I mean the title in the nicest way possible, I swear!
I bought the Mercenaries Saga Chronicles collection off the Switch eShop which includes all three titles in this series I had never heard of prior. Scouring the internet, there were results for 2 and 3 but seemingly nothing for 1 outside of Japanese sites. Seems like 1 gets the least love, so I’ma give it some time today.
Mercenaries Saga is a tactics RPG that emulates games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Tactics. It’s like the light sandwich lunch version of those games, with far more simplified classes, combat, story and length. Characters get EXP to level up their stats and get SP to level up their skills and upgrade to extra classes. This separation has shown up in other titles.
The EXP is insanely easy, if boring, to grind for levels in this. You get 10 EXP guaranteed for any non-damage-dealing skill used or using items. Attacking enemies, if they are higher level than you, can result in more EXP, but the returns diminish as the gap closes. So a way to level up nice and quick is just to go to the first free battle against a bunch of dumb dogs and mash buffs all day, because every level requires 100EXP, or in this scenario, 10 turns of circlejerking with your buddies on the battlefield.
SP you get by beating levels. Winning a map might get you 5000SP, which is then split up among the active combatants according to how much attacking the enemy or healing friends (with skills) they did. So sometimes you get dudes bloated with SP cuz they were slappin face everywhere, while Joey “Keeps Getting Owned” Joeson walks away with scraps.
There are a few skills that are insanely powerful and some that are just “why do they even exist”, but the game is cheap and reuses like the same dozen animations for all of them. The kingly skill types are: magic (full on the mage guy is OP); area heal; de-buff damage dealing attacks (def/atk mostly); and straight high damage melee moves. Poisoning people, paralyzing them, etc, seems great, but in the turn you poison them you might as well just kick their ass into the dust. It’s like non-competitive Pokemon; why would I use Growl on Starmie three times when I can just use razor leaf and be done with it? Unless it’s a move that deals damage on top of a status effect, yaaaawn all over it.
The sprites remind me of the GBA tactics games and have a charm to em, even if a lot of a character’s different classes are just recolours of their other classes. The characters are all super generic looking, and also super generic in personality. While the tactic-ing is fun enough, you might as well just skip every scene in the game because it is ultimate “who cares”. Like, super duper whatever. The whole setting screams RPG Maker with its super standard fantasy world of knights and mages etc. Again, it’s like FF and Ogre Battle Lite. Even the music sounds like the bargain version of their soundtracks, with one that only stands out because it kinda sounds like a level from Doom strangely. Considering this was originally a cell phone game, I guess you can’t expect too much, but it was like they threw the plot and dialogue into a JRPG Plot Generator that burped out the most basic thing it could.
The game isn’t very long and not hard, especially with the aforementioned easy grinding tactics. You can grind SP fast too by just wrecking fools in the Free Battles that are progressively outclassed by your might. While some levels have annoying enemies that pester you with statuses, the AI is pretty stupid and scripted hard. They will generally only make moves when you are within a certain range, so sometimes you can actually bait enemies. When they gang up on your people, it’s a disaster. But inversely, you can draw them out in smaller groups and gang up on them. I did this to the goddamn last boss to beat the game. He was completely surrounded and unable to move with us all bopping him on the head repeatedly while three of his minions just stood by and watched because we were two squares away from triggering their movement.
I did enjoy my time overall. I enjoyed levelling up my peeps to beasthood and trouncing the competition. I liked beefing up their skills and turning them into demi-gods. And monks punching the fuck out of things for huge damage never gets old. Tis’ the way of (sprite-based) tactics games.
One weird aside, why do guns always suck? Like every RPG I’ve played, guns suck. What are their bullets? Also why do they have guns in the first place? I don’t see any other progressive technology. Just knights and horses and…guns. Do they shoot magic? Who knows.
At the end of the game I admit I did feel a little sorry for it, as I unlocked “Hard Mode” and there are other routes you can take in the game’s story, and some bonus Free Battles for replayability. But it was like, yo, we fooled around and had some fun, but I am not looking to turn this into a long-term relationship. It’s a Beat It & Leave It title all the way.
It’s a poor man’s FFT/OBT that can be done in a flash, and be a decent time, if not exactly exhilarating. Don’t expect to be invested story-wise, but it’s a solid way to quench the thirst for o’skool tactics gameplay.