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Bahamut Lagoon

Traditional RPG
  • 9 February, 1996
B+ 20 total ratings
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A Walk in the Clouds

A Bahamut Lagoon review Author: Wiegraf Published: February 11, 2005
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Between the releases of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII was a dark time for Square, at least in America. North America was "treated" to Secret of Evermore, an RPG that basically attempted to use Secret of Mana's style in order to bring life to a lifeless game. This bombed, and bombed badly. Beyond this, gamers on the right side of the Pacific didn't get much else from Square until September 2, 1997, when Final Fantasy VII was released.
So what happened in Japan? Oh, nothing...except for the fact that five of Square's greatest games were exclusively released there, among them the true sequel to Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3.
This review is not, however, a "SD3 is teh #1 RPG IMHO EVAR!!!!111" argument that is common on some message boards I frequent. Rather, it is a tale about another overlooked game from that "era", which doesn't really get the praise it deserves. That game is Bahamut Lagoon.
Bahamut Lagoon is sort of a strange game to classify. On one hand, its an RPG--its full of customization, status tracking, items, weapons, and uberizing of characters. On another, its a strategy game--its battles unfold with one side moving its units, then the other side countering. Then, it could be considered a "Tamigotchi"-style simulator, in that you raise monsters that aid you in battle. What kind of monsters, you ask? Well, look at the name of the game. "Bahamut." Hmm. That may give Final Fantasy veterans some idea of what kind of monster you'll be fighting with. If you're still unclear, the answer is: Friggin' dragons. Exciting.
Well, what is the tale that these brave dragon-riding souls will be participating in? Here comes the fun part. The rough quest revolves around a group of warriors from a kingdom known as Kahna. Apparently, things aren't going well (as in, a nearby Empire has recently taken over the land, as is known to happen in tales like this). However, all is not lost--a group of warriors, led by a youth named Byuu, have been able to escape on the Empire's flagship, the Farnheit. Here they are able to fly around the world (which is made of a archipelago, apparently, of islands floating in the sky) and do battle with the good-for-nothing Emperor Sauzer.
What seperates this game from most other RPG's you may have played (and puts it in league with other "offbeat" Square Japanese-only RPG's) is that the game's characters are...different. The word that would best describe them is "Wacky". There's Matelite, the overly gung-ho guard captain; Sendak, the captain\dirty old man of the Farnheit; and who can forget the multitalented Donfan, known as much for his misguided pickup lines as his work with a lance. Bahamut Lagoon has by no means the best or most uncliched storyline, but what makes it fun is the apparently random scenes that showcase its offbeat sense of humor (such as Donfan hitting on random female party members in the Farnheit, or Sendak trying to put the moves on the princess).
As far as actual gameplay goes, Bahamut Lagoon plays like a strategy game with a twist. Instead of seperate units, you break up into several battalions, each one with its own dragon. When you head into battle, you can move the battalions independently, but you command the dragons through simple commands (although they tend to not follow directions very well). While on the field, you can use some of your party's skills to manipulate the terrain or hit an enemy from afar. When in battle, you can use each the character's skills independently for serious carnage. This system is very unique, and requires some tough choices--should you put together four magic users to strengthen their magic, or throw in a couple fighters in case a tough enemy comes calling? Finally, add in the dragons, who themselves require careful control and micromanagement, and you have a game that can keep you hooked.
Graphically, the game stacks up favorably to most other games of its time--the battle map graphics look somewhat bland, but the rich sprites and animations more than make up for it. Soundwise, the game could have used a bit more work, though. It has many impressive themes, but the battle music soon gets very repititive and annoying, especially after you hear it 9,000,000 times (which you will, in the course of the game).
Bahamut Lagoon is a little bit lacking in some parts of the game, though. For one, it is a bit too easy to complete if you take the time to do a few side quests and power up your dragons. For example, in one form, Byuu's dragon is INVINCIBLE, and makes every other battle in the game simply a matter of time before you win. This is a big no-no and a big detraction for me, considering one of the great parts about strategy games (such as FFT and Front Mission) is the challenge. Second, the story only really impressed me with its more humorous portions--believe me, they are some of the funniest things you'll see in a Square game, but the meat and potatoes of an RPG is its storyline, and a trademark "Emperor v Rebels" scenario wore out its welcome soon after Final Fantasy VI.
All in all, what can I say about Bahamut Lagoon? It is a game that has a ton going for it--Great graphically, very deep battle system, a humorous gang of rebels, and that classic "Square pedigree." However, the lack of challenge that it presents and the phoned-in storyline bump it down a couple notches below Front Mission and Final Fantasy Tactics. Still, that's not really that much of a bad thing. I recommend at least giving Bahamut Lagoon a play--its a game that deserves at least that much.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "An overlooked and underappreciated Strategy-RPG gem. It would be a classic if not for its somewhat easy battles and cheesy storyline. Still, if you're a Square completist, a Strat-RPG buff, or dig offbeat Japanese humor, you'll find a great game here."
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