Yggdra Union

I was once again incredibly surprised by this series. This is an excellent game, and if you’re a tRPG fan I highly recommend it. It shines in the way it explores the moral complexity of war, the nature of just war, and the effect conflicts of the elite have on civilians. The game was also remarkably egalitarian, both in costume design and gender ratio. The art style was pretty odd, but it grew on me and I think it gave the game a unique atmosphere overall.


This series has been one pleasant surprise after another.

The premise here is that Princess Yggdra of Fantasinia is forced to flee her home after a rival kingdom invades and slaughters her parents. The early game is here attempting to survive their pursual and eventually take back her kingdom and save it from the brutal Emporer Gulcasa.

The gameplay is very interesting. This is a tactical RPG, and the subtitle comes from the central mechanic, where units also pull their nearby allies into battle. You can create massive chains of units, and if you manage to align yourself so that your chain takes on a solo enemy, you can destroy them. Additionally, you have little control over the battles themselves — you command a unit of five (or three, in the case of riding units) and can control both the aggressiveness of the attack and the use of finishing moves, but all else is up to stats. Matching up weaknesses and strengths is everything.

I also thought the use of the card system for special attacks was really neat. It was a little hard to get used to at first, and I thought its biggest issue was that sometimes useful cars got “trapped” at low attack numbers, but overall I really liked it.

Finally, I think the game used its own mechanics very creatively. The missions always had a unique twist to them, and the devs clearly understood their own game design. A few of the long chains of battles could be a bit punishing when you had to redo them all, but generally it wasn’t an issue and I really enjoyed the strategy involved.

Where this game shines, though, is in its story. In a world where FPSs make annihilating everyone in your path commonplace, this is a tRPG that explores the nuances of war. Yggdra is deeply concerned with the lives of civilians, and if you treat them well you can recruit extra party members. Early on it becomes clear that the world is one full of misunderstandings and violent miscommunications — you end up in battle with former allies because they have been tricked by Gulcasa, and once both sides calm down and listen to each other the trick becomes evident, but only after one is slaughtered. This theme of “war first, talk later = disaster” is repeated over and over, with the game asking repeatedly — why are we so eager to turn on each other instead of understand?

The other major theme of the game was the idea of just war. In the early game, it’s clear Yggdra has been wronged — Gulcasa has destroyed her home, her family and is terrorizing her people. She’s absolutely right to raise an army against him. Early on, though, things gets complicated. You run into two warring mages who are willing to annihilate anyone in their path to kill each other, and it’s clear the only way to stop them is to destroy one — so you do. But it’s a coin toss, neither is more right. Was what you did okay? Defensible? The mage you choose to kill later comes back to haunt you — and, it feels, rightly so.

But then, what happens after Yggdra takes back her kindgom? Is it right of her to pursue Gulcasa? What is a good reason to pursue hm — revenge? The valid concern that he’ll attack again, if not you someone else? Does it matter the reason if the outcome is the same? And what of the civilians in his kingdom, who are just defending their homes from this war they had no part in? Can you justify trampling them in pursuit of Gulcasa? Even if he’s a tyrant? Even if he’ll hurt more people in the long run? How many individuals will you sacrifice to stop him? Can a sword ever really be just?

The game stops short of answering some of these questions, leaving the player to feel either vindicated or, like me (and Yggdra) sickened at what they have to do for what they believe is the greater good. It asks you to try to make your own justifications and then defend them, while still saying: is this really the way? Can’t we manage to talk it out?

I really loved this game. It apparently has three spinoff games that were never released in English, which makes me sad and further cements my needs to learn Japanese. The next game is for the DS, Knights in the Nightmare. I look forward to it!

Some character art for your trip home:

AeginaRosaryMonicaYggdra 2

19 Comments

  1. Roarke says:
    Can a sword ever really be just?

    Too easy.

    Finally, I think the game used its own mechanics very creatively.

    This is a really good point in the game’s favor if I ever remember to try it. Too often a game will have some kind of twist or gimmick as its premise, but then never explore it or do anything interesting with it.

