Wachenröder

Developed in Japan by Westone
Published by Sega
Released in 1998 for the Sega Saturn

Heavily modeled after Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics, this story-driven strategy RPG contains as many Western music references as Guilty Gear or JoJo. (Get ready to meet characters named Zappa, Blue Oyster, and Slap Happy!) Plays how you’d expect, but features little emphasis on character-building, with no opportunities for grinding and no mucking with skill or class progression.  Many maps are larger than they need to be, resulting in a lot of tiresome marching to meet the enemy. The difficulty can be forgiving, though not inconsequential, partially because of the aggravating and arbitrary turn limits in certain missions.  Key mechanics include an Action Point system that acts as a stamina meter for both movement and attacks, and a temperature system that allows you (and the computer) to exponentially increase your units’ attack power at the risk of overheating and disabling them for several turns.  Though the Japanese SRPG formula has rarely been conductive to deep strategy, this system can still allow for interesting gambles and dilemmas. The meandering plot and unusual steampunk/fantasy setting are rather incohesive, but they’re backed by strong characterization with some quality voice acting. Featuring artwork by the legendary Yoshitoshi ABe (serial experiments lain, Haibane Renmei) and lavishly animated FMVs of steampunk cityscapes.

★★★