Tactics Ogre: Reborn is a remaster of a remake. It’s a game that persists through the wheel of time as it is ported from generation to generation, breathing life into the Ogre Battle series. Pulling from the PlayStation Portable release of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, which appeared in 2010, Reborn doesn’t deviate much from the various bells, whistles, and adjustments from the remake. Instead, it offers another avenue to experience what has been described as one of the best tactical RPGs of its generation. But while that statement holds true, it is precisely what holds Tactics Ogre: Reborn back, as design sensibilities in tactical RPGs shifted towards more streamlined approaches.
That isn’t to say Tactics Ogre: Reborn is a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. Because so little has changed, outside of the addition of English and Japanese voice work (and a few gameplay features that do make the experience a bit more enjoyable), the spirit of the 2010 remake is alive and well. The character portraits still look phenomenal, with Tsubasa Masao’s redesigns of Akihiko Yoshida’s original artwork even more gorgeous at higher resolutions. The remastered soundtrack sounds crisp, all without losing the soul of Hitoshi Sakamoto’s bombastic original score. There is a lot to love about Reborn, especially if you are familiar with either the 1995 SNES release or the later remake on the PSP.
But where Tactics Ogre: Reborn takes a hit is in the updated visuals. Character sprites look muddled and blurred in comparison to how they appeared on the SNES (largely thanks to CRTs) and the PSP. This is a fairly common complaint about Square Enix remasters of classic pixel art games, and Reborn is no exception. Additionally, the user interface feels more or less directly lifted from the PSP release of the game. This probably lends itself well enough to the Nintendo Switch version, but leaves certain menus of the PC port feeling barren. Which is such a strange contradiction at times when factoring how many menus you need to navigate to change your class or change your equipment from the shop after purchasing new weapons, armor, or accessories.
That denseness more or less permeates every aspect of the game, for better or worse. As a seminal tactical RPG, Tactics Ogre: Reborn’s combat functions and uses several different systems. While gameplay is fairly stock and standard as you move units across detailed maps a tile at a time, there is a level of depth there that Final Fantasy Tactics manages to rival. Which makes a lot of sense, given its shared development team. Not only do players need to consider what classes they will bring into combat with them, but also the alignment and element the respective characters are born under. Each of these little details plays into the synergy of your party, and even at times if a member will leave your group based on their diminishing loyalty to your cause.
This also doesn’t account for the class and skill system in Tactics Ogre. Thankfully, unlike Final Fantasy Tactics, a character’s job level will not shoot back down to level one when changing their class. Instead, they will carry their level over, with you needing to equip the appropriate weapons and skills onto said character once the change has been made. You can also swap classes as much as you’d like, assuming you have the right items to do so. Classes themselves are obtained through various methods as you progress the narrative, with your level cap locked to your Party Level. Similar to skills, spells will need to be equipped onto your magic units, with each spell needing to be purchased to equip onto a single character. This means you will need to purchase duplicates of any given spell in order to equip that same spell onto several characters. There is also a limit as to how many spells or skills a character can equip at any given time, so you will need to choose wisely before heading into combat.
If that sounds a bit confusing, it’s because it can be. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together required a certain kind of dedication to understanding its core systems that Reborn also expects from the player. But thankfully this time around, you won’t need to play through the game twice or thrice over to see the outcome of different choices. The Wheel of Fate allows you to experience parts of the story you might have missed by now being able to recruit or save characters you couldn’t have based on a specific path you chose. Alongside this is another minor, but welcome, gameplay improvement that now allows for you to “rewind” some of your actions in combat through the use of the Chariot Tarot.
Since this is a remaster, the narrative of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is unchanged. It is a story of rebellion, perseverance, and sacrifice. As the second entry in the Ogre Battle series, Let Us Cling Together (and Reborn) picks up from where the events of the first game left off. You assume the role of Denim Powell as he, his sister Catiua, and childhood friend Vyce Bozeck take up arms against the Galgastani that occupied their homeland. Each character that appears adds to the richness of the narrative as hard choices are to be made, which will ultimately determine the events leading up to the conclusion and the conclusion itself. There are some moments in particular that are fairly shocking, especially when certain narrative threads rely on the player’s response to specific events. This is only enhanced by a masterful localization, which features some of the most iconic lines in any JRPG to date.
However, while the addition of English and Japanese voice acting was one of my most looked forward to features of this remaster, I ended up turning the English voice acting off about three hours into the game. The performances felt inconsistent, with certain lines’ delivery falling flat, specifically one of the most memorable lines in the entire game that is spoken fairly early on. The Japanese voice overs are good enough, but I found the game to be at its most enjoyable without any voiced dialogue. That said, it’s a great addition in terms of an accessibility feature or for those that want to ingest the engrossing narrative of the game.
But when all is said and done, Tactics Ogre: Reborn is everything that it should be. While its gameplay systems may feel archaic in this new age of tactical RPGs, it somehow enhances the harshness of its narrative. This will no doubt make it daunting for those unfamiliar with this style of tactics title. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but remains a tried and true classic. And those who haven’t yet had to experience the Ogre Battle series will be in for a treat. As its themes of self-sacrifice and perseverance against all odds stand the test of time, even if its gameplay may not.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn will release on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC on November 11, 2022.