    You run into two warring mages who are willing to annihilate anyone in their path to kill each other, and it’s clear the only way to stop them is to destroy one — so you do. But it’s a coin toss, neither is more right. Was what you did okay? Defensible? The mage you choose to kill later comes back to haunt you — and, it feels, rightly so.

    The right answer is to take no sides and kill both mages. They have both proven themselves to be a threat to the peace and each has the power to back up that threat.




    0
    1. actonthat says:
      The right answer is to take no sides and kill both mages. They have both proven themselves to be a threat to the peace and each has the power to back up that threat.

      Ah, but at the point of the game you meet them, you absolutely need an ally to help stop the pursuit of the Empire. The only survivors of the initial massacre are the princess and a small cohort, and you spend the first part of the game on the run. You need the help of one of the warring mages to defeat the other, and need the help of one to not get killed yourselves. It’s wonderfully complex.




      0
      1. Roarke says:
        Hrm, yeah, that gets you a little, but ultimately I still think that two people already fighting to the death can’t really complain if a third party rolls up, flips a coin, and stomps one. One way or the other, you’re saving the people who might otherwise become collateral damage.
        The moral complexity, to me, would lie in the question of whether or not the living mage is still a dickhead and likely to fall back into the same situation again. Then he’s helping you but you still have to put him down.



        0
        1. actonthat says:
          So, if I remember correctly, basically what happens [spoilers] is that the overall bad guy gives them each a powerful weapon and then tells them the other is coming for it so they have all the power. Terrified, the end up in a game of chicken with each other where neither wants to use the weapon but is afraid the other is going to beat them to it. Rosary technically attacks first by sending golems out to destroy some border towns, and from there a war erupts. You basically have to kill off one before they unleash the weapons and annihilate the whole countryside.[/spoiler] It’s part of the whole overarching “if people just communicated, srsly” theme — if at any point Rosary and Roswell had discussed what was going on, they would have found out neither wanted to fight, but by the time you get there things are so tense they refuse to treat with anyone, even you, until the other is dead.



          0
          1. Roarke says:
            What a dick! Edit: That is good, solid fearmongering, though. I’d forgotten about tactics like that. Edit Edit: It reminds me of Battle Royale, where basically the entire aim of The Program was to sow distrust among the population by showing how easy it was to turn classmates against each other.



            0
          2. Keltena says:
            the overall bad guy gives them each a powerful weapon and then tells them the other is coming for it so they have all the power.

            Actually, as I recall it’s even better than that. Nessiah simply gave each of them one of the weapons and made them aware that their rival had the other, and then left them to their own devices assuming they’d both be too power-hungry and paranoid to resist going after each other for control of both. And guess what happened! (Which, of course, meant Yggdra would then have no choice but to cut a bloody swath through the countryside with the Gran Centurio to solve it, just like he needed.)




            0
  2. Keltena says:
    I’m glad you liked it! “One pleasant surprise after another” has been my experience with this series too, so it’s nice to see others enjoying it too. :D

    The examination of war, “justice”, and the responsibility of leadership are definitely where the game shines. It’s kind of funny: when I played, I expected the general direction the game would take as soon as I saw the “Justice Prevailed!” banner, but I was still caught unprepared by how far they actually went with those themes. It’s really not a game that pulls punches–which I guess is pretty important when you’re writing a story about the harsh nature of war and imperialism. (Interestingly, from what I’ve played, the focus on ordinary people caught up between the conflicts of those in power feels almost like the series’ main theme? You see it in this game and Riviera, both on the local scale–the civilians trampled in war, the angels treated as mere tools in service of Asgard’s goals–and on the multiverse level, with worlds like Riviera and Ancardia stuck in the crossfire between Asgard and its enemies.)

    By the way–I think I mentioned before that the Atlus translations of the games are… questionable at times? Here’s the most glaring example: Gulcasa’s title. Originally, it was Blazing Emperor (炎帝/entei–like the pokemon, actually); I’m honestly kind of baffled how they got to “Emperor of Carnage”, especially considering how heavily fire-themed Gulcasa and Bronquia are in general. (There’s a few other, smaller manglings scattered across the game–I think the most important is the Lost Aries blurb being translated as “an angel of death’s tomb”, when Aries/Nessiah is actually a Grim Angel like Ein and Ledah. A friend of mine has posted about some if you’re curious.)

