Retro Review – Lagrange Point

One of the reasons to keep playing the game.

 

Lagrange Point is an RPG released in 1991 by Konami. But why is it so special? It was released near the end of the Famicom lifespan, although it was far from the last game released. It was one of the most technologically advanced cartridges ever made for the system other than perhaps Gimmick!. It has built-in FM sound capabilities, and can sound almost as good as a Sega Genesis, when used to its potential–most Genesis composers used a program called GEMS to simplify making music for the console, but this lowered the overall quality of the music and is the reason for its somewhat poor reputation, but that’s something for another article. The point is that FM sound can be difficult to make music with, as it’s way more open-ended than the standard sounds the 2A03 sound processor that comes on the NES/Famicom. Konami handled this very well, though, and the soundtrack is one of the better ones for the system. It was far ahead of most games of the time in terms of sound quality, and especially for a Famicom, those kinds of sounds were basically unheard of.

But how is the game? Lagrange Point plays like a standard RPG of the era, except it doesn’t at the same time. It’s one of the most contradictory games I’ve ever played and a reason I have trouble assigning a score to the game. The encounter rate is high, lots of grinding is needed, and it plays like Dragon Quest for the most part, except somehow more frustrating because the game guarantees encounters after about 20 steps, and very often it’s only a handful between battles. I enjoyed the game despite this, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to play it for some 20 or 30 hours with this happening the whole time. The unique things about this game are that there’s a crafting system, a big world that you can explore with different vehicles, including a plane, and a system where all your attacks and specials and everything you do other than running or using items uses up BP, which is the game’s energy. When you don’t have enough BP to do an attack, you still attack, but with about a tenth of the damage, making it very hard to kill anything. This sounds annoying, and it is at first, but later on when you get more BP it serves to create tension, and it makes getting back to a town to refill it after you’ve been grinding something you need to be prepared for. Is it any different from your HP getting low naturally and having to make it back like you might without the system? Not that much, but I feel like it happens just a bit more often and I actually enjoyed that aspect somehow.

The vehicles are very interesting. The car you start with only goes on roads, but you get a vehicle that’s like a tank that can go anywhere on land that’s not a mountain or forest or something, and a boat that can only go in water, and then eventually you get a plane that can go over land and water without having to stop. In this sense it’s kind of like Metroid, but without the backtracking annoyances that it can bring.

The crafting system is very complex, and there’s a whole table on what makes what that you pretty much need to refer to in order to get what you want. There’s 6 different elements for the weapons, and 6 power levels, or “ranks” of weapon. Each weapon element of each rank has a single-target or all-target version, the all-target guns often being a good bit weaker, except for rank 6, which only has guns that hit all enemies, but they are much more powerful than the most powerful single target one. You can combine two guns of the same rank to make one of higher rank, and this means to get higher rank weapons it can be a very complex chain of weapons you have to combine with each other in order to get what you want if you don’t start with a fairly high rank base gun/weapon.

The vehicles and crafting are really kind of ahead of the time for RPGs I think, and what kept me interested in the game. This game has so many things that are dated, but also so many things that are impressive for the time, so it’s a very weird game, and I’m not sure I’ve found many games before where I’m this divided on how I feel about it. The story is good, it’s a generic sci-fi story where you fight the Bio Corps, who are traitors that are mutating themselves and others into chimeras and trying to destroy humanity. There’s not too many surprises other than the odd plot twist, one of which is very gut-wrenching I have to say. The enemy variety is really good for the time. There are palette swaps everywhere, but most areas have one or two new enemies, and it’s never just going to a new area and seeing the same enemies you’ve been seeing and nothing else. Even at the end they are constantly introducing new enemies and that helps keep it fresh.

The game overall is worth trying, but it’s definitely not for everyone. There’s lots of grinding, but there’s a good game in there too. I enjoyed this game quite a lot, even though it annoyed me a lot with the constant random battles and need for grind at the same time.

Categories: Critic's Corner

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