by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
The Ogre Battle franchise has not gotten quite enough love in my opinion. An excellent tactical/strategy RPG series with a compelling story, full of twists and turns, deserves more games than it received. The franchise has five games within it (and a remake) and one of these titles never made it to American shores: Legend of Ogre Battle Gaiden: Prince of Zenobia. Maybe there’s a fan-translation out there, but it’s never quite the same, is it? Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is the last game in the franchise to not be a remake, and how unfortunate that it was on the GBA. Not to say the GBA was bad, but that we’ve simply been without more Ogre Battle since, except the “Let us Cling Together” remake on the PSP. Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is also a side story (or Gaiden) and takes place before the events of Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen and Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber.
Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is a huge takeaway from Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen, even though they are both tactical RPGs. In Ogre Battle, you had no control over what your units did, except in where you placed them in the party (front and back row determines what you do). Tactics Ogre, however, is in the style of the Final Fantasy Tactics. It’s an isometric, squad-based RPG, where you have a variety characters (units) and put together a team to tackle a variety of tactical maps. Your first characters are decided based on a series of Tarot related questions (as in pretty much every other Ogre game), though you can recruit many more. It had a whole host of classes, from the traditional fantasy RPG ones (Knight, Wizard, Cleric) to the more “Ogre Battle” styled classes (Dragon, Dragon Tamer, Siren, Valkyrie, Witch). Characters had an alignment and three stats (the alignment system is another staple of the franchise) and the cooler, more “powerful” classes various requirements. Swordmaster requiring 95 STR, 111 AGI, the Book of Initiation Emblem, and must be male. This game was truly a technical marvel of the Gameboy Advance.
The story follows Alphonse Loeher, the titular “Knight of Lodis”, who was sent to look into military activity into one of the towns in Ovis. As the story goes on, Alphonse learns there is more to his order than meets the eye, and as in all good tactical fantasy games, there’s a deep conspiracy to unravel: The conspiracy behind the “holy spear”. The actual gameplay is standard tactical RPG fare: You move on a grid, position yourself and use attacks/abilities appropriately. Characters are attuned to elements and that also matters. This game has several interesting game mechanics like the element attunement system, like a biorhythm system that is based around a hidden Luck stat. That stat is in flux, sort of like a sine graph. From the moment a character comes into the game, that graph is moving and is far too complicated for me to go into today. I don’t truthfully know the ins and outs of it, because I’m bad at that sort of thing. But I did find a handy guide to help explain it, here. How Quest/Atlus packed so much onto a Gameboy Advance cart is really beyond me.
Height values, weather values, these all factor into combat and players have to be aware of a lot going into each battle. It features class changing (as all good tactics games do), but sometimes you have to also perform specific actions or deeds in battle, so this is a game that likely will require a fair amount of research to get the most out of your team. That’s not a deterrent for me personally, I like to learn as much as I can about creating a fun, but useful team in a tactical RPG. This also released in May of 2002, so it’s not entirely unlikely to be able to do some internet searching and learn more about the game. It’s easier than ever now, but unfortunately, Tactics Ogre did not sell so well in America. Maybe they should have called it “Final Fantasy Tactics Gaiden”? Ogre Battle is another series I think that could have done better than it did with some smart marketing and a bigger company behind it at first (though I have no bad things to say about Quest Corporation).
You Get What You Give: 4/5
I’m sincerely disappointed this game did not do better than it did. The Tactics Ogre franchise in general deserves better. But this game is a min-maxers dream. You have so, so, so much control over the growth of your characters, what they can do, what you want them to do. You have fun, challenging battles, hidden characters, incredibly cool classes, and it takes place in the Ogre Battle universe, so you know some stuff is going to go down. It scored high when it initially debuted, and it’s not hard to see why. When you compare this to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (which starts off with that oh-so-stupid snowball fight), Tactics Ogre stands head-and-shoulders above any of its contemporaries on the mobile platforms at the time. It was truly the superior tactical RPG in every way. Its color palette was crisp and clean, and the developers seemed to know the limitations of the handheld and worked within it to create something beautiful. The story kept me engaged, the deep character/class system held the strategist in me in thrall. One of the things that keeps me coming back to a Tactical RPG is the various ways you can make a party, trying other alignments/systems/class combinations to make something new and exciting. Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis does not disappoint. The only thing it really needed was the ability to rotate the screen, otherwise a lot of the maps kind of feel the same.