|Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen|
|Platforms||SNES, Saturn, PlayStation|
|Genre||Liberating Strategy Game|
|MtAMinutes to Action||20|
|Score||5 Gameplay: 5
Fun Factor: 5
|Buy from Amazon|
Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen is a console strategy game initially released on the Super Nintendo and then re-released on the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation. I guess the game is rare but I bought the Super Nintendo version at a rental store when they were going out of business for five dollars (also scored that day was Yoshi's Island). I consider myself lucky, too bad the battery has died since then. The game has seen a bunch of sequels including Ogre Battle 64, which I also own.
Decent non turn-based strategy games are tough to come by on consoles, but March of the Black Queen stands out as one of the first and best in the genre. I'm not so sure how the first hour will turn out though, as the game moves pretty slow. Well, let's just get right into it and find out. I'll be playing the Super Nintendo version.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and the hour begins. A man named Warren begins talking. He is a great Seer, which means he can see destinies. He's going to use Tarot cards to decide if I'm fit to be a leader. But first I enter my name, Greg.
01 - Warren asks me my sex and then reveals the Sun card. He then asks me a question on who do I attribute victory in a battle to. I answer, "those who fought with me."
02 - The World card is revealed next. How full is my glass the night before a battle for a toast? Filled to the brim! Warren draws the Hierophant card.
03 - I answer "a sense of justice" in what I see in a leader. The strength card is brought up, it is a woman standing with a lion. Justice, again, is the most important attribute of a warrior in my opinion.
04 - Wow, more cards still. Now the Magician. I'm asked what kind of potion I'd make: poison, wealth, or immortality. None of them sound that great. I guess wealth.
05 - The Judgement card now. Who would I save in battle if I could only save one: my mother, lover, or child. Child, no idea though, I hate these kind of questions. Warren spreads the remaining cards out and asks me to grab one. It's the Fortune card! No questions that time.
06 - I'm now faced with the world map, The Zeteginea Age. I have a few options, but I'll save my game first. Time to start the first level, the Castle of Warren.
07 - Scene 1 - Beginning. A view of a lush green island appears. I guess I have control over some golden guy and have to beat the boss? There's also a day/night indicator in the corner.
08 - I click my guy a few times and tell him to move on what appears to be a building with a pink roof. He slowly starts crossing the plains. Woah, I'm walking over a mountain.
09 - I have liberated the trade city of Daskania. "Liberation!" the female computer voice calls out! Cool! The people are cheering for me. I have the option to pull a card, woah, it's the Hanged Man. The city calls out "Boo Boo!" Oh no!
10 - Liberating towns rewards me with tribute which I need to run my army. Next up I move Greg west to another building. The screen scrolls smoothly with my sword cursor.
11 - I have liberated a Roshian Temple! I pull the Strength card and get a "Thank you" instead of boos. A monk tells me that everything is moving in real time, and that I should pause if I get overwhelmed. Well, with only one character on the screen that won't be a problem. I head further west to the boss!
13 - Sweet, the sky is turning purple, it's twilight! Warren welcomes me to his castle and tells me I must do battle with the Zenobian Empire. He's going to put me to the test.
14 - Warren won't fight me, just keeps telling me to liberate more towns and return to them. Lame.
16 - I've returned to both towns so it's time to kick some ogre butt! Ugh, Warren tells me about a hidden city to the northeast. Can my character cross water? I guess so. Slowly though.
17 - I have liberated the Walled City of Zeltenia! I pull another Hanged Man card! Nooo!
18 - I talk with Lans, a knight of the Royal Zenobian Army. He likes the look in my eyes so he'll join my cause. Wow, what is my cause anyway? And only if it was that easy in real life. I head back to Warren again.
20 - It has become day again. Finally, it's time to fight! Wow, this looks totally different than the overhead map! It's five against one, seems unfair!
21 - I don't even have to do anything, my guys just fight it out. Greg casts Icecloud on Warren and then gets healed by the mage. Sweet, I won!
22 - I have liberated Volzak! Haha, fireworks are set off from the city. I have completed the map and receive 6748 bonus Goth. Goth is what their money is called. Umm... odd.
23 - Next level is called Sharom and is south of Warren on the world map. Scene 2 - Rally.
24 - Wow, this is a big map, and I also have a ton of units available to me now. Time to start deploying I guess and sending them to towns. Interesting, it costs Goth to deploy units. Cost of an army I suppose.
26 - I send out Lans and Geena along with Greg. Lans liberates Valna. I pull the Moon card. It immediately switches the time to night! Oh, I can buy items here at Valna.
27 - Greg liberates a town and pulls the Emperor card. The enemy hasn't deployed any enemies yet.
29 - Oh, the enemy has finally arrived! Greg liberates a temple, I think I'll stay here and wait for the enemy. Another Hanged Man. I am one unlucky fellow. Temples can revive buddies, that should be helpful.
30 - Greg has met the enemy! My tactics are set to Best, which means I always attack their best character. I think I'll set it to weak and take out the little ones first.
31 - Woah, the battle has ended but they still have two guys remaining! That's weird... Interesting, their character hasn't disappeared from the map, they just got pushed back a few inches on the map.
32 - Greg starts battle with another enemy. These guys have a giant wolf. This doesn't seem to hard when Greg's group has a healer.
33 - This last battle was closer, no one got killed but I still won. Must be based off of damage or something. The enemies just keep coming so I deploy a group that looks like it has ninjas in it. Another battle with Greg.
35 - This team is another set of two, just a mage and a giant guy with a club.
36 - Oh no! I lose! None of my guy's die but that giant brute was doing massive damage and getting to attack multiple times in a row. Geena will have to hold the temple.
37 - Geena's team has two amazons, two soldiers, and a healer. We don't do a lot of damage but are rewarded the win. Geena gets into another battle right away though. Oh snaps, it's the mage and the brute with the club!
38 - We have killed the giant! Just the mage left.
39 - Oh yeah, Geena to the rescue! She has killed the mage too, even though he threw two fireballs at one of my amazons.
40 - Man, just battle after battle. It's the two-headed wolf/mage team. They're weak so hopefully I can finish them off. Well, that was easy, they're gone already.
41 - Another battle against a weakened enemy. Good thing they're not running off to heal.
42 - Well, I don't finish off their leader but their team does level up! Now if only I could get Greg back to the temple to help defend it. I'm fighting another battle against a group with a healer. Could be a long battle. We win but they have plenty of health left.
44 - Back at the map, that loser who only has a few hit points left is running back to the boss. Fighting a beastmaster now and his two-headed wolf.
45 - The wolf is dead leaving the beastmaster, but we're declared the winners.
46 - Ugh, these amazons keep getting left with one hit point and then their cleric heals them.
47 - Wow, I forgot about Lans but he found a secret temple on an island! Liberation! I pull the Strength card. The monks give me the Star of Heroes. I get a "HEROSTAR!" Haha.
49 - Greg has healed a bit so I put him in front of Geena. Greg will meet the beastmaster! Greg only attacks once per battle, and its the Icecloud attack that always seems to miss the leader. I defeat the beastmaster though with my little soldiers. That takes care of him.
51 - Greg levels up as we almost defeat the cleric. It has 8 hit points left. It's probably going to run away.
53 - Woah woah woah! Some enemy is flying across the water and might take the city near my capital! I have to deploy Warren and we race there. Geez, the enemy turns and heads right for my capital city. Crap. They have a gryphon. No wonder they moved so fast, they were literally flying.
55 - Warren just whooped down on their leader but I can't manage to kill the gryphon. It'll probably fly away. I have things under control for the moment so I start moving around my characters. I send Geena to the end of a road where a city undoubtedly is. Lans doesn't find anything in his latest search so I send him back near the capital.
57 - Sweet, I do have a ninja on my team. His name is Morgan though. What kind of ninja is named Morgan?
58 - I have re-encountered the weakened cleric, but she's picked up two more clerics. Lame.
60 - Greg's Icecloud finally hits everyone and does some pretty decent damage. Well, it doesn't look like I'm going to get across this bridge anytime soon. It's going to take a while to defend and slowly push forward. I guess that's the end of Ogre Battle's first hour.
Time for some scores out of 10.
Minutes to Action: 20
Two different types of gameplay, and both are relatively hands off most of the time. When managing units on the map, you have to scroll around quite a bit to get a handle on things and you have to understand your unit's strengths and weaknesses. It was kind of a shocker when the enemy sent a flying unit at me from across the sea and almost caught me off guard. But most of the time you're just fortifying a town or temple and trying to hold your ground. A lot of moving characters just a little bit in front or behind of another so they can be the won to battle it out. It's almost requires too much control for a strategy game like this.
Battling in Ogre Battle is mostly automated, which is kind of a relief. Many console RPG's just have you tapping the A button to do the same thing turn after turn, but Ogre Battle makes it easy on the player and takes over for them. You can still press the A button and mess with tactics, but other than that, not much to it. Just hope you hit them and they miss you.
Fun Factor: 5
Ogre Battle's super slow moving pieces on map may be great for planning out strategies and preparing for attacks, but it'd be nice if there was a speed up key or something for the times when you just want to get where you want to be. On the other hand, fighting in the battles can be pretty fun but since it is automated, there's nothing to get too pumped about. The battle is essentially decided before you even start, you're just there to watch it unfold. The game doesn't seem to be too heavy on micromanagement within its first hour though, and that's a plus. Ogre Battle is simply not that fun, it's simply delivers average enjoyment.
Graphics and Sound: 7
I read a few reviews that knocked on the game's graphics, but I like them. They're simple when they need to be simple like on the world map, and more detailed when in battle. The battles have a cool background behind them that makes it look like they're just being fought out on my desk. The sprites in battle are also well detailed, but plain on the overworld. This isn't bad though, as they're distinct and are more like pieces out of a board game. The game also features the day/night system which I'm sure will be used uniquely further on, but is more just for show in the first hour.
Not much going on with sound in Ogre Battle. The highlight though is when you liberate a town, you get the sound effect, "Liberation!" I still remember hearing that 12 years ago sitting in my bedroom as a kid and thinking how cool it was.
About the only unique thing Ogre Battle has going for it in the first hour in terms of story is the tarot card introduction. It was pretty fun answering Warren's questions about how I would manage an army and how much wine I would want to drink the night before a battle. Maybe not fun... but definitely weird and quirky. Being given tarot cards which I can use in battle is also cool and gives the game an extra layer in what seems like a pretty straight-forward system so far. The rest of the story isn't as interesting, and seems pretty derivative of basically anything else, but the tarot card approach is unique. Destinies and fates are intriguing concepts, whether you believe in them or not.
Twenty minutes is a long time for any game to get rolling, and Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen suffers from this. I think it would have been more effective if after our Tarot card draw, if we immediately were thrust into battle. The game can still force us to move around Warren's island and liberate towns, but it just takes a long time to get to what the player wants: action. The game's gameplay and fun factor falter due to Ogre's Battle below normal game speed, but the story and choice of graphics save it from falling into the land of crappy first hours. If you're into console strategy games, you probably owe yourself to check out March of the Black Queen for whatever system you can find it on, but don't spend too much money on it; plenty of good strategy games are still being released. The bad part is they probably all still take a quarter of an hour to actually start.