|Learning Curve: More than 3 Hours
Unfortunately for Nintendo owners, the Nintendo 64's decision to stick with
the cartridge drove away almost all would-be RPG developers for the system.
But all is not lost, as well-known Japanese developer Quest took on the burden
of working within the restraints of the cartridge format to bring the latest
incarnation of its strategy RPG series to the N64. Don't lose hope yet RPG
fans, redemption will soon be at hand. Ogre Battle 64 offers a detailed branching
story and great depth of customization, both executed brilliantly within
the limitations of a 35-meg cartridge.
The premise of the story centers on a kingdom that has been sold out by its
king so that his throne and the social elite of the country will remain safe.
After witnessing the plight of the downtrodden lower citizens, the hero Magnus
finds himself leading a revolt against the powerful Lodis Church Kingdom
to gain true independence. Building on this somewhat archetypal premise,
Ogre Battle 64 spins a complex and involving tale of political intrigue,
personal relationships, and battlefield drama using numerous cutscenes and
in-game dialogue. The story's use of foreshadowing and ample character
development, along with your ability to affect the outcome of the story,
do a lot to keep the game interesting over its lengthy (about 60 hours) duration.
To help you keep track of everything, you can view a diagram illustrating
character relationships; you can read profiles of people, groups, and countries;
and you can replay past events. While Ogre Battle 64 includes an intricate
story and many RPG elements, it's a strategy game at its core. As the leader
of the Palatinue army, you'll form combat units of up to five characters
and deploy up to ten units at a time in each of more than 40 scenarios. Before
moving to a stage, you will be given a briefing that outlines the area and
your objective, and you'll possibly witness a cutscene. Units are represented
as sprites moving across a 3D battlefield, which incorporates adjustable
views and features scaling effects for the sprites. While controlling your
army, you can set waypoints for your units, predetermine how to react to
enemy units encountered along the way, and camp to recover from fatigue.
Icon-based menus and handy controller functions allow you easy access to
the game's functions and let you issue complex orders to your units. Units
do move in "real time," but you can pause the action to issue commands whenever
When two units meet, a skirmish ensues, and the game switches to an isometric
view of the prerendered battlefield. Characters make their attacks in semi-real
time, meaning multiple characters act at once, which is a bit more exciting
than turn-based battles. A high frequency of parries, misses, and critical
hits make the battles more interesting and less predictable, and the animation
and spell effects are very well done. A nice touch is that a magic user can
combine spells to create a variety of impressive hybrid spells with unique
effects. As in the original Ogre Battle, you don't have direct control during
combat; instead, you direct the battle by deciding on your unit's formation
and issuing commands. A unit's strength, number, and method of attack are
determined by its placement on a three-by-three grid, and you can issue different
commands to the attacking team at any time. As the battle wears on, the option
to retreat becomes available, and finally the option to call for the help
of one of the four elemental goddesses is provided.This is just the beginning
of Ogre Battle 64's staggering attention to detail. Each character has its
own individual stats, equipment, alignment, and gender. All of these factors
affect various nuances of combat and determine the unit's class-change options.
There are around 50 classes for human characters, including paladins, wizards,
and valkyries, as well as special and secret classes. In addition, a variety
of monsters can join your army, many of which can also change class. There
are 13 types of dragons alone, as well as hawkmen, griffins, and deadly gorgons.
