12 February 2011 | Grumpypheasant
We need more of this.
At the core, Bahamut Lagoon is a T-RPG: the plot kicks off with a "generic evil empire" ravaging your "idealistic little kingdom" and the gameplay wouldn't feel too foreign to a Fire Emblem aficionado; but it is such a hidden gem of the genre.
Story: As I already hinted, the main plot doesn't break new ground: you fight the big empire and its megalomaniacs, some twists happen and you find yourself embroiled in a conflict to save the world. Usual RPG plot, be it tactical or not. Yet, this rather overused plot never gets tedious, owing to the healthy dose of humour that peppers it from beginning to end.
The characters really get star treatment, and, if you so choose, in each chapter you get the opportunity to talk to secondary characters. This rarely nets an in-game reward, as would be usual practice, but it allows you to get more familiar with them, their backgrounds, their romantic interests, their personality, their feuds or doubts.
In other T-RPGs, minor characters tend to become "one of the 4 'Class' you get", whereas in BL, they're their own individual.
Another aspect is the role of sexuality. While in no way "crass", Bahamut Lagoon is definitely less innocent about the matter than your usual RPG. It's still all in the subtext, but it's there.
Gameplay: Fun, fun, fun! BL combines traditional T-RPG field battles with single-turn regular RPG encounters, to great effect.
Being a SNES game, it's of course in 2-D. But that's not a bad thing for this genre. 3-D is often misplaced in T-RPGs: either it has no impact on gameplay and just makes the field harder to see (Disgaea) or the devs try to incorporate it in gameplay and the game becomes less fun (Final Fantasy Tactics).
You get your usual types of fighters, from Heavy Armors (tanks) to Mages (nukers) and Priests (healers), without forgetting more quirky types like the Mini-Devils, whose Dances have randomly-decided effects. And then you get your dragons, which you don't directly control, but rather act on their own based on simple commands you can issue them.
You're offered the option to manipulate the environment (set fire to a forest, open a dam to drown enemies, disable enemy auto-turrets, freeze a lake to cross it,...) at many stages.
Between battles is preparation time which, on top of the usual equipment-updating involves dragon feeding. Since dragon feeding affects not only that dragon's strength but also the capabilities of the team of characters linked to it, feeding takes a center role in the game. And it's fun! Simple enough to guess the effects of some items (those dragons will eat anything, including weapons and armor), but not so simple as to be completely transparent: it's the perfect mix of intuitivity and experimentation.
Balance is also found in how many characters you're allowed to bring into battle: BL restricts your numbers enough to force choice, but not so much that you can't bring some of those units that might not be the most efficient but that you like anyway.
Gameplay isn't without flaws, though. Chief of all is the difficulty: Bahamut Lagoon is, with the exception of a couple of optional battles, too easy.
Next, comes the movement speed of units: by and large, movement speed of a team is determined by the presence or absence of a Light Armor in it and since you only get 3 Light Armors for 6 teams, the latter parts of the game tend to involve half your characters while the others hopelessly try to catch-up with the front.
Finally, there's just not enough of it! The 30-odd chapters just fly past, leaving you wanting more. The "new game+" mode isn't that interesting: you just get to really breeze through the early game and then it's just the same thing as the first time.
Overall, Bahamut Lagoon is a fun little game that really deserves a wider distribution. And, while we're at it, sequels. Longer sequels.