Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Years ago now back in 2015 I had the chance to sit down to the side scrolling brawler Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds for the PC and the Overdrive version later in the year for the PS4 that I respectively ended up playing with Richard and Jim. Back again into the same realm of beat ‘em up is a tale of laziness and revenge. Taking place in modern day, the last members of a clan of Ogres were simply chilling until an old enemy comes calling and the three teenage girls that act as the story’s protagonists are anything but ready for this level of challenge. Going online to buy new equipment only to find out that they are broke, hilarity ensues as they head out to rob demons of their money in order to fuel their revenge campaign.
I am a sucker for two things. One, is an old-school side scrolling brawler like the ones that I grew up with. The second is over the top and campy storylines. Ogre Tale? It does both of these but a little on the unfortunate side, the gameplay and the systems are not as robust as its predecessor Phantom Breaker five years back. Longer if you consider that it released on the Xbox Marketplace before then. Dropped down onto a pure 2D side scrolling lane instead of a more 3D one, having skill trees replaced with slots inside of weapons and not having individual skill points kept making this four hour wish adventure feel lacking.
So because of this it’s a good thing that it’s rather short to go through because otherwise Ogre Tale could have overstayed its welcome fairly fast. Softening this up, at least for the first run through the story, is the over the top dialog that takes place both between and during stages with anime references, fourth wall breaking and plenty of self-deprecating localization jokes. While the voice overs are only in Japanese, the tones of sarcasm just help put in the girl’s feeling of their overall situation especially when the going gets tough.
In terms of structure, Ogre Tale is built into 19 Main Stages and a ton of secondary ones that can all from the beginning be done on Normal, Hard or Hardcore. What I really appreciated compared to a lot of other titles in general is that when going from Normal to Hard, the mob types were not only re-skins, but re-skins with new abilities and new ways to kill you. It required more than just being tougher, it required knowing how to handle these new foes. Unfortunately, again, the sheer jump in your foes’ attack strength makes it feel like there was something missing between Normal and Hard especially when it comes to the bosses.
Each Boss has their own style and attack patterns that you’ll need to figure out if you’re going to win. Bosses on normal aren’t that tough, short of the second last one, but bosses on hard will simply kill you dead even if you managed to plow your way through the entire level. It was a bit unfortunate as I had to keep bouncing between playing on Hard or dropping it back down to normal because the boss was simply too much to handle because just one hit could take you out. So it’s a good thing that because of this, if you die, you can restart right back at the entrance of the part of the stage that you had just walked through.
So it’s a good thing that between trying to play on normal or hard and bouncing between the stages that the stages themselves are not very long. And by not very long I mean, sometimes the longest part was listening to the dialog because you could literally finish some of them in about fifteen seconds flat. So how did it take four hours you wonder? Loads of side stages and redoing them for some experience to survive while playing on hard mode. That, and I needed money for better weapons until they started to drop really good ones over the course of your adventure.
Otherwise there really isn’t much else to Ogre Tale. It’s short, I can’t quite say that it’s sweet because of what I felt was lacking, however, you can both play through the story on your own or in coop and then there’s loads of secondary stages to be tackled with your choice of the three protagonists. With some last minute in game comments though, I’m hopeful to see a continuation or a sequel to Ogre Tale down the line.
So while Ogre Tale is a much newer title, it felt like a few steps back when it came to the much shorter gameplay levels and challenges. While a bit of balancing will help from Normal being too easy and Hard being ridiculous when it comes to boss fights, I just hope that the potential sequel that is foreshadowed could bring back a more 3D element to combat and skill trees instead of having to rely solely on weapons and hope that they have weapon slots.Score: 7 / 10