Most of these characters can be outfitted from the huge selection of equipment
and weaponry you purchase from shops and win from defeated enemies. Because
you can rename and equip the characters in your army as you see fit, you'll
soon develop attachments to certain characters and find yourself cheering
when they parry a potentially fatal blow or screaming when they fall
While gameplay is by far the most important aspect of a strategy game, the
presentation does count for something. Quest has made a great effort here,
but some shortcomings can't be helped when squeezing a game this large onto
cartridge format. Generally speaking, the prerendered backgrounds used for
battles and conversations in various town locales are beautiful. Every possible
type of terrain has been modeled along with bars, town squares, and modest
mountain dwellings. Small details, like dust blowing down a street and plants
gently swaying in the wind, make up for the slightly blurry look that results
from heavy data compression. The units themselves are also slightly blurry
but still have personality. Characters have nicely done portraits for speech
and status screens, and most main characters carry their own signature sword,
which is sure to have slain countless enemies. The 3D maps can be a bit bland
and get somewhat repetitive by the end of the game, but several stages that
involve breaching the outer walls of an enemy castle and making your way
through the enclosed town to the inner gate look rather impressive from the
multiple viewpoints. The game's soundtrack is composed by Sakimoto and Iwata,
the duo widely known for scoring Final Fantasy Tactics and the previous Ogre
games, and is full of dramatic intensity and power. The slight downside to
the soundtrack is that the game reuses a good deal of music from the series
and seems to have fewer tracks than its predecessors, the latter likely stemming
from limited space on the cart.
Perhaps Ogre Battle 64's greatest strength lies in its replay value. Because
of divergences on the world map and decisions you are forced to make, there
is no way to get every major character and see every event by playing the
game through once. Additionally, how you play will affect your reputation.
Some characters simply won't join your cause if you haven't gained enough
support from other characters and earned the trust of the masses. The huge
amount of customization possible and the ability to shape the involving story
unfolding before you make the game a very enjoyable experience for any RPG
gamer willing to venture into the realm of challenging strategy and
micromanagement. Let's hope Nintendo leaves the game's content as it is and
has a North American release date solidified soon.
By Justin Speer, GameSpot VG
IGN 64 Review
Ogre Battle 64: Person of
Wait no longer -- the N64 RPG you've been longing
for has finally arrived. The full review.
Loads of beautiful menus, a great story, and all the little details necessary to really keep you hooked.
The world of Ogre Battle has never looked better. Gorgeous sprites and backgrounds, with a standard 3D overworld.
The classic fanfare returns, and the game is full of delightful compositions. The midi-quality could be better, though.
Awesome. A true RPG mixed with all the great tactics of real-time strategy. Amazingly deep.
A lengthy quest with branching paths. The gameplay is so addictive, you'll be tempted to start again once you finish.
(not an average)
October 5, 2000
If there's one thing we consistently hear from N64 gamers it's,
"Where's the RPGs?" And with good cause, too -- this genre
of games has been all but neglected during the entire life of the
system. Some may argue that the size-restricting nature of the game
cart design is to blame, but no matter what the reason, the lack of
RPG support has really been a sore spot for Nintendo during the past
Well it's time to stand up and cheer, RPG fans, because Atlus
Software and series developer Quest have teamed up to deliver one of the
first true RPG experiences on the starving system: Ogre Battle 64.
Having played the game for many moons now, IGN64 is ready to bring you
up to speed on the merits and shortcomings of this long-awaited title,
and let us tell you right now: it has indeed been worth the wait.
- For one player
- 320 megabit cart (40 MB)
- Fantasy RPG gaming mixed with strategic and tactical elements
- Isometric sprite graphics with a 3D overworld map
- Tutorial mode for learning the basics
- Massive single player quest with engaging story and plot
- Branching quest variations depending on player choices and
- Three save game slots via built-in EEPROM
If you haven't yet read our preview coverage for this title, then you
might have a few misconceptions and assumptions on what to expect from
OB64. First of all, for any naysayers out there: this is most definitely
an RPG. If your only concept of what defines an RPG comes from your
experience with the Final Fantasy series, then prepare to expand your
horizons with this game. You will of course find the standard genre
elements such as experience points and item management, but this game
offers something different as well. Fans of the classic Ogre Battle
games on the SNES will feel very at home with this style of play, and
newcomers will find it to be a fresh take on the sometimes repetitive
So what can you expect? First, you may be surprised to learn that
there will be no controlling of characters with the control stick. A
minor point perhaps, but it sort of defines the way this game is played.
