Ogre Battle 64: Person of the Lordly Caliber – A Seldom Talked About Classic of Lordly Caliber

Ogre Battle 64 box art

Released on: October 5, 2000

Available Platforms: Nintendo 64, Wii, Wii U

Price: $9.99 CAD ($7.99 US) *On Wii U Virtual Console, the easiest method of acquisition

Developed by: Quest Corporation Published by: Atlus USA (Square Enix for the Virtual Console releases)

*The screeshots taken may have visual bugs due to the software used. We do own a physical copy of Ogre Battle 64, but not the means to capture footage directly from the Nintendo 64. We apologize for the inconvenience*

The Nintendo 64 is an influential part of the late 90s, early 2000s. It’s home to many games that helped propel the world of video games into the third dimension. So much so that we still feel the influence of games like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The joy of a kid getting a Nintendo 64 in 1998 still resonates with those people who are adults now.

I was more of a Super Nintendo kid growing up but got a Nintendo 64 when I was nine. Even back then, I was a fan of Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon, so the Nintendo 64 was a good console for those franchises. One genre I had a fascination with is RPGs. I would always seek out RPGs (or “the games with numbers,” as I called them as a kid) because, at the time, they were new to me.

This is where I felt the Nintendo 64 fell short. I felt that especially compared to its console generation counterpart, the Playstation; the Nintendo 64 was lacking in RPGs. The ones that stood out to me are Paper Mario, Gauntlet Legends, and today’s game, Ogre Battle 64. I remember enjoying Ogre Battle 64 fondly. It was the longest game I played at the time, and the game had immense depth. It kept me hooked to the point where I revisit the game even to this day. Is Ogre Battle 64 the game worth coming back to after all these years?

Ogre Battle 64 title screen

The kingdom of Palatinus is on the brink of a civil war. There is unrest between the upper class deemed worthy by the Holy Lodis Empire and the lower, working-class folk. Amidst this erupting war, a young graduate from the Central Division of the Ischka Military Academy, Magnus Gallant, becomes the new captain of a group of fledgling soldiers of Palatinus’ Southern Division. Things turn dire very quickly for Magnus, as he quickly needs to make tough decisions while also rallying his troupes to do what is right for the Kingdom of Palatinus.

Ogre Battle 64 is the game that taught me that video games have the potential of being a fantastic storytelling medium. Even before the first mission begins, the player must choose how to respond to one of the officers acting out of line. The response here is critical since it decides the future of that officer. There are many other opportunities for crucial decision-making in Ogre Battle 64, each affecting the overall narrative. I am aware that this is more common today, but this blew my mind back in the day.

Ogre Battle 64 tough first choice
This happens before the first mission begins. Choose carefully.

While I do understand that the Nintendo 64 was new technology at the time and that 3D games in that era were a new thing, most of them look outdated today at the very least. Ogre Battle 64’s graphics, on the other hand, aged like fine wine. It employs a mixture of 2D and 3D visuals replicated today (with games like Octopath Traveller or the upcoming Project Triangle Strategy). I love this art style. It adds so much charm to a game so focused on war.

Ever since I layed eyes on these graphics I’ve had a soft spot for this art style.

The music in Ogre Battle 64 ingrained itself into my brain ever since I heard it when I was a kid. Every so often, I have the battle theme playing in my head, or I’ll be thinking of the boss battle theme, to the point where I feel compelled to look those tracks up on Youtube. I have to be in a certain mood to listen to those tracks on their own, but it does happen, and the tracks hit hard at that point.

Ogre Battle 64’s gameplay is reminiscent of Real-Time Strategy games. Both the player and the enemy have units on the field that they must command. The objective of the missions usually involves getting one of the player’s units to the enemy’s base to capture it. Each unit can have up to five characters and must have a commanding character (the leader). If an enemy unit loses its leader, it will remain motionless until a player unit chases it. When a player unit loses its leader, it will attempt to make its way back to the player’s base, where it will withdraw. The player can circumvent this by changing that unit’s leader.

Combat is largely done automatically. The player has the option to “Change Tactics,” which decides which foes the player’s unit will prioritize, “Retreat,” where the player will concede the battle early (usually done to preserve unit health), or use their “Elm Pedra,” their deities ultimate ability.

Ogre Battle 64’s gameplay will be overwhelming at first since there are many things the player needs to keep track of to keep their units healthy. Once the player does acclimate to the game flow, it becomes a satisfying experience. It makes me feel powerful seeing a seemingly daunting foe run in fear of my characters.

A large part of Ogre Battle 64’s gameplay also involves character and unit management before selecting a mission. When they begin a new game, the first thing the player does is answer a series of questions determining their starting army. From then on, players decide unit formation, character classes, their equipment and even check the overall stock of their military. This is where the learning curve gets steep because to promote characters to certain classes, their stats and alignment must meet the class requirements, and the player must have at least one set of that class’ equipment. The player must keep this in mind for every character they have, and the player will amass an army of troops.

Ogre Battle 64 starting questionnaire
This is the first thing the player does when they begin a new game. These questions determine what units the player starts off with.

Character management is my favorite part of Ogre Battle 64. I love checking out each character’s stats, if they are lawful or chaotic, and getting the things necessary to promote them.

Even with all of the stuff that I mentioned that I like, I acknowledge that it is a lot of things to keep track of and deter some players. Soldiers, for example, took me years to figure out how to promote them to basic classes (I ended up having to look up the specifics). If the player doesn’t like managing a myriad of characters, then Ogre Battle 64 is not the game for them.

Ogre Battle 64 army management
This is what a starting army looks like. It seems like a lot to manage, but a well managed army is a victorious one.

On top of character management, there is a hidden value called the “Chaos Frame” that dictates the ending and the disposition of essential characters in the story. Chaos Frame also decided which characters will join the player’s army. The player’s decisions during story segments and their actions in specific missions affect the Chaos Frame. I only found out about the Chaos Frame a couple of years ago when I revisited Ogre Battle 64, and I found it challenging to keep it within a specific value.

My last gripe with Ogre Battle 64 is its availability. The best and least expensive way to get the game (with no legal ambiguity) is by downloading it from the Wii U’s Virtual Console. While this isn’t too bad if someone already has a Wii U, it is not a current-generation console, which can be daunting to some people. Getting the physical cartridge might set the player back a pretty penny.

Strategy game fans who have the means should give Ogre Battle 64 a try. It has a fantastic story, a beautiful art style, and almost limitless gameplay depth. It is one of the most influential games of my life and made me appreciate the strategy RPG genre as a whole.

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