Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is a tactical, turn-based role-playing game, exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, and is a welcome return to form of the Brigandine IP. As the sequel to Brigandine: Legend of Forsena, a predominately turn-based strategy game that was originally released on the PlayStation 1 in 1998 for Japan and North America and developed by Hearty Robin, many JRPG fans missed out on this hidden gem. The grandness of war conflict of massive proportion returns on June 25, developed by Matrix Software and published by Happinet, and is a grand story not to be missed. This review will be spoiler free.
Story and Characters
Despite being a sequel to the first Brigandine title, players who wish to dive into the game do not need to worry about missing out on the first title as Legend of Runersia features a new story in a new continent, with Kenji Terada of Batman: Dark Tomorrow and Final Fantasy I – III fame providing the scenario writing consisting of a plot rich with politics and warfare. The story is set in Runersia, a fantastical holy land overflowed with a magical power source called Mana. Historically, the land’s Mana is believed to have been bestowed to mortals by the Rune God’s, and by being exposed to its power, the inhabitants of Runersia not only developed improved strength and magic powers, but were also granted the ability to summon monsters to use in battle. Now known as Rune Knights, these knights and their leaders fight to unite Runersia in the year 781, with 6 nations each representing different ideals, beliefs, religions and reasons for fighting.
Players select one of six opposing nations to play as. From left to right, we have:
- The pirate leader Stella Hamett, selected ruler of the United Islands of Mirelva and donner of the Brigandine of Ego, who joins the war with one simple goal; to conquer Runersia.
- Tim Gustav rules the Holy Gustav Empire, notable for having no Brigandine and its poor and depraved past, but has a tight unification as an empire through their Zoar religion and worship of their hero Sin Gustav. To proof his nation’s and bloodline’s worth, he fights for absolute control.
- Rudo Marco is the bearer of the Brigandine of Sanctity, and leader of the powerful Mana Saleesia Theocracy, the location said to hold the Mana Spring that birthed the five Mana Stones. As a former Rune God faith that was once united with the Republic of Guimoule but now separated into an opposing faction, their dispute is the reason for the current war as a reconciliation was attempted with less than favorable results.
- The Republic of Guimoule Established, ruled by dancer Eliza Uzala, is the self-proclaimed birthplace of the Rune Knights, and keeper of the Brigandine of Glory. Eliza aims to win the war to protect her nation and do her bedridden father proud.
- Prince Rubino is the leader of the Norzaleo Kingdom, an established continent by the historic hero Adessa, bearer of the Brigandine of Justice, appropriate for a nation who values hard work and justice. Due to the “Gustava Incident” involving the suspected murder of his father and suspicions falling on the Holy Gustav Empire, the conflict has been tense even before the war begins.
- Talia is the leader of the Shinobi Tribe, bearer of the Brigandine of Freedom, a tribe who often worked for the other nations as mercenaries who joined the war to fight for their freedom after the death of Talia’s sister.
Each ruler is a unique class, and each nation consists of different Rune Knights, with many of the supporting cast having their own charms and feeling very authentic and individual within the massive cast. By aligning yourself with a nation and seeing the relationships between comrades for hours upon hours makes for some gut-wrenching battles after an initial play-through.
This is also the case with retreating dialogue from opposing nations, being better understood once taking into consideration their relationship with their homeland and leader, with every knight understandably feeling wholeheartedly connected to their own causes. The land of Runersia not only has monsters, but is also occupied by different races, from humans to Barrett, Bazoo and many others you’ll meet. With tragic backgrounds such as the Barrett’s historic linkage to knight slavery, watching relationships develop such as between the reserved Barrett knight Darian and ruler Eliza was wonderfully explored and portrayed amidst the warfare as they both share an affinity with music.
With such a wide cast of interesting characters to meet, players will run into even more of them outside of their nation’s fighters as unaffiliated knights and recruits during quests. On top of this, even more knights will end up joining your cause once you defeat the leaders of the opposing nations. With 6 different story lines to experience and uniquely fresh and always interesting nation fighters to meet in each play-through, Brigandine will keep you busy for well over 100+ hours to completely finish. This is especially evident once players realise that there is a secret seventh nation!
The replay value is a massive appeal of the title, with each completion of certain criteria specific to each nation unlocking story events and pages of the book of Runersia, uncovering even more lore and historic details of the land. For players wanting to piece together and witness the whole war and Runersia’s history in all its glory, it’s going to take up your time. But by that point, you’ll already be invested in it.
For fans of the original, Runersia retains many features that made the original the cult classic that it is. Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia plays like a game of chess with its two gameplay modes. The organisation mode is to prepare for the attack phase, both stages are as important as each other to achieve victory. Form your troops by moving units across the map, summon monsters, check and apply equipment, change or promote classes and complete quests before going into the attack phase. This screen is always heaving with information, with players able to see the results of opposing nations invading and defending other castles. In this second mode, players can invade adjacent enemy bases. This means for careful consideration in troop placement, and to be strategic in choosing when and where to attack.
