INFO: My “Retro Vault” reviews are not scored. Instead, I just talk about why I have fond memories of whichever game I’m writing about at the time. Generally, I won’t pick out any bad games for the Retro Vault feature, so scoring them is essentially useless anyway. Enjoy the read.
I must have only been ten or eleven years old when my brother and I were staying with our grandparents for a few weeks in the summer. He would always bring the Super Nintendo, and one year he happened to rent a rare game by Enix that his friend had talked about called Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen.
Indeed, it was a very rare game. I recall a magazine (probably Nintendo Power) that I read at the time indicate that this game had a very limited distribution. Considering the fact that it was a real challenge to even find the game in Halifax, the capital of my province, said a lot.
I remember it all too clearly. It was a bright sunny day in the village of Mount Denson, and we were cooped up inside looking at the TV. My brother put the cartridge into the Super Nintendo and turned it on, and from there he played the hell out of Ogre Battle. I was just an observer, sitting back on the couch watching in amazement at what looked to be the most amazing game ever. The graphics were very cool when this game was released. The stage maps were simply breath taking.
It would be a little while longer before I would get to play Ogre Battle myself. My brother liked the game so much that he hunted down a copy to buy. Of course, it was his SNES so he played the hell out of it and had control over when I could play, but when I did get to finally sit down and play Ogre Battle, it was simply amazing.
I can’t seem to recall what I felt the first time I ever played the game. Since that day when I first tasted Ogre Battle, I have beaten it dozens of times, and I can’t even count how many times I started new games. What I do know, though, is that Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen has become one of my favourite video games ever. I believe that my brother holds it in the same regard. He often says that he doesn’t really play video games anymore, which is true for the most part, but whenever Ogre Battle is brought up between us he seems to share the same love for it that I do. When it is mentioned around us, we seem to act like two old men reminiscing about the good old days.
Now I could probably go on forever about how Ogre Battle made me feel, but I should probably say why this game holds such a special place in my heart, meaning more to me than other SNES greats such as Final Fantasy VI and Super Mario World.
Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen, is considered an RPG, but I like to think of it more as a fantasy war simulation/strategy game. In Ogre Battle, you take the role of the leader of the rebel Liberation Army who rises up against the corrupt Empress Endora.
The gameplay and mechanics in Ogre Battle are actually really great, and I’ve never seen them repeated except in the N64 sequel, Ogre Battle 64. In Ogre Battle, you literally control an army. You can have up to one hundred in your army and can divide them up into groups of five. The groups, which the game refers to as units, are used in the stages to combat the local bad guys.
Every character has their own name, class, several stats, and so on, Regarding class, any character is free to become whatever their base class allows them to develop into. Fighters can become knights, wizards, samurais, and if you’re really lucky, eventually they may be able to turn into liches. Amazons (female archer characters) can be upgraded into clerics, valkyries and witches. Again, if you are lucky, amazons may eventually upgrade into princesses. There are dozens of character classes in the game and I always find that my army develops differently each time I play, which says a lot considering I have literally played this game over fifty times.
The earliest stages take about ten minutes to beat but, towards the end of the game, you’ll be sitting on the same maps for an hour in some cases. Ogre Battle isn’t a game for people who aren’t serious about the genre. Considering the fact that there are over twenty mandatory stages to plow through, and that many indeed take about an hour, you’re looking at a pretty lengthy game that demands determination and devotion.
As far as I’m aware, Ogre Battle is also one of the first console games to have several endings. There are twelve possible endings, and I definitely know that I haven’t gotten all of them yet. There’s a lot to do in this game from trying to get the best items, best classes, bonus characters, all side quests, the rare and elusive “merchant”, and many other things. Ogre Battle may look simplistic, but it’s quite a deep game and, if you give it a chance, is incredibly rewarding. There is a reason why this game commands so much of my respect. Give it a try if you like RPGs, strategy games, or even war games.