Say what you’ll about Square Enix’s ill-fated ventures into NFTs and mildly embarrassing follies with reside service games just lately. Their dedication to remaking, remastering and usually sprucing up their ageing again catalogue from a long time previous is an admirable one in my eyes, even when they’re making you pay by the nostril for them virtually each single time. As everyone knows, although, some have made extra profitable transitions than others. The dream, after all, not less than for me, is the Final Fantasy VII Remake method for actually every little thing, regardless of how unfeasible, impractical or bodily not possible that will be for Squeenix’s monumental game library. Alas, the truth is commonly much more modest. Best case state of affairs: you are a 90s SNES game getting a stunning HD-2D makeover like Live A Live. Next on the rung: some added 3D zhuzh a la Final Fantasy VIII Remastered (though even that was on no account excellent).
Mostly, although, it is your Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster therapy. A welcome replace that maintains the look of the originals (albeit with some questionable font decisions), however that is roughly your lot. Tactics Ogre: Reborn, a remaster of the 2010 PSP remake of the 1995 SNES authentic, falls squarely into the latter camp, however you understand what? That’s effective. It’s nonetheless a rollicking turn-based ways game all these years later, and one which positively deserves to be free of the shackles of Sony’s long-dead handheld, the place it is lain dormant for the higher a part of a decade. Besides, I’ll take a totally re-orchestrated soundtrack over barely fancier pixels any day of the week. You know me.
A recent (and, can I say, extremely lush) soundtrack is not the one new addition to Reborn, although. It’s additionally been absolutely voiced in each English and Japanese, its pixel artwork and character portraits have been touched up for increased resolutions, and there have been some minor tweaks made to its grid-based battle system, extra on which in a second. For essentially the most half, although, that is Tactics Ogre because it was on the PSP again in 2010. That may sound wealthy coming from somebody who’s by no means owned both of Sony’s handhelds (or had the great fortune to reside in a rustic the place Tactics Ogre got here out initially), however whenever you sit it subsequent to a game like Triangle Strategy, freshly ported to PC from the Nintendo Switch in all its HD-2D glory only a few weeks in the past, and revealed by Square Enix no much less, you may positively really feel its age greater than most.
It’s the little issues that make you discover the creaks – like solely having two viewpoints to the game’s digital camera: isometric or fiercely top-down, the latter flattening the peak of its diverse terrains and making it more and more laborious to evaluate each the efficient vary of your assaults and people of your opponents. HP bars are additionally turned off by default, and pleasant, AI-controlled visitor characters all appear to have the identical loss of life want, ploughing headlong into the frontlines with little regard for themselves or your personal troops. You can solely see an enemy’s assault vary by deciding on them along with your mouse cursor, too, one thing that is not possible to do whilst you’re making an attempt to arrange the actions of your particular person models. As a outcome, you are by no means fairly positive whether or not you are shifting your wounded to security or have by accident left them within the firing line of an errant archer.
Even whenever you’re away from battle, you are solely capable of store and replenish your merchandise shares at particular places, resulting in being on the again foot a variety of the time should you’ve had a very laborious battle beforehand. Similarly, whilst you have the choice to rent extra celebration members to bulk out our military ought to one among them fall completely in battle, you are additionally pressured to coach them up from Lv. 1, leading to extra grinding by way of coaching missions on prime of an already prolonged and difficult marketing campaign. In isolation, this stuff would all appear fairly small, however taken collectively and you may positively begin to see the mould setting in on its 27-year-old tiles.
Approach Tactics Ogre: Reborn with the suitable mindset, nonetheless – one which appreciates its historic quirks for the challenges they bring about fairly than the crusty restrictions they impose on gamers – and these defects of age might be smoothed over for some large rewards. It will not ever have the identical youthful sheen as Triangle Strategy, maybe, however its chunky pixel artwork continues to be pleasingly detailed, and its vivid, vibrant color palette is infinitely extra interesting to the attention than the standard mulch-coloured battlefields we get on this style. It’s definitely not missing in fight eventualities both, shifting you from one tightly designed skirmish to the following with the fleet-footed precision of a procession march.
There’s a large and diverse unfold of character courses to get caught into, out of your basic warriors to therapeutic knights, magical, spear-wielding rune fencers, berserkers and winged archers, and a few characters may even recruit fairies and reptilian beasts. Unlike the PSP remake, nonetheless, that new fight wrinkle I discussed earlier means you are not levelling up sure courses. Rather, you now have management over every particular person character, with their stage staying the identical even should you change class – a welcome concession for encouraging experimentation, should you can deal with all the extreme menu administration that comes with kitting them out with all new gear, spells, gadgets and ending strikes afterwards, after all.
