GameSpite Journal 10 | Ogre Battle

Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen | Dev.: Quest | Pub: Enix | Genre: Strategy RPG | Release: May 1995

From the time I first saw it, I always wanted to like Ogre Battle. But at first, I just... couldnít. Back then, my view of tactical RPGs was pretty much set in stone. I played Warsong (Der Langrisser), I played Shining Force, I played Front Mission -- I knew what a a tactical RPG was supposed to look like. So itís not a big surprise that I just didnít get Ogre Battle at first. The scenario seemed like a simple world map to me. I was deeply annoyed that I couldnít really control my units in battle. It all just seemed vague. Weird, even. Like the prelude to a better, more interesting game.

Still, I stuck with it. I started several playthroughs, made it each time through the first two or three stages, and then just quit. There were other, more instantly rewarding games to play, although I had a feeling that deep down, sticking to Ogre Battle would pay off. So I made a decision one day: When visiting my aunt for a week, I took my SNES along with only one game -- Ogre Battle. When I wanted to play, it had to be this one.

In the end, that turned out to be a good decision. Without the presence of other games to distract me, I really got into Ogre Battle. At some point, everything suddenly clicked. I realized that it would be detrimental to have full control over each unitís actions in a fight. I understood the whole Chaos Frame principle. I saw the fun in the endless customization of my troops. I sent heroic squads full of knights, valkyries and priests to liberate towns and strongholds, created some not-so-heroic but very strong mage-ninja units to smite my enemies, and tried my best to keep the populace in a good mood throughout my campaign against Empress Endora and the mage Rashidi. Thus began my obsession for the Ogre series and their skilled creators, which holds up even today.

And just like my obsession for the works of Matsuno, Minagawa & co., Ogre Battle also holds up. The foggy Mode-7 maps, the beautiful Tarot-inspired art, the beautiful soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata, and Hayato Matsuo (which Iím even whistling while writing these lines) are all timeless while the gameplay itself is still pretty unique today. For some reason, hardly anyone thought it necessary to fabricate cheap clones of Ogre Battleóa dubious honor reserved for itsí sequel Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. The only games really resembling the first Ogre Battle gameplay-wise are the N64 sequel, the also excellent Ogre Battle 64 and Ogre Battle: Legend of the Zenobia Prince, although the latter only came out for the Japanese Neo Geo Pocket Color and is therefore barely known by anyone in the west.

While the original SNES cartridge of Ogre Battle fetches quite a price nowadays due to its low print run of only 25,000 copies, itís pretty easy to play Ogre Battle today. You could get the nice, but loading-time-stricken PSOne conversion, or you just download the game on the Wiis Virtual Console. Itís just too bad property holder Square Enix doesnít seem to be interested in bringing Ogre Battle back in the like Tactics Ogre on the PSP. But on the other hand... isnít that PlayStation Vita and its huge touchscreen just made for Ogre Battleís tactical gameplay? I sure think so!

By Thomas Nickel? | Feb. 23, 2012 | Previous: The Satellaview | Next: EarthBound