Review by MaullarMaullar
"Like a mix of FFT, Ogre Battle, and Monster Rancher, but cooler."
Bahamut Lagoon is yet another great Super Famicom game that was sadly never brought to North America. Its basic premise is that you fight a series of Strategy RPG battles in the style of Front Mission or Shining Force, but instead of moving around individual units you move parties (like in Ogre Battle), each of which is assigned to a dragon. The powers of the parties are dependent on the powers of their assigned dragons, so you have to plan well to make good usage of your human/dragon resources.
This game may not have the 32 Megabits of such graphically intense classics as Seiken Densetsu 3 and Chrono Trigger, but it does fine with 24. The backgrounds are pretty good, but the sprites are the selling point. Unusually for a RPG, the battle and out-of-battle sprites look different. The in-battle sprites are very well done, looking like PSX material. Although the out-of-battle sprites are just mediocre, battle animations are also very well-done. I was amazed by the fluid motions of the characters in battles; when a sword is swung, you don't just see the character step forward and a diagonal line magically appear across the target's sprite, you actually see the sword arc towards the target. All your characters actually look different (well, MOST of them, anyway), and they all have unique sprite sets. When someone is nearly out of HP, they don't just adopt a crouching position and sit like that until they're healed, they'll actually show their fatigue like a fighting game character, breathing hard and sweating profusely. When they are defeated, they don't just suddenly change their sprites into lying positions, they drop their equipment and collapse right there. And all these animations are as fluid as can be. Cutscenes are OK, too, with the continents and flagships well-drawn. The backdrop (sky) looks pretty nice. The really big sprites, such as major dragons, look quite good as well. The graphics of Final Fantasy 6 (3 U.S.) pale in comparison to this game.
There aren't that many songs in Bahamut Lagoon, and they're not all that well done either. The sound effects are pretty well done, though. All the slashes and magics sound like they should.
Battles are like in Final Fantasy Tactics; you have to pay attention to your environment to be victorious. The strategy RPG action is quite fun, and the system of using parties and their corresponding dragons in battle adds another dimension to the gameplay. A good strategist spends some time before the battle examining his dragons' attributes and modifying their corresponding parties to make his war machine even more efficient. Players are encouraged to defeat enemies in head-on attacks, rather than killing them on the battlefield from range. This helps keep the game more balanced, as it discourages cheap players from just killing everybody from far away with magics, summons, and javelins. The selling point of the game, however, is raising dragons. The player does this by feeding items to the dragons. Any item can be fed to dragons, even weapons and armor. Although unrealistic, this becomes quite fun as you watch your dragons grow and become stronger with each item you feed them. Careful raising will turn your dragon into the potent Master Dragon, which not only has a great arsenal of attacks at its command, but will make any unit assigned to it much more versatile and potent. However, the gameplay begins to level off when you've finalized your dragons. Half the fun of the game is getting more stuff for your dragons to eat.
The plot isn't that good. It's very derivative and cliche. The ending is kind of predictable. The only thing that's really original in the plot is that some characters aren't ''perfect'' in their alignment; the leader of your enemies in the first part of the game is actually human, with dreams and a soul; unfortunately, the same can't be said of his Smithers-esque right-hand-man. The dragons aren't total bastions of virtue or destruction either; they act human. The best thing about the plot is talking to everyone between missions. It helps that the characters are all distinct, unlike Ogre Battle. They all have unique personalities, and by the end of the game you'll know them all quite well and actually identify with them. Speaking of which, I don't mean to spoil the plot, but the ending disappointed me in terms of telling what happened to the characters after the game.
Not much to say here. The controls are simple and pretty easy to use, although some features (such as viewing an inactive party's stats, or saving mid-battle) are kind of hard to find out on one's own.
It's a blast until you've trained all your dragons and characters to perfection, then the fun drops off considerably. Still nice to drop in for a side battle or two.
This is where the game loses. Although there's a New Game EX mode, which is like New Game + in that it allows you to restart with all your old stats and stuff, there's really no motivation to play again rather than getting unique items over again and training your characters more (if you've been caring well for your dragons, you should have them all finalized before you beat the game).
Buy it by all means if you know Japanese. If not, just stick with the ROM and DeJap's excellent translation.
A decent game, but not the pinnacle of SFC gaming.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/30/02, Updated 07/30/02
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