Langrisser V: The end of legend

Well, this is it. “The End of Legend“, as Langrisser V‘s subtitle puts it. The conclusion, according to the eye catching text on the back of the box. With this game, Langrisser is done. Over. Finished. A line has been drawn in the sand, and it will not be crossed (not for a while, anyway).

What an exciting declaration that is. With nothing left to lose, this is surely the time for Langrisser to go wild—maybe even Langrisser III levels of wild. The team behind Langrisser have given themselves the opportunity to do whatever the heck they want, safe in the knowledge that they’ll never have to clear up the mess they make afterwards. With this single statement, closing the series with the sort of world-shaking bang that doesn’t have to worry about ongoing plot threads or leaving a key character alive for any eventual sequel is a real possibility.

A possibility that was mostly ignored. Instead, Langrisser V starts off close to where Langrisser IV ends, with scheming antagonist Gizarof, looking as Evil Pope-y as ever, killed off—as we already knew a game ago he would beby Landius and friends within just a few scenarios.

The trouble is, Gizarof is—was—new hero Sigma’s boss.

And so with this twist in mind your first act in Langrisser V is to… actually one of the first things you do is take in a full screen illustration of the vacuum-packed breasts attached to Sigma’s “sister”, Lambda, whether you want to or not as he awakens from the glowing sci-fi style tank he was placed in by Langrisser IV’s Malicious Wizardy Popeness. Then a little while after that you’re sent off on a mission from your clearly evil and briefly alive “master” to try and steal the legendary twin swords Langrisser and Alhazard from their current rightful owner, and along the way are forced into a few scenarios where you’re either fighting against or running for your life away from some of the objectively nice people you spent hour after hour of the previous game trying to help and protect, due to the orders of a man you already know is going to die and absolutely shouldn’t be followed.

It’s not an endearing start to a new game.

The good news is Langrisser V does address this mismatch and improve as it goes on—the game even takes a few surprising turns in the latter half—although eventually improving on an off-putting start really only brings it up to “decent enough” level, especially as it passes through a “maybe we’ll just do another ordinary Langrisser story about overthrown kingdoms and royalty on the run for a bit” segment before getting to the juicier bits that try their best to set it apart. It’s an experience salvaged from its own self-inflicted problems rather than a confident grand finale, created by a team with more than enough experience the genre to know better.

The battle system follows this same beige kind of thinking, largely choosing to revisit Langrisser IV’s battle system rather than seizing the chance to make significant improvements. The time bar separating an individual’s actions and spellcasting from the overarching turn itself makes a comeback, and troop numbers are again kept to a more manageable size. Familiarity can feel warm and welcoming in a long running series, however it’s probably not the mood to go for if you’re a game aiming to finish off a multi-format (multi-decade) series and have chosen to describe yourself as “the end of legend”.

At least the series-issue animated battle cutscenes (which can be mostly, but not entirely, avoided) have been given a fair bit of additional polish, showing well animated little soldiers and assorted creatures knocking the stuffing out of each other with gusto. They’re still not short and snappy enough to just be fun to watch, nor are they integrated into your actual battle plans well enough to make them worth viewing, but at least they’re pretty.

The battlefields these fights take place in are a bit of a mixed bag, ranging from the good—holding the line so unarmed prisoners can escape a fortress via a direction of your choosing—to uninspired “kill all enemies on this map with no surprises or tactical interest” encounters, to obvious wasted opportunities. You’ll clash with enemies high in the sky… the trouble is, the battles play out no differently to a fight on a flat grassy field. You’ll watch the game make a big show of escaping some damaging smoke, only to have the enemy generals—aware of your presence and out for blood—literally wait until you’ve cleared it before making their move. Why not just start you off in the smoke-free area? Why not design the map so that ducking out into the smoke for a better position, or holding your ground and being surrounded, is a tactical choice? At least the Langrisser team have finally worked out how to execute a smooth(ish) difficulty curve, the few bumps found in here less jarring than their equivalent roadblocks in previous games in the series.

That faint praise is about as much as I can muster for a game that is never bad, but really could have been so much better—it could even have been as good as some of the earlier games in its own series. It could have not been the latest annual release in a genre that clearly doesn’t benefit from such demanding work schedules (Langrisser III: 1996, IV: 1997, V: 1998) pushed off the end of the production line in the same year as Panzer Dragoon Saga and the Dreamcast.

I just wanted Langrisser V to make me feel something. I wanted to be so in awe of the events playing out before me it really would feel like the end of legend, that we were losing something precious and I’d either be sad it was over or proud to have witnessed this historic event. Instead it honestly feels more like an unfortunate case of “fair enough”, a mishandled series forced to play out its inevitable conclusion.

Further reading:

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2 thoughts on “Langrisser V: The end of legend

  1. I guess this legacy is why Langrisser isn’t a household name the same way Fire Emblem is, and it’s a real shame. The earlier games sound so interesting, and III at least tried something different. Maybe one day we’ll get a proper modern Langrisser game.


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