"When you think of the Nintendo 64 console, what immediately pops in your head? Well, probably the first things that may come by would be the first three-dimensional Mario and Zelda games to be released, as well as the impressive first-person shooters known as Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. You might also mention the tragic departure of Square, leading to the loss of the greatest turn-based RPGs to be released for this system in my opinion. As a result, only a miniscule number of RPGs were releas..."
When you think of the Nintendo 64 console, what immediately pops in your head? Well, probably the first things that may come by would be the first three-dimensional Mario and Zelda games to be released, as well as the impressive first-person shooters known as Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. You might also mention the tragic departure of Square, leading to the loss of the greatest turn-based RPGs to be released for this system in my opinion. As a result, only a miniscule number of RPGs were released, made by Nintendo and other “lesser” known third-party developers. Quite frankly, most of these RPGs have proved to be mediocre at best, such as Aidyn Chronicles and Quest 64. The only popular RPG to be released was Paper Mario and in my opinion, it was average at best. Therefore, I’ve wondered, “Could there be any N64 RPG that could challenge the likes of the great Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III, and Super Mario RPG in terms of gameplay?” At seemed that this would no longer be possible, until I discovered Ogre Battle 64, a game I have never heard of in my entire life.
As I started playing Ogre Battle 64, I was immediately greeted by a rather cute and depressing scene, where two kids are having a rather important conversation. It seemed that the blue-haired kid, named Magnus, decides to enroll into the military academy because of family issues. Apparently, joining the military is a difficult decision for Magnus because he must leave his close friend Yumil Dulmare behind.
The story then fast-forwards six years, as Magnus finally graduates from his military academy and is assigned to the Southern Division of the Palatinean Army where he witnesses the lower class rebels facing the plight of oppression. The Holy Lodis Empire is the main suspect of this oppression, since he was the one to initiate the class system within the entire land of Palatinius.
After Magnus’ troops arrive at Akka Castle, a rebellion, led by the spiffy-looking Destin the Valiant and his “equally-cool” Zenobian troops occurs. Magnus is instructed to lead his battalion and fight against Destin and the rebels. However, Magnus eventually realizes how the Lodis Empire treats the lower class, so therefore, he decides to switch alliances and fight for the rebels rather than against them. It seems our hero is not the average numskull after all, eh? Anyway, Magnus now attempts to raise the flag of revolution over Palatinius, hoping to rid the orders of the Holy Lodis Empire and regain freedom and equality for all people. How wonderful and exhilarating it is...
As you control Magnus and his troops to victory, you must liberate the enemy’s headquarters while protecting yours from capture, throughout a minimum of 40 scenes. Simple enough? No. Along the way, you will encounter enemy soldiers that will slow your journey down and possibly kill your own troops, commonly referred as units in this game. The enemy units will also do whatever it takes to capture your headquarters and thereby, ending your game. In order to avoid this, Magnus and his troops must fight back, using the best equipment they have.
Separately from liberating enemy headquarters, Magnus’ units must also liberate strongholds that belong to their opponents. Liberating strongholds is very fundamental to the progression of this game and future events. It is also important to keep your units stationed in liberated strongholds because they heal all your troops positioned in that specific unit. Not only do strongholds heal your units but you may also gather important information you may need from the local villagers. Honestly, these missions are quite enjoyable to complete, and gradually improve as the enemies progressively become stronger and more intelligent later in the game. The only detectable flaw is that every scene is often repetitive, where you must capture enemy headquarters while protecting yours.
Apart from Magnus himself, he will be able to command over 50 unique character classes throughout his adventure. Some of the more popular classes for him to choose are knights, wizards, clerics, hawkmen, and dragons. You may realize that some of these classes are also featured in Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. Each character class in this game boasts many unique abilities. For example, wizards and sorceresses focus mainly on offensive spells while clerics and priests concentrate heavily on healing spells. Also, paladins and sword masters specialize in physical offensive attacks while catapharacts and golems rely more on defense.
