Dominant Series- The Ogre Saga

New Feature

____Well I promised something a little more old school tonight and I intend to deliver. So, I present to you my new weekly feature “Dominant Series”. Every Wednesday I will do a special feature on a classic gaming franchise; highlighting its history, accomplishments and acknowledging where it stand today.These are franchises that have left a lasting impact on the world of gaming, for the better or worse. This week I decided to feature one of my all time favorite series, The Ogre Saga, known as the Ogre Battle games and for some entries in the series, Tactics Ogre. I hope everybody enjoys the new feature.

Make the jump to read up on this awesome, Old school strategy series.

____Publisher Atlus has always been known for its over the top JRPG’s and strategy games, but the series that always sticks out in my mind when I think of Atlus is Ogre Battle. Ogre Battle is a tactical Role-playing game developed by Quest Corporation first brought to us on the Super Famicom in 1993. In it’s long run, the series has spanned both 2 console generations and made its way onto the Gameboy Advance in 2001 (2002 in NA). Known for it’s excellence in strategy gaming the Ogre battle/ Tactics Ogre series has been marked with great critical reception and games in the series have become valuable collectors items for gamers lucky enough to have them in their possesion. Though it has been 6 years since the last entry in the series, it still lives on in the hearts of those who spent countless hours perfecting its extensive status system, in which almost every action you made effected the story line of the game and more. In order to honor this gaming marvel we will take a look at the origins of the game and uncover what makes these games so great.

Quest Corporation

____A history of Ogre Battle is essentially a history of Quest Corporation as the status of the series goes hand in hand with that of its creators. Quest originally formed in 1988 and in 1991 the company released Magic Chase for the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16 in NA). A simple side scrolling shooter, Magic Chase featured a main character that rode a broom stick and collected gems which served as currency to buy power ups in shops that appeared occasionally throughout levels. If you ever get the chance to play this game it will indefinitely remind you of games like Gradius which feature similar systems.

____Quest would continue to produce games for home consoles, releasing around 5 games for the Nintendo Entertainment System between 1988 and 1990 and even trying their hand in mobile gaming for the first time with Battle Ping Pong on the Gameboy in 1990. Quest would continue on with handheld and console gaming, but it was in 1993 that the company truly put themselves on the map.

Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen

____Ogre Battle was designed by Yasumi Matsuno for Quest in 1993. The original games name, Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen, seemed to be inspired by the two songs entitled “Ogre Battle” and “The March of the Black Queen” on Queen II the second album by popular rock band Queen. Obviously Matsuno was a fan of rock music in the 1970’s. OB:MBQ was released originally for the Super Famicom, though it was released on the ill-fated Sega Saturn in 1996 and later remade for the Playstation in 1997 under the title Ogre Battle: Limited Edition. Since OB:MBQ released long before the rise of the online game review, critical reception from its original version is a bit hard to find. But it received a great honor in being called one of the “Top 200 games on a Nintendo System” by Nintendo power in 2006; it received the 180th position. However the remakes didn’t fair quite as well, with IGN.Com giving the PS1 remake a score of 6/10 stating that despite the fact that it was a good game, it was still “The same ol’ game”; However the game still maintains a Game Stats average rating of 7.3/10.

A standard battle field view in the original Ogre battle, The game used a Tarot Card system which effected the course of battle.

____The general way the game plays is very similar to many other strategy games. You start from a base camp and select units to send out. Your units will seek to capture or liberate cities (more on the difference between those two options later) in order to set up strategic positions for accomplishing the missions goals. The goal of the mission can be something as simple as taking your enemies stronghold or defeating their commanding unit. It can also be a bit more involved and require you to protect certain units. after you send your individual units to cities and strongholds in order to take them over, they will inevitably encounter enemy units along the way. Battles play out automatically and the moves your individual fighters do will depend on their position on the battlefield. After each battle you will have the opportunity to fit your soldiers with new equipment, make new units, or advance pre-existing units to new classes. There is a significant level of depth for a game released so early, not to mention the presentation is overall good. The game even features one of the first voice tracks in a Super Nintendo game; when you enter a battle, a very Microsoft Sam like voice yells “Fight it Out”.

____Now the first Ogre Battle was quite a mysterious game, in that as the player progressed, the game was keeping score in an unseen way. The game keeps track of specific units “Alignment” scores. Defeating Dark enemies like vampires will increase alignment and light enemies like priests or clerics will lower it. When a player with high alignment takes over a town they liberate it causing your parties “reputation” to go up, but units with a low alignment capture cities and make your reputation go down. There is no real way to check your reputation but it completely alters the ending you see. The game will total up your score at the end and depending on how your reputation sits, you will see a corresponding ending. It really added a whole other level of strategy to the game, since you didn’t just want to win the battle but you wanted to win it right. For more on this mysterious part of the game check out this article from Gamasutra. Trust me there is a lot more to this system than I care to dive into, but it’s really cool all the same.

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

____North America wouldn’t see the release of the next Ogre Battle game until it’s recreation on the PS1 in 1998, despite the fact that the title appeared on the Super Famicom in japan in 1995. The game was entitled Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together a pretty cryptic name obviously. Generally Quest maintained the same tried and true formula for this entry. The game did innovate with its branching storyline which featured you running a liberation army through the nation of Valeria trying to bring freedom to the area.

