Warsong - Sega Genesis: Possibly the best strategy game you never played - Retro Reflections

Given my recent article about the Sega Genesis, I thought it only appropriate to discuss one of my favorite Genesis games of all-time.

Okay, there is a chance you played it - but I would guess it's unlikely.  This gem of a game came out for the Sega Genesis (and was called Langrisser overseas).  I am not sure what inspired me to pick it up at the time.  I had heard nothing about this game in any of the magazines I read, none of my friends had played it, but something about it caught my eye when I was mulling what game to purchase next.

But something about the back of that box must have sparked my interest, because I took the game home, put it and and began to play.  The define what Warsong is, I would say it was a fantasy strategy/RPG hybrid - maybe the first I had ever played quite like it.

I immediately loved the game's art style.  The graphics had a colorful, anime feel to them when showing character portraits.  The actual battles that took place were actually pretty active as soldiers kill each other off.  The backdrops and map designs were actually pretty well detailed also.

The sound and music get the job done.  There was nothing terribly memorable about it, but this was a game that was more about the tactics.  It would have been nice to have a bit more variety in the music, but I don't recall it ever particularly bothering me either.

So how did the game play?  Well, there were two aspects to it.  There are the leader characters, and they are the most important.  Hints of Fire Emblem here, as when a leader dies, he or she is gone for good.  I recall saving often to prevent that from happening.  Shades of Dragonforce follow, as each of these main characters had soldiers units they could control.  Each character has a range or aura of influence and if their soldier units fight within that range, they got bonuses to their stats.  Each leader can hire different kinds of soldiers at the start of each level, and there is a sort of rock/paper/scissors mechanic to which soldier units perform best against one another.  There are other factors as well, such as terrain and if your leader characters have any gear equipped (at the start of each level, a scenario is given to you and you have a chance to spend your hard earned gold on different kinds and quantities of soldiers, and that is also when you can choose to put a piece of equipment on a leader character).  I recall getting so good at the game that I could go through the first couple of levels or so without buying any soldier units, to conserve money for when I would need it more in subsequent levels.

When a leader character dies (the enemy units are made up of these as well), their support soldiers will perish as well.  Some levels also have assorted neutral characters who will go after anyone who gets to o close.  Some missions are designed for certain types of soldiers as well - for example one of your heroes can hire mermen and they are almost essential for water combat - but useless in levels without water to cross. 

The game is made up of twenty levels, which may not sound like much, but each stage can take quite some time to get through.  The menu and controls are very simple to navigate and while it is easy to learn - there is are so many different tactics and unit strategies to apply that there is perfectly valid reason to come back and play again once you beat the game.

The story itself is nothing new - good guys are put on the run for attacking bad guys.  Good guys regroup after getting smacked around a bit in the first level, and rally a force to defeat not only the known bad guys, but the evil controlling them behind the scenes.  It is all really well presented though, with story pieces between levels and dialog scenes from characters on maps.  While you have no options to change the storyline itself, it was actually one that I found fairly interesting.

The RPG elements come in the form of gold, equipment, experience and levels.  In fact, this game was the inspiration to a leveling system I implimented on my MUD over a decade ago that I called a Tier system.  Your characters start off a specific class, level up to a point, and then choose one of two.  Level up some more, and you can again choose one more new class from a new set of branching options.  Some characters were so similar that their later tiers became the same thing, like Magic Knight, but there were unique ones too.  For example your lead character Garrett can become a King class, and no one else can.  Each tier brings new skills and powerful stat boosts and adds a good deal of replay value to the mix.

And replay I did - I can recall beating this game at least three times - maybe more.  And it was a hit among my friends who initially asked: Warsong?  What's that?

But these were the same friends I had gotten hooked on strategy games on the NES years before too (Nobunaga's Ambition, Bandit Kings of Ancient China and Romance of the Three Kingdoms to name a few) - so they gave it a shot and not a single one disliked it.  Most of them borrowed it long enough to beat the game once if not twice (and one other friend borrowed my copy for a day and a half.  I was a bit surprised when he handed it back to me and said I could have it back.  I asked if he had not liked it - turned out he simply went out and bought his own copy afterward).