Despite being classified as an RPG, in actuality, Ogre Battle 64 does not follow the traditional RPG roots. In fact, the amount of strategy involved in this game is a prime factor why Ogre Battle 64 is not a “real” RPG. You have to decide the easiest and most efficient method of eliminating enemy units and liberating your opponent’s headquarters. In order for this to happen you must determine what units have the best advantages against your foes and must consider which direction is best to attack the enemy. Usually, you will have a great advantage if you attack the enemy unit from behind.
Additionally, the actual battles are turn-based; however, each one is controlled automatically rather than manually. The reason why this has been done is because this system speeds up the game tremendously. If the battle system was manual, the game length would thereby, increase drastically. However, in the end, this method seemed to be very efficient; since boredom would easily prevail if everyone was required to play the game three times longer than it already is.
Most of the time, the graphics appear are highly visual and realistic, especially the character portraits. The character spells appear highly detailed as well. Lightning spells look like real lightning; Fire spells look like real fire, etc. The most powerful spells appear very devastating in their appearance as well as their true strength. I always love casting the “Thunder Flare” spell, as electrifying lighting from the heavens crashes down on any unfortunate soul. “Fire Storm” is also quite pleasing, as a beautiful pillar of flame from the ground works its way up to the sky, roasting anything obstructing its path. One of my favorite magic attacks has to be a dragon’s “Earthquake” attack, where a void to the bottom of the earth is opened for all opponents, sucking them all in like a tremendous whirlpool, and eventually, draining their attack power.
In addition to the graphical beauty of all magic attacks during battle, the character designs are a bit of a bummer, as they are quite simplistic and cartoonish. While I would prefer more realistic designs, they still fit brilliantly to the overall atmosphere of the game. The only real downfall where the visual would definitely be improved is the overhead view of every scene, as all major landforms, including mountains and plains seem to have a very “fuzzy” appearance.
The music played during each battle really pumps up the intensity and its greatness. However, while the music during each scene is also awesome in my opinion, it may often get repetitive and annoying to some. Every time a major character enters a certain cut scene, music specifically describing his/her personality starts to play. For example, whenever Destin the Valiant and his Zenobians enter a cut scene, “jazzy” music is played. Different types of music are also played when a specific cut scene starts to alter its atmosphere and mood, especially during a death scene, where a depressing melody suddenly invades your eardrums.
During battle, the sound effects can be summed up in one word: outstanding. Every spell cast during battle produces a unique and intriguing sound. A lightning spell sounds like a firecracker while a flame spell sounds exactly like an intense blazing fire. Even the basic sword slash produces a very nice sound effect.
Playing the first time, some may get bored during the early scenes, due to the fact that the story can be confusing throughout Ogre Battle 64’s beginning. However, as you start to master all commands and realize what the story is truly about, you will eventfully start to love playing this game. You may also be very anxious to try out new character classes, encounter new characters, and search the countryside for buried treasure.
Ogre Battle 64 especially gets difficult if you do not manage your units wisely, such as not gaining experience rapidly, equipping them with inefficient weapons and armor, and foolishly spending your hard earned money. However, the game's difficulty would have been even higher if the enemy units were controlled and managed more effectively as well. For example, when killing an enemy unit leader but not completely annihilating the entire unit, that specific unit may sometimes stay in one place altogether. This means, rather than continuing to pursue your allied units, you can easily attack all remaining members of that leaderless enemy unit.
All in all however, despite some flaws mentioned, Ogre Battle 64 still remains as the best RPG for the now defunct Nintendo 64, capable of even challenging some of the Super Nintendo RPG juggernauts. Furthermore, Ogre Battle 64 may also remain as one of the most underrated RPGs ever, since so few copies were actually sold to Strategy RPG and Ogre Battle fans. The final downfall is that Ogre Battle 64 is quite expensive if bought brand new. Therefore, even if it’s worth buying, you will have to spend a lot of money if you do manage to get a hold of this awesome game!
Community review by centurion (September 20, 2003)
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