The promoted “100 hours of gameplay” should be treated as a threat, not a promise.
The Langrisser series of tactical RPGs has a very checkered history. North America only saw its first title in the form of 1991 Sega Genesis title Warsong, and, aside from a Japanese-only PS2 remake, the series has been largely dormant since the PlayStation and Saturn in favor of the Growlanser series. In a sign of just how powerful the 3DS is as an RPG platform, a new development team under the name of the old development studio, Masaya, brought it back last year in Japan, and Aksys Games picked it up for localization. And though Aksys tried their hardest, they couldn't save this reincarnation from being a franchise killer.
The story, such as it is, takes place in an ISO-standard, vaguely-medieval European kingdom constantly beset by war. Your chief character and eventual walking tank is Ares, a young boy whose personality (and character class) is determined by a pregame personality exam in the style of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games. His village is largely destroyed by an evil empire at the start of the game. But before you head off to war, you pull the legendary sword Langrisser from the ruins of a local church. Aside from a few characters who will be with you for the duration, there are points in the story where you can choose from three different factions, each trying to bring peace to the land in their own way.
In between missions, you'll be able to chat with characters (exactly three, no more or less) and attempt to build a relationship with them a la Stella Glow or multiple other games, but you can be rejected by a potential love interest and locked out of further conversation. (I did reach the point of confession with a male character, but didn't get a chance to propose love to see what would happen with them.) The storyline is very much an excuse plot, and I didn't feel the need – nor have the time – to question what would have happened down other paths, though I suspect it would have been largely identical. Even Aksys's own website focuses more on the gameplay elements involved than the story, though they did a good job with the localized version. There's just... nothing there.
One element of the game that drove me up the wall constantly is the controls, which apparently decided to take a lesson from the GameCube version of the Mega Man Anniversary Collection. In practically every other RPG I've played on the 3DS, A has been confirm, and B has been cancel/go back. Langrisser, for whatever reason, flips this. I lost track of how many times I went to lock in a command, or even attempted to open my save file, and went back when I didn't mean to. And with no soft reset command, one screwup on the map means you'll be pulling back to the save select screen a lot.
The core gameplay of Langrisser is something we've seen a lot this year. Before a map, you set up your troops on the map, and, if you feel you'll need them, you can use your EXTREMELY limited funds to either buy weapon/armor upgrades or hire mercenaries. These come in packs of ten but don't do a whole lot of damage alone. If they're close to the character to which they are assigned, they get a stat buff that makes them more dangerous but also limits their ability to advance since they're essentially tethered to your commander units. Each commander, who has a different class in battle, can hire particular bands of mercenaries to provide extra damage, but they disappear if your commander unit runs out of their ten hit points in battle. (Note: Every character, friend or foe, has 10 HP.) The battle maps are perhaps too large for their own good, as there are several maps that take four or five turns of moving characters as far as they can go before actually getting into combat. And in later maps, where there are multiple named characters in addition to standalone foes with multiple mercenaries, a single turn can take 4-5 minutes to complete even without combat. Make it 15-20 once you get into combat.
Once you get into combat, you will be subjected to battle scenes that I'm pretty sure the Super Nintendo could have pulled off. The game smash-cuts to a side view with ultra-deformed character models that are 70% head, then, after a wave of a sword (it doesn't even account for what you equip), single units take light damage or explode and fall backwards. If you're fighting mercenaries, there are multiple explosions as each merc represents a single hit point. (For a further example, click here.) Couple that with annoying sound loops that only differ depending on whether you are the attacker or the defender, and you will find yourself running for the option to disable battle scenes within a few chapters. The map music and larger character sprites outside of these scenes are OK, but the constant interruptions for combat will drive you mad.
In games with a “chosen one,” it's very easy for them to get the focus at everyone else’s expense. And Langrisser commits this sin as well: by the time I was done with the game, Ares had essentially soloed a 50+ character map. I wanted to have some more variety in my team, but more and more of my team couldn't finish enemies off, so they would die, and Ares and a couple of other people would finish everything off. As someone who's not averse to grinding his way out of trouble, I would at least like the option. Even if it means putting up with more battle scenes.
There are plenty of tactical RPGs on 3DS, and I would much rather be playing any other one. In fact, I'm still trying to get through the trio released the week of February 16. No matter how low this game gets on the eShop or in stores, it's not worth the time or effort to play it. Save your pennies for Zero Time Dilemma, or go grab Chronicles of Teddy on Wii U, and reward Aksys for quality instead.