The majority (if not all) of the game is played via menu manipulation.
Think of this as a mix between the Final Fantasy series and Starcraft.
You tell your units where to go by issuing commands to them like
"Move to this stronghold." Then they walk along the 3D
landscape in route to their destination (represented by an animated 2D
sprite) while the real-time clock is ticking away. While traveling, they
might run into other characters, find objects in their path, or trigger
a cut scene to further the tale. Upon arriving, you will then be able to
issue other commands such as "Enter Stronghold." The cool part
about this is that unlike most standard RPGs, you do not simply control
one party of warriors. Instead, you will end up having many
parties, each walking around the 3D map in real-time as you attempt to
flank your enemies and capture fortresses. This is the real-time/Starcraft
element of the game that makes OB64 so truly unique to the console RPG
Even once you enter a location such as a stronghold, there's no
walking around and talking to characters. The only time character
interaction occurs is during the in-game cutscenes and when a random
neutral character is encountered on the main world map. In the case of
the latter, a standard battle scene will initiate, but instead of
fighting, the player is presented the command to "talk" to the
newly encountered entity. It should be said that despite not having the
ability to wander around towns and chat freely with non-playable
characters, this game has a great amount of conversation in it. You
can't help but feel pulled into the story, and that's mostly due to the
fantastic cut-scenes that appear in all the right places.
When it comes to the battles in OB64, newcomers to the series might
be surprised to learn that there is very little interaction or control
by the player during combat. Imagine a typical Final Fantasy layout
where all your troops are on the close side of the screen, and the enemy
is on the far half. The backgrounds are all identical depending on what
type of terrain you are fighting on, meaning all battles fought on
grassy plains will have the same wonderful grassy plain background each
time. But with as many different environments and locations as there are
in this game, repetition should not be a problem whatsoever.
Now when the battle begins, your characters will begin attacking on
their own, and defending the enemy attacks likewise without so much as a
word from you. This is done in the standard "run across the screen
and slash him and run back into formation" method of most current
RPGs. What you are able to do, however, is issue what's called
"interrupt commands." These three commands are "battle
strategy" (such as "attack leader" or "attack
weakest"), "retreat," and "Elem Pedra." A meter
fills as the battle is fought, and each time it is filled you are able
to issue one of the three commands. (For a detailed description of the
battle system, see our previous analysis right
here.) It doesn't seem to matter if you are actually the one
controlling the attacks or not -- it's still great fun to watch your
troops bring animated death and destruction to your opponents. In fact,
it's almost more fun this way and less tedious than the FF style of
Now besides the world map and battle screens, the other most common
interface to learn in Ogre Battle 64 is the "organize
screen." This is where the game can really blow your mind and even
overwhelm you with choices. The menus to learn can seem a bit complex at
first, but once you run through the tutorial mode, even the most novice
N64 players will be up to speed in no time. The first thing to know is
that there are two sizes of characters in the game: normal (such as
humans) and large (such as dragons). Next, like most RPGs, these
characters have "classes" such as archer, cleric, dragon
tamer, etc. You can give each character their own name, and even rename
them at any time in the future. Each character is also equipped with
their own weapons, shields, headpieces, clothing, spell books, etc., in
true RPG fashion and giving them a wonderful sense of personality.
Now let's talk strategy. Characters are put into what's called
"units," with one character selected to serve as the
"unit leader." That's how you use characters in this game --
you put them into a unit, then from your main menu you can
"dispatch" your unit to the world map. Then, as previously
mentioned, you will issue commands to that unit such as where to move.