For example, there can be three reasons as to why certain troops cannot enter battle that players should take note of. If a knight has been defeated in a previous battle they will not recover until the next phase begins. And if a knight has been sent out on a quest or moved during the organisation phase, they are also unavailable. When attacking, players should aim to defeat the leading ruler of the troop, as all other knights will also retreat to end the battle. Another tactic to come out victorious is taking advantage of the 12-turn limit rule of each battle. The game offers so many ways to be strategic that it makes each battle as thrilling as the previous, hard-fought one.
As evident above, there is a lot of numbers and strategy involved in Brigandine, but with a helpful tutorial, and an always available guide, the combat and customization can be as deep and complex as you want as you learn the basics within no time. Make use of the terrain’s advantages and avoid its disadvantages, such as water based monsters having increased accuracy and invasion in water, and flight units having the best mobility and being unaffected by every type of terrain.
Just like another brilliant SRPG Switch game, that of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Brigandine features its own kind of weapon triangle in the form of element correlation, where classes, skills, magic and equipment often have these effects. These are represented by five colours, each having advantages and disadvantages when fighting against certain enemies. Brigandine also features a unit customisation and promotion system. Promotions is an exciting reward by levelling up, inheriting new skills and powering up pre-existing abilities. This brings into play the complexity of battling as I previously mentioned, as the improvement of the six proficiency tiers in Rune Knight units rewards certain spells and passive skills that can carry over into a new class.
The attack phase can start off slow as the maps can be quite expansive, with both armies starting off at a great distance from one another. This does however help with assessing the terrain before attacking, as different units will have advantages over others in different terrains, as well as giving you time to apply status boots before the first attack. Battles can thankfully be sped up to maintain momentum. Each invasion and defense can get intense, as players should monitor their units’ health, status and action sequence in case of any changes as higher level knights act first. This allows opportunities to lock and capture enemy monsters. In what is my favourite mechanic in Brigandine is its Zone of Control (Z0C), the locking in of units by covering their movement of six hexagons around the unit. By bordering off both enemies and allies this restricts enemy movement, protects your leaders, and keep critically injured unites away from the front lines. And by overlapping this with multiple units, you can decrease their accuracy and critical rates, effectively enclosing them.
Players should note that Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is unfortunately single player, with no multiplayer mode despite the remake of the first game, Brigandine: Grand Edition released in 2000 including multiplayer support. The 3D battle animation and viewpoint which was a highlight from the original Brigandine is also a shame to be omitted.
Depending on the difficulty setting players select, time in Runersia is a key factor to victory. One season consists of one organisation phase and one attack phase, so players must ensure that they are consistently capturing castles and cornering their opposing nation leaders before ruination (game over) occurs. On normal difficulty, you have a limit of 5 years to unify the continent, while easy mode offers no limit, allowing those who want to focus on its story and unit customisation to take their time. The time limit can be further reduced to 2.5 years on the very challenging hard difficulty. AI intelligence is also affected by the selection of easy, normal or hard.
Presentation, Sound and Art
Raita Kazama, designer of characters from Xenoblade Chronicles and Mercenaries Wings: The False Phoenix never fails to create a vibrant cast, despite the watercolour tone of the game. Each nation has a specific colour scheme, evident throughout the illustrations, cutscenes, and even in battle as indication of the attacking or defending opposition. With crisp and polished illustrations with its character designs, it makes looking through the gallery a treat to behold. With plenty of illustrations obtained through each nation play-through, such as the gorgeous one above illustrating the historical magical creatures is always exciting to come by.
The soundtrack of Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is composed by Tenpei Sato, a name fans will already know of by his work on Brigandine: Grand Edition. Other JRPG fans may recall his name from the Disgaea series. Highlights are the unique themes of the nations, sounding timeless and fittingly representing their nation, with a personal favourite being Talia’s Shinobi Tribe theme. One notable drawback is that the same track specific to each nation is played throughout almost all of the attack phases. But it still manages to express the game’s fantastical, whimsical and grand elements, while also making each nation feel even more unique but impactful in comparison.
On top of such production, there is the notably brilliant voice acting. With the limitation of illustration stills for cutscenes presented in a visual novel style, the voice acting shines brightest to really sell the emotional moments, and make fleeting characters who oppose you originally really memorable. While Japanese only, I wouldn’t have it any other way, with famous voice actors Soma Saito, Takuya Eguchi and Reina Ueda taking lead roles. It is unfortunate that during its cutscenes, there are a few noticeable spelling errors, but nothing too immersion breaking.
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia Review Verdict
Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia is an extremely engaging and challenging SRPG, a rarity in this day and age. For such a polished production and top notch style, Runersia is a delight to all the senses, despite slight hiccups such as certain translation errors. If you’re looking for an experience similar to a mash up of Tactics Ogre and Eternal Eyes, or you missed out on the original Brigandine, you’ll be making a mistake to pass on this one. And if you’re a fan of the original, you can rest assured that the 20 years of waiting on a new release has been worthwhile.
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