To this day, this ranks as one of my favorite all-time video games, and influenced my opinion on what a strategy game could be.  It also had clear effects on my own game design years later for my MUD, Kingdoms of the Lost.  I played it again recently and feel that it holds up pretty well today still.  If I bring it up in conversation with most gamers though, none seem to have ever heard of, let alone played this under-appreciated classic.

If you are interested in how it plays?  Here is a quick video down below that really shows off a lot of the game as you start off in a scenario where you and your troops are under heavy attack right off of the bat.



  1. "
    Each character has a range or aura of influence and if their soldier units fight within that range, they got bonuses to their stats."
    Seems pretty advanced for a game released back in the early 90s in the genre, but I haven't played these type of games very much, so I don't know the progress the genre made over the years as for features/game-play elements like this.

    "When a leader character dies (the enemy units are made up of these as well), their support soldiers will perish as well."
    Were they ants?! "Kill the Queen, and the colony goes too!"

    "If I bring it up in conversation with most gamers though, none seem to have ever heard of, let alone played this under-appreciated classic."
    What game were we talking about again? :)

    I honestly can't remember ever hearing of this game before, though maybe I had and just don't remember it? I do remember a NES game that my brother and I played that one of our babysitters brought over. After we played it, we both liked what we had played, and we went with our parents (I know my dad) around town to the video stores (Alfalfa Video I think back then) asking if they had the game for rent, and none of them had it. :(

    I finally saw it show up again in a collection a few years back, but still haven't purchased the collection.

  2.  There were several things I saw showing up in later games more regularly like leader characters not coming back later - plus the fact there were leader characters at all.  Shades of stuff I saw in Dragonforce and Fire Emblem.  Good times - but other games like Shining Force that were better known didn't manage both the troops and leaders - it just handled the leader characters. 

    So what was this other NES game you saw in a collection then later?  Just curious if it's one I played or not. :)

    thanks for dropping by!

  3. That sounds awesome. I was a pretty big fan of KOEI's output during the 16-bit era, pre-Musou days KOEI made some awesome strategy games.

    This game should be released on the VC and other services.  

  4. I'll give you a hint (WARNING, not much caffeine in system so hint could be off), but the game's titled started with "R" and ended with "k", OR starts with "G" and ends with "t".

  5.  Ah, okay - where it was Green Beret.  I always enjoyed Rush N Attack for the most part, though it never really stuck with me the way the Contra/Super C/Lifeforce games.

  6. I picked this up randomly back in 1995 when I was out renting games, I guess like you the back must have drawn me to want to try it. I had never heard of it before but fell in love with it instantly once I got in to the gameplay.

    Have you ever tried to min/max so you're able to beat the first stage with a full enemy wipe? I did it way back when after trying so many strategies. Another of my favorites is having Garrett a Lord by the end of level 2. As soon as I realized Baldorov was just an xp waste I rarely had him kill anything.

    I don't speak any Japanese but yet over a decade ago got the Warsong 2 rom from somewhere and played the whole game through, never knowing a word of the plot and having to guess at the story as I go. I even had a hand written paper of all the Japanese characters and all my names for their spells so I could reference them.

  7. Hey FrDrake - thanks for stopping by!

    I did in fact try those things you mentioned. Lots of save/load/save/load there as I worked Garrett onto the throne so he would have better defense. At first I thought it would be impossible to wipe that first stage, but then when I did I was like: did I win the game then? Nope... they shuffle you off anyway.

    And yeah, like you - as soon as I realized that Baldorov was soon to be dead weight, I would just shuffle him off to a corner of the map away from all of the fighting. The other thing I would do is try to get through the first few stages without buying any soldier units, so I would have plenty of money a bit later on.

    I never did play the Warsong 2 ROM. Warsong 2 and Dragonforce 2 always made me a bit sad that they never came to America and got a nice translation as the originals were among my favorite strategy games of all time.


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