Back in 1995, the now defunct Enix of America quietly shipped a paltry 25,000 copies of Ogre Battle, one of Japan's premiere strategy games on the SNES. Hardly enough to dent the demand brought on by the recent release of Final Fantasy 3, many desirous gamers never got a chance to play Ogre Battle's 16-bit incarnation. Atlus's PlayStation version is identical to the Super Nintendo version, save for a handful of cosmetic changes.
Ogre Battle's story is far from original, especially for a strategy game. From the ashes and blood of the great war against King Zenobia, the Holy Zeteginean empire arose. Holy in name alone, the oppressive empire rules through brute military force and controlling fear. On the shores along the eastern frontiers, however, the remnants of the Knights of Zenobia begin to stir. You, of course, lead this rebellion against the Holy Zeteginean Empire and are the only ray of hope in this bleak world.
As cliché as the story may be, Ogre Battle stands apart from other strategy games thanks to fiercely nonlinear gameplay and the 13 resultant endings. Upon confirming the start of a new game, everything's in your hands. At first, you will be confronted by Warren, a sage and master of Tarot lore. In grand Ultima style, you will provide solutions to a series of moral dilemmas, the decisions affecting the final stats and character class for the lead character. The game takes place through roughly 30 strategic battles, all given a hefty dose of role-playing customizability. You can equip groups with magic items, promote characters to new skill classes, and form new teams. Despite this attention to individual detail, Ogre Battle's strategy is military strategy rather than Vandal Hearts-style strategy centered around a small group of adventurers. You will deploy attack units - each sporting a leader and a handpicked combination of monsters or infantry - to liberate the besieged countryside. As a result, combat is an unusual, hands-off affair in Ogre Battle and is almost completely automated. During combat, you can interrupt and give general orders to the attacking team or use a magic Tarot card to aid the obliteration of your enemies. This lack of control is neither a plus nor a minus, however, as even the most hard-core role-players would likely become fed up with the frequency of battles and the sheer number of characters to keep track of.
Virtually every action you make or ignore will affect public opinion and character alignment. Alignment is what will determine the ending received upon successful completion of the game, allowing you to see actual results from your glorious feats of heroism and malicious acts of neglect. The more involved you become, the better the ending you are likely to see. Once you identify what harms and helps your rep, you could replay the game repeatedly and never play the same game twice. This alignment system gives Ogre Battle the rare ability to be as deep as you want it to be. The casual player can simply jump in and mix things up, while the more dedicated player can follow the storylines of the game's characters, build his own military units, and discover the game's panoply of secrets. The more you become involved in the game, the more likely you are to hit upon the better endings.
The only things truly Ogre-ish about Ogre Battle are the game's size, complexity, and ability to devour time in huge increments. As one would expect from a port of a Super Nintendo game, much of the game takes place via good old Mode 7 scaling and rotation. While the battles take place on a static hunk of 3D real estate and a few of the revamped spells effects are polygonal, the game still retains a decidedly 16-bit, hand-drawn look and feel. This is not necessarily a bad thing, of course. Ogre Battle's music is, once again, remixed from the original version. While many of the tunes are constants throughout the game, they are well done and good examples of symphonic role-playing music. Most importantly, though, Ogre Battle is an addictive, enthralling strategy experience. You can while away countless hours playing through a campaign, looking for every story twist and secret or whisking through it and enjoying the victory. Either way, many of you are likely to pick up Ogre Battle again in the future and play through it again, especially die-hard RPG fans.
Atlus has done gamers a service in rereleasing this classic piece of strategy gaming. While not a monumental effort in any way other than gameplay, Ogre Battle: Limited Edition's value is undeniable.