The unique Techniques Ogre proved that RPG chess was not solely enjoyable, it may be morally ambiguous, superbly written, and deeply compelling. Almost 30 years later, Techniques Ogre: Reborn has managed to soundly transport a masterpiece into the trendy period whereas sprucing it up sufficient in order that it’s nonetheless a pleasure to play. I used to be nervous the remaster, with its smoothed-over pixel artwork and different tweaks, would tarnish what I like in regards to the traditional ways recreation. As a substitute, I’m hooked yet again.
Techniques Ogre: Reborn, out Friday on PlayStation, PC, and Change, is the grittier, extra granular predecessor to Ultimate Fantasy Techniques (each have been directed by Yasumi Matsuno of Vagrant Story and Ultimate Fantasy XII acclaim). The place Ultimate Fantasy Techniques—launched within the U.S. in January 1998—targeted on manipulating an over-powered job system to interrupt the sport with dual-wielding ninjas and large summons, Techniques Ogre (which hit U.S. shores quickly after regardless of first releasing in Japan a number of years earlier) reveled in slower-moving battles of attrition the place positioning and terrain matter as a lot as character courses. And whereas each provide surprisingly mature tales of sophistication politics and the corruption of energy, Techniques Ogre lets gamers make a handful of decisions alongside the way in which after which sit with the implications on the finish of the sport. It’s not as approachable as Ultimate Fantasy Techniques, however its Realpolitik strategy to battle and revolution resonate as strongly as ever.
If you happen to’re utterly unfamiliar with the sport and the tactical RPG subseries it hails from, Techniques Ogre spends most of its time on isometric battlefields divided into squares. Models on one facet, consisting of knights, archers, wizards, dragons and different courses, combat in opposition to enemies on the opposite. You play as a trio of downtrodden youths making an attempt to take again their land from neighboring occupiers, tinkering together with your roster of troops and feasting on splendidly written scenes in-between battles as dukes, kings, and different leaders resolve your destiny like pawns on a chessboard.
You’ll have gotten most of this from the unique recreation as nicely, however Reborn is a remaster of a remaster, constructing on the enhancements that have been already made within the PlayStation Transportable model launched in 2010. Every scene is absolutely voiced now, and with minimal cringe as nicely. Whereas I finally most well-liked to stay with the Japanese voice appearing, the English solid is surprisingly glorious and a worthwhile addition that helps add an entire new dimension and emotional subtext to the story.
Reborn additionally introduces orchestral preparations of all the unique music. On paper that appeared like a neat addition, however in observe it’s transformative. As with the voice appearing, it brings out an entire new stage of depth in Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata’s improbable rating. Every battle feels heightened, every betrayal extra sinister. The returning Wheel of Fortune system, in the meantime, let’s you revisit earlier factors within the branching story.
The remaster makes quite a lot of different modifications and additions as nicely. In contrast to within the PSP model, characters stage up moderately than their courses, liberating you to mess around extra with completely different occasion compositions and loadouts. Random encounters on the map whereas touring from one story beat to a different are gone. As a substitute, the coaching mode has returned the place you possibly can set your troops to spar on auto-pilot. However don’t assume you possibly can grind your approach to success. A “occasion stage” limits how far anyone unit can stage up till you progress additional within the recreation.
One other large departure is the tarot card system. Along with vanquished enemies dropping inexperienced playing cards that completely increase a unit’s stats, blue and pink playing cards additionally randomly spawn all through a battle. The blue ones bestow buffs like larger essential hit charges, stronger magic, or larger protection, whereas the pink playing cards take away them. The cardboard bonuses solely final so long as every battle, and may swiftly flip the tide relying on who will get them first.
It’s a manner to assist make Techniques Ogre’s fight hit heavier and resolve extra rapidly, serving to you dispatch an enemy in three hits moderately than six (not like, say, Hearth Emblem the place it nearly by no means takes greater than two). On the entire, it might assist reduce down on among the recreation’s extra tedious moments as you attempt to break an enemy’s maintain on the excessive floor or take down an particularly highly effective boss unit (a flip do-over system and fast-forward possibility additionally assist). On the similar time, as a purist with a tender spot for Techniques Ogre’s slower tempo and longer battles, I want there was a approach to flip it off, as you’ve the selection of doing with the voiceovers.
Many of the modifications are clear enhancements although. Now you can scout battles forward of time to see what items and terrain you’ll be dealing with and the way greatest to counter them. You can even customise as much as 5 battle rosters, letting you simply swap from one staff to a different relying on the scenario. Character customization has additionally been streamlined, with every unit allowed to equip 4 gadgets, 4 expertise, and 4 magic skills relying on their class and repertoire (character stats have additionally been rebalanced to scale extra rewardingly). The outfitted gadgets even mechanically restock out of your reserves after every battle. It sounds small, nevertheless it’s an enormous time saver that permits you to spend extra time specializing in the cool stuff moderately than always twiddling with therapeutic herbs and resurrection stones.
The one a part of Reborn that doesn’t really feel like a coup is the pixel artwork, which was notoriously lampooned when it first leaked on-line. That is the primary model of the sport in HD, and the sprites and environments have been blown-up to compensate. The result’s a “smoothed over” look that may make issues look barely muddy or washed out. The impact is particularly noticeable at shut vary. Zoom in and issues will sometimes look, on the very least, not nice. I don’t understand how possible it could have been to attempt to give Reborn the Octopath Traveler or Triangle Technique HD-2D pixel artwork look, however I want the sport felt as lovely to take a look at as it’s to play and hearken to (or a minimum of included the choice to revert to the outdated look).
Luckily, I spent most of my 5 hours with the Change model up to now simply overlooking it. In movement, it’s hardly noticeable, particularly whenever you’re busy calculating hit percentages and harm tradeoffs. As with every little thing else on the OLED display, the colours actually pop, and the bundle as an entire feels meaningfully improved from the PSP model in each different manner. Some outdated video games take you again to the previous, however Reborn feels prefer it’s transporting Techniques Ogre into the current, the place it belongs.