For those that regularly browse the Nintendo eShop, you have probably noticed that even a year on, strategy role-playing games are few and far between on Nintendo Switch. The magnificently wacky Disgaea 5 Complete with its sweeping tale of revenge and rebellion would easily be my first choice, but, looking for other games to test your tactical prowess in, there’s not much else to shout about. CIRCLE Entertainment has spotted that the genre is lacking on the portable home console, and, working with Rideon, have bellowed a rallying cry with Mercenaries Saga Chronicles.
It was on mobile that players could first conquer battlefields in this three-strong series, before a decision was later made to port the second and third games to Nintendo 3DS. The trilogy now arrives as a three-in-one collection on Nintendo Switch, and, as part of that generous bundle, we have the chance to play Mercenaries Saga: Will of the White Lions on console for the first time. With Mercenaries Saga 2: Order of the Silver Eagle and Mercenaries Saga 3: Gray Wolves of War thrown in on top of that, it’s hard not to gawp at the collection’s modest price point considering the hours it will take to see the whole package through to its conclusion.
For those that haven’t come across the series before, each game in Mercenaries Saga Chronicles is cut from the same cloth. That can be seen as both a blessing and a curse, as, if it captivates you, you can take comfort in knowing that you have three times as much content to enjoy. But, if you are nonplussed after the first few battles, then you’ve parted with money on something that you aren’t likely to spend any more time with. Let me help to work out which side of that war you are on.
Battles play out on an isometric map, and you will first have to individually place your group of mercenaries in the deployment area. There are sword or axe-wielding warriors that specialise in close combat, archers that will fire arrows into the sky that land on their target’s heads, and priests that you will come to rely on to heal your frontline mercenaries. Positioning is important to consider then, seeing as those that can attack from a distance are usually the weakest in your party.
Move your character next to an enemy and they can make a swipe with their weapon, their target retaliating with a counterattack if it wasn’t enough to bring them to their knees. Attacking from a higher position, behind or to the side will let you deal more damage than normal, and you can even work to surround an enemy with your allies for some bonus pummeling. Those in your party that carry shields can choose to Defend to halve any damage taken, and, if a friendly character is surrounded by allies, that can boost their defense, too.
As your characters attack enemies or heal their allies, their aggro will increase. This is displayed alongside their HP bar, and, the higher it is, the more that enemies still lurking on the battlefield will start to pick on that particular character. That’s all fairly standard stuff, and the developer could be criticised for strictly keeping to what is expected from the genre rather than dreaming bigger to make any daring attempts to differentiate the experience. That concern is soon compounded when you realise that the only real change between each game is the band of characters that you control and the locations in which you fight.
There are still a few good ideas that you will come to appreciate. When a friendly character’s HP is wiped they will be unable to carry on fighting, but you can use Soul Stones to get them back on their feet – which is useful to rescue yourself from a bad situation. And then, between battles, you can play around with the equipment that your characters carry, synthesise items, and spend SP to upgrade or unlock new skills. There are class changes to consider as well, that rely on levelling your characters with multiple choices leaving some room for experimentation.
It is these nuances that will motivate you to complete each game in entirety, even if it’s sensible not to play them back-to-back. The port to Nintendo Switch isn’t a trouble one either, and has been reworked to suit the portable home console’s wider resolution. The sprite work could have done with a little more personality seeing as the appearance can feel fairly generic, which is a criticism that could be similarly directed at the soundtrack.
If you are sat looking at your Nintendo Switch with a sense of longing, wondering when you will be able to take turns moving your characters around battlefields in an effort to slaughter your enemies one-by-one, then Mercenaries Saga Chronicles is for you. If that doesn’t sound like your kind of game, then you probably haven’t reached this paragraph. It may not be as daring as it needs to be in design, but Mercenaries Saga Chronicles will help to scratch that strategy itch until something else comes along.