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Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber (Nintendo 64) artwork

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber (Nintendo 64) review

"In a trend that surrenders ground to only one exception, I simply donít stick with Strategy-RPGs. Iíll play through a game, whether it be Final Fantasy Tactics, any of the better members of the Fire Emblem or Shining Force series, or lesser known SNES titles such as Front Mission, Bahamut Lagoon, or FEDA: Emblem of Justice, and then Iíll set it aside. Once or twice in the next while I might pull the game aside for a quick runthrough, but thatís all. No, ..."

In a trend that surrenders ground to only one exception, I simply donít stick with Strategy-RPGs. Iíll play through a game, whether it be Final Fantasy Tactics, any of the better members of the Fire Emblem or Shining Force series, or lesser known SNES titles such as Front Mission, Bahamut Lagoon, or FEDA: Emblem of Justice, and then Iíll set it aside. Once or twice in the next while I might pull the game aside for a quick runthrough, but thatís all. No, only one SRPG in the entire history of an otherwise disgruntled relationship with replay values has made me repeatedly pull out the cartridge, and play it over and over and over until the shadows of night have fallen. That game is none other than Questís Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber.

The situation was bleak for the N64, as what had once started out as an oasis of prosperity with Super Mario 64 and Goldeneye planting the seeds of palms had turned into a barren desert of new releases. Defeated on the N64 Ė PSX front by a 2:1 margin, and with the PS2ís release looming at the borders between desert and grasslands, it needed to stall for time. It needed one last suicide bomb, an RPG that would allow it to go out with a blast, but Paper Mario and Aidyn Chronicles: The Last Mage would not come out until 2001. The answer came in the form of Ogre Battle 64, but it lacked a company willing to translate it and bring it overseas; Enix, the corporation whom had translated Ogre Battle for the SNES published it within American borders, had all but cut support for the N64 years ago.

Enter Atlus, always erratic in its alliances; loyal to one company one moment, changing sides the next. Being the wildcard of a niche company that has defied the tendency of niche companies falling as newer and more powerful hardware became available, it took on the daunting task of creating an English translation.

Many people didnít expect Ogre Battle 64 to leave the ground in America, but as time progressed, results surprised all. To this day, the game still retains a strong cult following, with numbers large enough to suffice for a sequel.

The situation of Southern Palatinus is clear-cut for you as the first few battles of the mission-based combat take place. Many of the peasants, burdened by poor harvest, poverty, and royal oppression have taken to arms in unity for a better future. Magnus Gallant, leader of a Palatinus unit and the main character of the game, is torn between his loyalties to the royal family and more specifically his childhood friend, the Prince Yumil, and his sympathy to the plight of the poor of South Palatinus.

Some paths are always set in stone, however, and Magnus will soon turn his back on the monarchy and set out to bring forth the idea of democracy to Palatinus. Though it will obviously ultimately end in victory, losses will be incurred on the way, and even then, a glorious defeat may be better than an empty victory. After all, bypassing your internal turmoil by way of the grave may seem a better option than living with the scars of warÖ

Take Leia Silvis, for example. Sheíll stand behind Magnus for the entirety of the game, but three quarters in, sheíll begin to question her actions as she is forced into a decision; remain behind and take a passive stance on the war-torn nation, or lead the front of the battle lines and end up battling her own father, on his own estates. Other characters will have their own individual conflicts, and even Magnus himself is not safe, as by becoming a turncoat, he is on the side opposite his father, Ankiseth Gallant.

But what really makes Ogre Battle 64 awesome is that thereís always a choice to what you can do. Practically every choice you make has consequences, from accepting or declining Dioís challenge to a fight at the beginning of the game to deciding if you should execute a traitor, to several really important end-game decisions. Should you try to recruit the five Zenobians by gaining support from the people, or should you lean towards the side of evil and recruit the scum of Palatinus?

This brings into play a system of alignment, both on the whole army and individual parties. What if you were to take the moral choice all the time? As you become more and more lawful, priests or knights might join you, but if you took the dark side, allies of the underworld would join your party. But it goes further than that, as you can gain or lose favor when youíre on a mission. What if you bring an overpowered party to bring a lower-level unit to its knees? Even before each individual move is played out in a semi-automatic RPG system, the populace would have already begun to view you as a common coward, willing to use brute force to get his way.

To even gain a good margin of support, you would also have to actually liberate the many civilians of Palatinus. This is done by sending units to cities where once there they automatically liberate the city. However, another subgenre of decision-making comes into play. If you send a powerhouse thatís lost favor with the people to liberate a city, you would instead capture it, which would lower affection for the Revolutionary Army.

The individual units spearhead your operations, and once deployed from headquarters, can enter battle with enemy parties. Each side can have up to five warriors spread throughout nine squares, with placement determining the number of attacks they can use. Combat is done automatically, as the two opposing forces trade hits and heal fellow party members. Additional features to this system include a variety of stances you can take against your foes, whether it is aggressive, passive, or conservative, and Spirit Attacks, capable of dealing a lethal blow. After a couple of attacks, the squadron that took less damage wins, and the losers retreat on the world map.

Four years has done nothing to weather the replayability of Ogre Battle 64. Thereís always a new path to take, new consequences to be responsible for, a whole new world out there. The game certainly changed my outlook on SRPGs; as of late, Iíve been able to get more indepth into SRPGís such as Advance Wars and Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon, and Iíve revisited games with class systems to tinker with my characters and make them into independent juggernaughts. Nevertheless, Iíve made sure that my copy of Ogre Battle 64 has never collected dust Ė and during my stroll through the lifeless desert of late 2000, I made sure it never collected sand either.

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Community review by yamishuryou (February 17, 2005)

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