their subjugation by the Holy Lodis Empire. Of course, as in true Ogre Saga fashion, the excuse they were sent under is merely pretext for a surgical invasion in search for a means to further empower the Lodis Empire, in this case, a holy relic. The resulting adventure becomes a soul-searching quest for Alphonse as he enters the real world and realizes that his personal code of ethics does not necessarily coincide with the precepts of his count, friend, or Empire. The resulting storyline is one rife with political intrigue, personal backstabbing, and more plot twists and hidden meaning than you would find in most high fantasy books.

If it all sounds like much, it is. The game thrusts you into a situation that is embroiled militarily, religiously, and politically, and requires your apt attention to keep straight. Sadly, due to memory constraints, the Huge/Warren Reports of previous Ogre Saga games is not available for you to keep names, dates, countries, and events into place. In a surprising change for the Ogre Saga, the Holy Lodis Empire, traditionally the selfish, power-hungry, close-minded ?enemy? of the Ogre world, does not take much of a presence in the game's actual story development. This game is strictly centered on Ovis Island politics and situations, though it has a deep religious slant. Of course, such a complicated story results in a game with multiple, branching paths. These ever-important forks in the quest will result in different combat situations, affect who will join your army and who will stand against you, and will ultimately award you with one of four distinct endings.

Tactics Ogre for the GBA is a very beautiful game, looking vastly superior to the SNES/Saturn/PSOne renditions of its predecessor. The graphics are more lush, the animation more varied, the character designs more inspired, and the spell effects much more satisfying. It is very fulfilling so see your warriors swing particular weapons in different ways, especially since each character type has at least one weapon that he/she excels in, and usually wields it with an added grace or flourish. Furthermore, it is simply delightful to see your defending troops quickly unsheathe their blades and parry an attacker's blow, then follow up with a flowing counterattack. Similarly, the various element-ruled spells of the Ogre wall are unleashed in glorious displays of color and pyrotechnics. There is much eye-candy to be had.

Obviously, the audio aspect of the title does not quite live up to other Ogre Saga games, perhaps not even the SNES originals. The composition of the music is all vintage Quest. In other words, the music all sounds epic with a distinct orchestrated quality to it. The GBA is capable of blending the multiple, simultaneous themes into one lush song, and Quest attempted to do just that with TO's score. Unfortunately, where the main theme of each song sounds excellent and almost digital, the supporting themes are generally of a low, synthetic quality that sound just a step above Gameboy Color quality music. A prime example of this situation is the actual title screen music, which is a remake of the much-loved classic Ogre Saga theme song. This was an epic song, and while the main theme of the song is intact, the supporting instruments sound like they are being processed by the GBC chip. It makes for a strange disparity, though it can be overlooked thanks to the remarkable composition of the songs themselves. However, we cannot begrudge the trusty GBA's ability to output amazing sound effects, and TO is also a great example of this. Every slash, grunt, summon, spell, and even the clashing of parrying weapons all come through with a very crisp, very realistic clarity.

Of course, the Ogre Saga games were never about these external trappings. The meat and potatoes has always been the combination of deep storyline, wonderful character development, micro-management, and the even deeper gameplay mechanics. Ogre fans need not worry; once again, Quest provides their usual bounty and sets out a true feast for their rabid and hungry fans. While the class system has been consolidated and truncated from previous Ogre games, the result is a more balanced and easier to manage array of abilities and stat development. To compensate for this change, the gameplay has been deepened with an added layer in the form of Emblems, which can only be earned in combat. These Emblems, of which there are a few dozen vary in uses, importance, and ease of acquisition. Some Emblems are required in order to be able to class-change into the more powerful jobs, others simply augment your stats, some actually decrease your powers and serve as a penalizing balance for cheap/dishonorable tactics, and finally some serve as difficult-to-attain badges of accomplishments. This new dimension to the Tactics Ogre formula is exceedingly welcome and well implemented, such that both newcomers and hardcore fans will be delighted by the added challenge and control they afford.

Rounding out the package of new additions is a much welcome training mode, which is accessed between missions and allows you to level up your troops and acquire some new Emblems by pitting your own troops against each other. Outside of the main adventure, you can access a Quest mode which will pull your save data and allow you to participate in a variety of timed challenges, which must be earned in the main mode, in order to win a variety of magical artifacts and extra goth (money). Of course, whatever you do win is attached to your save file and accessible when you reload it in the main mode. The main game itself has been changed and augmented to allow you to revisit areas in search of the many hidden treasures buried within them and you will even be subject to random battles against wandering monsters and bandits should you choose to venture outside the beaten path. This new element to the gameplay is also very welcome, as it serves to create a more dynamic and less linear experience. To help cap this astounding experience, a highly anticipated multiplayer battle mode, which requires two GBAs and two copies of the game, allows you to pit your troops against those of a companion. These battles are actually essential to those who seek to acquire every Emblem and magical artifact in the game, as not everything is available in the main adventure.

Bottom Line
Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis faithfully follows in the steps of its Ogre Saga brethren. Though the story may lay somewhat outside of the Ogre Saga, the gameplay is exactly what fans of the series have been craving. This too represents the last title Quest will develop under that label, as recently Squaresoft has acquired both the rights to the Ogre Saga and the entire development team as well. With a convoluted story, deep gameplay, and nearly unprecedented replay for both strategy games and RPGs, TO is a title that few hardcore GBA gamers can afford to pass up, despite not affording the high level of difficulty of previous Ogre games. Ogre Saga enthusiasts may be very surprised to recognize Alphonse's true identity within the scope of the Ogre Saga, as he is a major character in the original Tactics Ogre, which takes place many years after this one.

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