Units are laid out in a 3x3 grid, having three rows per unit: front,
middle, and back. Players can arrange up to five normal characters per
unit, with large characters taking up an extra space on all sides. There
is a ton of strategy involved in arranging your units within OB64. For
example, if a character is placed on the back row of a unit, their
attack might be different in style or strength than if it were
positioned on the front row. You better place your toughest warriors up
front, because the common sense rules of war apply here -- ground
attacks must breach the first lines prior to attacking the archers and
spell casters lurking in the back. Likewise, archers and wizards can
attack enemies on any line of the ranks. Also, if an entire row has
three soldiers or spell casters, it is possible that they will perform
"combined attacks" when engaged in battle. These combined
attacks depend on many factors such as the strength of their leader and
the morale of the unit. Overall, the amount of strategy and planning
involved before you even step out onto the world map is simply awesome,
and if you have a thing for micro-management, this is definitely your
Indeed this game plays both incredibly realistic and incredibly deep.
Those looking for some great tactical and strategic gaming will find
that Ogre Battle 64 is sure to please. The controls are also very
intuitive and highly functional at all times. Everything just seems to
make sense when you reach for a particular button to bring up a menu or
deselect a character. One thing to keep in mind for those who plan on
playing the game: don't press the A,B, Z, and Start buttons
simultaneously -- it resets the game.
Getting tired of chunky polygons cluttering up your screens? Ever find
yourself pulling out your dusty SNES just to relive the glory days of
beautiful artwork and sweet character animations? We can sympathize, and
old-school gamers with a thing for that classic 2D look will be very
happy with the visuals in OB64. The majority of the game is a pleasant
combination of sprite-based scenery and only a few 3D elements, which
are mixed-in very tastefully. Honestly, the point of the game is not to
amaze you with eye-popping visuals. The Ogre Battle series just isn't
about 3D effects, no matter what system it's created for. The addition
of the third-dimension to this franchise simply allows you to scroll the
world map around smoothly, and it serves its purpose most effectively.
But forget about 3D, Ogre Battle 64 is all about colorful
characters and artistic scenery. And let's not forget about those
wonderful sprite animations. Characters are animated beyond what you
would expect them to be, and boy does it really bring the cutscenes to
life. You'll see characters look directly at each other when talking,
reach to open doors, bend to stand up while moving their chair, etc.
Even the backgrounds are animated with moving details such as grass,
bushes, fires, etc. The attention to graphical details goes a long way
in this game and helps to achieve a quality cartoon feel throughout. The
graphics are truly magnificent -- a pleasure to both watch and play.
Fans of the classic games should be thrilled to know that much of the
original music has returned to this 64-bit sequel. Quest is certainly
not shy about staying true to the feel of its previous titles, as you'll
be humming the traditional Ogre Battle theme the second you hit the
title screen. And what a treat it is. While the midi-instruments are
nothing special or even remotely close to the tunes achieved in the
latest Zelda titles, the compositions and arrangements are as timeless
and grandiose as ever. In fact, the music on OB64 is nearly identical to
the SNES version, and fortunately that's not such a bad thing.
The sound effects are also nothing amazing, but they are rather
fitting and work very nicely with the style of the game. Menus will pop
and click with every press of the controller, and the battle sounds are
very diverse and interesting. There are even some elements of dynamic
music, as melodies and themes play when certain events transpire (such
as a particular character appearing on-screen). Altogether, OB64 will
manage to keep your ears very happy while your brain stews and plots the
next strategic maneuver.
It's really a shame that this title wasn't able to make it out of
production sooner in the life cycle of the N64. Perhaps then other
developers would have perked-up and realized that it only takes a little
effort and talent, and they too could have to put together a quality RPG
on this cart-based Nintendo system. But regardless, Ogre Battle 64
is finally available to the public, and we simply couldn't be happier. I
can tell you right now what my plans are for the weekend -- turnout all
the lights, grab a soda, and hit the couch for some more RPG goodness.
If you simply can't stand menus, then be advised: this game may not
be for you. You should at least give it a rent if you're remotely
interested in RPGs. I'll bet that before long, you'll be running out to
the store trying to scoop up the last remaining copy. Do yourself a
favor now -- go get it. This game is very deep and wonderfully
complex, and RPG fans simply shouldn't miss it.
--Cory D. Lewis