Still, whilst you do spend a variety of time rummaging round in its Unit menu screens (even with out switching courses), Tactics Ogre does not less than do you the courtesy of attending to the motion good and quick as soon as you choose a mission, preserving any story preamble temporary and to the purpose. Some battlegrounds do get repeat visits throughout the course of the story, however for essentially the most half its places are equally various, with giant, open, swampy plains following claustrophobic metropolis streets, upward hill battles, icy mountains, slender waterways and fiercely defended fortresses to call only a few. Wherever you’re in Tactics Ogre, although, terrain peak is a key consideration, affecting every little thing from motion and assault ranges as to whether you also have a clear line of sight to your goal. Combined with its underlying climate and elemental methods that additionally have an effect on the efficiency and accuracy of your assaults, every battlefield turns into its personal sort of puzzle to show to your benefit.
This is particularly true as soon as it begins throwing randomised stat buff playing cards into the combination as effectively. These seem all around the map throughout battle, and might be grabbed by each you and your opponent. Blue ones solely final the size of the mission, with a most of 4 being assigned to anybody character, however rarer inexperienced ones are everlasting. This may end up in some actually spiteful manoeuvring in your half, making a beeline for sure stat boosts simply to pip oncoming enemies to the submit, for instance, however it may well additionally imply you are actively throwing models into hazard a variety of the time, and resolving this ongoing stress in your head is one among Tactics Ogre’s best strengths. It’s very moreish, and makes you desperate to see what it’ll throw at you subsequent.
Admittedly, its many warlords, mercenaries and competing factions can all blur collectively at instances, reminding me of the identical messy soup of political back-stabbing that plagued my enjoyment of The DioField Chronicle earlier within the yr. I feel that is partly as a result of most missions activity you with merely “vanquishing the enemy chief” with the intention to safe a victory, who’re named, however in any other case fleeting characters you will not often ever see once more. They’re all given seemingly equal billing with the Dukes, Knights and Sers you are working for within the background, and as such it may be laborious to get a way of how all these disparate teams match collectively throughout a single playthrough. At its worst, it simply seems like an infinite conveyor belt of battle after battle.
Part of the magic of Tactics Ogre, although, comes from its central tarot system – a neat time-travel mechanic that not solely helps you to rewind the circulate of battle a restricted variety of turns should you by accident biff a transfer in the course of battle, for instance, however upon the game’s completion additionally helps you to revisit key moments within the wider plot to decide on an alternate path and make totally different selections. It’s not strictly essential to see the game’s ‘true ending’ or something, and with single marketing campaign runs lasting upwards of 40-50 hours, you will additionally have to put in a heck of a variety of work to truly get there within the first place. But seeing alliances flipped and mirrored like this, with former celebration members allies in a single timeline and mortal enemies within the subsequent, stays a robust hook in Tactics Ogre: Reborn, lending it not solely a way of wistfulness for the may haves and will have beens in these characters’ lives, but in addition a broader stage for its overarching tragedies to play out on.
Branching storylines are nothing new, after all, however I’d argue they’re nonetheless a relative rarity within the technique style as a complete, even now. Heck, I can solely actually consider Fire Emblem and its Pokemon starter-style method to medieval warfare that is even come near capturing the identical concept of enjoying with totally different sides of historical past like this in recent times (solutions on a postcard within the feedback please when you’ve got every other good options!), and with that collection firmly locked up tight within the Nintendo vault, Tactics Ogre: Reborn is probably the closest PC gamers have come to having a ways RPG with the identical stage of scale and ambition in fairly a while.
So sure, there are flaws and niggles that include it being virtually 30 years previous, however Tactics Ogre: Reborn stays one of many nice technique classics for good cause – and to lastly see it come to PC and different fashionable platforms the place everybody can take pleasure in its densely plotted tactical machinations is effectively value celebrating. In one other timeline, perhaps, we’d have seen this obtain a extra luscious HD-2D makeover (the game’s ‘Lawful’ route, maybe), however because it stands, this completely ‘Neutral’ remaster nonetheless has loads to admire and sink your enamel into – significantly should you’re planning to play it on Steam Deck, the place it really works surprisingly effectively (bar a number of touchscreen annoyances on the primary map display screen), regardless of not being absolutely verified but. It is perhaps a really secure sort of Square Enix remaster, but when there’s one small victory we will declare towards the ‘Chaos’ lords timeline, it is that there is not a single questionable font alternative in sight. Result.