____Let Us Cling Together received generally positive reception from games critics, with sites like Gamespot even heralding it above its predecessor (a claim based on the recreation). Fans were more than welcome to receive the game on the PS1since many had to deal with difficult translations and ROM versions of the game for years.

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Calibur

____Launching in October of 2000 Ogre Battle 64 was held by many to be the best game in the series, the game took everything it’s predecessors did and made it bigger and better. The game featured beautiful sprite based graphics which carried a very hand drawn look. The story was engaging and like Let Us Cling Together it branched off into many paths, varying based on the actions of Magnus Gallant, the lead character. Magnus is a friend of Prince Yumil, heir to the throne. As the story progresses, Magnus graduates from the military academy and becomes the leader of a battalion named the “Blue Knights”. Eventually Magnus will break his ties with the military that trained him and join the revolutionary army he once battled, in order to take down the Holy Lodis Empire and the forces of the Netherworld.

Ogre Battle 64 featured beautiful Sprite based graphics

____This game was awesome! It featured more character classes, more enemies, and overall more to do than its predecessors. It maintained the mysterious reputation system of the first two and most importantly it was addictive. I remember spending 5 hours a day in some cases, playing this game completely glued to the TV. From raising destructive monsters like Griffins and so many types of Dragons and Wyrms that you would have to use your fingers and toes to count them all, to humans, zombies and a whole mess of other characters. All of your units could be given multiple pieces of equipment for each individual, which added a dynamic and personal feel to each of your battalion members — They didn’t just feel like soldiers, they had personalities. The game also made use of an “Elm Pedra” magic abbility. The Elm Pedras were powerful magic attacks based on the different natural elements like fire, earth, water etc… They could easily change the tide of a loosing battle in your favor, this added an extra dynamic to the strategy series.

____Overall the game featured 6 endings and enough plot twists to make your head spin. It carried with it an epic feel which rivals the Lord of the Rings series of movies.

____OB64 was met with good critical reviews, getting a 9.1 from Gamespot and an 8.8 from IGN. It was also featured on the same Nintendo power “Best 200” list as its predecessor, fitting snuggle at the 111th position. IGN deemed it “The N64 RPG you’ve been longing for” citing the lack of deep RPG’s on the system. Despite this it remained commercially unsuccessful in NA; a terrible shame.

____But Lets not forget that it wasn’t just home consoles that were basking in strategy game glory.

Ogre Battle on Handhelds

____Ogre Battle: Legend of the Zenobia Prince is probably the least known entry in the series to North American gamers. This is due primarily to the fact that it never left the land of the rising sun since the NeoGeo pocket color was discontinued in western territories. SNK’s handheld just couldn’t find an audience in areas like NA and strategy RPG’s like Ogre Battle have a tough enough time getting past being a niche genre as it is. This game acted as a gaiden (side story) for the original March of the Black Queen, as it features the exploits of Prince Tristan from the original title.

____Fortunately for Western Ogre Battle fans, the series would not stay out of their home countries for long. In 2001 Tactics Ogre: The Knights of Lodis made its way onto the Gameboy advance and landed on Western shores in 2002. Published by Nintendo in Japan and Atlus in NA, The Knights of Lodis acted as a side story much like its Neo Geo pocket counterpart. Knights of lodis allowed for up to 32 units in your battalion and featured a class based system much like its console companions. Like OB64 the classes were divided into different persuasions like; humans, demi-humans, beasts, dragons etc…

____The Knights of Lodis met with generally good critical reception. IGN gave it an 8.5 calling it “unprecedented” in its strategy gaming on a handheld system. It also received the honor of Gamespot’s GBA RPG of the year in 2002.

____This was another game that soaked up many hours of my life, as the addictive class system and tight Strategy RPG system kept me coming back for more. This is also one of the easier entries in the series to find since it is the most recently released. So, if you haven’t experienced it yet, do yourself a favor and nab a copy on ebay, or if your lucky the used GBA section of your local Gamestop or Game crazy, that’s where I found mine.

Where Does the Series Stand Now?

____Well I wish I could say all was well in the world of Ogre Battle, but the series has an uphill battle if it ever wants to see the light of day again. Though the series continued just fine after key members of Quest, including the series creator Yasumi Matsuno, left in 1995 to work for square, relationships between the two companies don’t bode well for the Ogre Saga. In 2002 Square bought out Quest and since then we haven’t seen another game in the series. This may be due to the fact that the team from Quest has been busy working on the Final Fantasy tactics games, currently they are working on FF Tactics A2 for the Nintendo DS. However there have been some mutterings in the industry about the Ogre Saga making a comback, with Yasumi Matsuno on board for the project. The rumor states that the game would be headed to Wii, a sensible choice considering the systems interface lends itself well to strategy games. We may also see the Ogre Saga games make their way onto the Wii’s Virtual Console, since most of them have been featured on Nintendo systems.

____In any case all I know is that if it is going to make a comeback it better happen soon, because the battery in my Ogre Battle 64 cartridge just died!

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4 Responses to “Dominant Series- The Ogre Saga”

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