    I hope you enjoy Knights in the Nightmare, whenever you get to it! It’s pretty nontraditional, especially compared to your typical JRPG, but once I adjusted to it I ended up really appreciating its approach to storytelling. (Even if the battles do drag on a bit by the end…)




    0
    1. Nerem says:
      Original Generation has some translation issues too. Several of the names are off (Sleigh for Srey), though easily the biggest ones is they changed ‘Vanishing Trooper’ to ‘Berserk Trooper’ for some reason… Which is pretty weird as the titular Vanishing Trooper’s big thing is that it disappeared. The other is in the spinoff sequel Endless Frontier, where whoever translated it didn’t know anything about OG apparently, and mistranslated the name Lemon Browning to Raymond Browning.

      Naturally, idiotic American fans immediately decided this meant there was a male scientist who was obviously much smarter then Lemon Browning and actually made everything and Lemon took credit.

      Sigh.




      0
      1. Keltena says:
        Naturally, idiotic American fans immediately decided this meant there was a male scientist who was obviously much smarter then Lemon Browning and actually made everything and Lemon took credit.

        Well, that is the only sensible explanation for female scientists existing, after all. It was good of the translators to uncover that important clue so the fandom could have some peace of mind about the whole issue!

        (grumbles bitterly about Undertale fandom’s love of crediting all the underground’s science to a minor, literally nonexistent in the main game character instead of the female science genius right there in the main plot)




        0
        1. Nerem says:
          Even after they knew it was a translation flub a lot of them decided they liked the idea of her stealing her dad’s research or whatever.

          At least in Undertale’s case, that character really does exist and the game itself is kind of vague on how much of certain things was fully her work or she was working with what she had been left with.

          Of course, that’s ignoring the huge amount of stuff that she absolutely did all on her own.




          0
  3. Nerem says:
    The next game in the series isn’t actually a spinoff but a prequel – it’s about how things happened that led to Gulcasa’s rise of power, from the perspective of a young noble who begins a rebellion against the entire.



    0
    1. Keltena says:
      from the perspective of a young noble who begins a rebellion against the entire.

      Huh? I’m playing Blaze Union right now, and while I’m only near the beginning, it’s not from the perspective of a noble? It is a prequel about Gulcasa’s backstory, yeah.




      0
      1. actonthat says:
        !! Is there a fanpatch for it?



        0
        1. Keltena says:
          There’s not as far as I’m aware, sorry. :( I’m playing through with the help of a friend who knows Japanese and is familiar with the game.



          0
          1. Nerem says:
            I still don’t get why they chose to skip it (the other game is more understandable as it’s nowhere near as good or interesting) and just go to Gungnir instead. Blaze Union is kind of hugely important to the series.



            0
            1. Keltena says:
              Yeah, so I’ve heard from my friend! (I had a vague impression it might have had to do with content/rating issues? But I might be thinking of some other series there…)

              … Imagine the nightmare they’d set themselves up for localizing it, though, after the whole “Emperor of Carnage” thing. “Wait, crap, it’s in the literal title of the game now, how do we get out of this one?” :P




              0
              Reply
              1. Nerem says:
                Uhh the only thing I can really think of is that it revealed that Gulcasa’s relationship with Nessiah was physical, IIRC. It doesn’t have anything that Yggdra Union itself doesn’t have to be honest, beyond that.

                And I mean, I’m not sure it’s even that, since they released Swordcraft Story 1 which had a gay protagonist. (Sugar, one of Pratty’s potential Summons is in love with her openly. Also one of the female characters is in love with Pratty but not the male protagonist.




                0
      2. Nerem says:
        That was just me messing up my intentionally vague summary. I kind of spaced on what his social status was, sorry.



        0
        1. Keltena says:
          Haha, that’s understandable; I just got confused for a moment because I’m only at the start of the game and went “wait, what, isn’t Garlot clearly a poor kid” thinking I’d misread you or something.



          0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar