Welcome to Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena, a turn based strategy (TBS) game with tactical roleplaying game elements that gives you leadership of one of five (six if you know the cheat code *wink wink*) nations. In these nations, armies consist of monsters controlled by generals called Rune Knights. These legendary knights have a mystical power that allows them to bind monsters to their will, and they use them to fight beside them against other countries’ knights and their own creatures. As you fight for control of the entirety of the continent, you’ll encounter more and more of the lore behind the war, as well as the histories of the knights embroiled in the conflict. When it all comes to a head, a surprising battle with a powerful enemy who you may not see coming ensues. Will the land of Forsena be saved by your country, or destroyed by the forces of evil?
Released in Japan in April of 1998 by Hearty Robin for the Sony PlayStation video game console, Brigandine was a hit amongst its home fans, even garnering a remake in 2000, which unfortunately never made it to the States, as its North American port published by Atlus in October of 1998 was not as well received. The Lord of Games has a different opinion. I first played this game in 1999, and granted, while I was only nine years old at the time, I still thought it was fantastic. A game filled with high fantasy, monsters, heroic (and sometimes crazy) knights, and battles of epic proportion captured not just my interest, but my heart as well.
The story starts off with a coup d’état in the country of Almekia by the Almekian general Zemeckis and his right hand man, the Death Knight Cador. The Almekian King is killed during the battle, but in the confusion, Prince Lance and his mentor Gereint escape with their lives thanks to a mysterious woman who intervenes at the last second. Here’s where you as the player comes in. After getting a bit of backstory, you select your country (New Almekia, Iscalio, Norgard, Leonia, or Caerleon) and get started. There are two main screens: the Map Screen (as pictured above) is where you can view all your castles as well as those of your enemies, make decisions like recruiting troops, review the status of your Rune Knights, sending knights on quests (more on that in a bit), encountering plot points, and upgrading your monsters/equipping your Rune Knights with weapons and armor. The menu system is fairly straight forward, and as a nine year old it only took me about five minutes to learn what everything does.
The Battle Screen (as pictured above), is where you… well… battle. When you attack another country’s castle (or when you’re attacked by them), you are taken to a battle map of the territory being fought over. The defenders start off around the castle while the attackers start off at a corner/part of the map that coincides with the direction of the castle they attacked from. In this part of the game, both sides deploy their forces and attempt to destroy the other side. Victory can be accomplished for the attackers if they can force all the enemy generals to retreat within thirteen turns. Victory for the defenders can be obtained either by defeating the enemy knights or by holding out for thirteen turns. All knights (a maxium of three can be deployed by either side each battle) have an area of control called, simply enough, Rune Area. When monsters controlled by their Rune Knight leave this area, they become very weak and are not nearly as effective as normal. This means players have to strategically maneuver their forces within these zones of control while still defeating their enemies. Another tactical element is the varied types of creatures (pictured below), their stats, and their element(s). When two monsters (or knights) clash the damage done is determined by their opposing stats and any opposing or similar elements that may be in play. For example, if a Paladin (white element) attacks a Ghoul (dark element), the Paladin will get a bonus to his damage inflicted. Some monsters and most knights have special abilities or magic attacks that can be similarly deployed in order to gain an advantage.
Brigandine constantly surprises me as a title that holds up incredibly well for its age (much like the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic games, or Final Fantasy VII and VIII) and I constantly find myself replaying it every few months. The story is fairly involved for a turn based strategy game, with conversations between characters happening often enough to explain not just the story of what’s going on, but also the backstories of the characters themselves. Sometimes when two characters from opposing countries meet on the field of battle, they exchange a few words (sometimes pleasant, sometimes decidedly not so). I felt that this pulled me into what was going on and made me care about some of the characters that I grew fond of as the story progressed. Quests that you send your knights on in order to get a variety of things like items, other knights, monsters, permanent increases to stats, etc. are very well written and can be quite humorous at times. One thing I need to say however is that this game is HARD. While the battles themselves can be easy or difficult depending on the overall difficulty you set at the beginning, conquering all of Forsena in the limited amount of time that you have can be anywhere from very difficult to downright insane depending on which country you pick. For me that generally just increases the amount of fun I get out of it, but it also can frustrate the hell out of me. Fortunately, this game came out many, many years ago, so there are quite a few well-written guides to how to beat this game if you feel you need it. I may even end up writing one myself one of these days (READ: When I’m rich and famous and have fabulous amounts of time on my hands).
As far as getting your hands on this one, it may or may not be a treasure hunt. Japanese versions of the game tend to sell for around twenty to thirty clams on ebay, while North American copies are around seventy-five to a hundred. Yeah, not cheap, I know, but in my humble opinion, it’s worth a buy. The challenge and replayability alone make it worth it for me, then add in the strategy, story, and fun of upgrading and leveling up all your monsters? Count me sold. I’m sure there are other places where you can find it for cheaper or maybe even free as well.
Overall, this game is and always will be one of my favorites. A simple layout with a fairly deep story (for its time), engaging fights, tactical decisions, and hilarious quests keep me coming back even after all these years. Though not cheap, this is definitely an item that unfortunately didn’t get the recognition I feel it deserved which prevented its FANTASTIC 2000 remake from appearing on NA shelves (if you can read Japanese like me, I definitely recommend you pick up the Grand Edition if you can find it, as it comes with a bunch of awesome features like anime cutscenes that weren’t in the original). So without further ado, here are my scores for Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena.
Design: 8 out of 10
Entertainment: 9 out of 10
Replayability: 10 out of 10
Cost: 8 out of 10 (Based off of its current price)
FINAL SCORE: 9 out of 10
ALL IMAGES USED ARE FOR PROMOTIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.