Welcome to another Flashback Friday of Retrogaming. In an age where 360/PS3 graphics are looming around us, we have a little gem that floats around called Bahamat Lagoon. When I first played the game, the graphics of looked a bit dated but the art and animation was enticing enough to warrant some distration and break time. Bahamat Lagoon is a straight-up turned-based RPG strategy game where you and gang of people get their own pet dragons a la Tamagotchi or Pokemon.
You fight on a overhead perspective where your characters take the look of icons (or tiles) and move around in designated tiles. Despite its 16-bit quibbles, the tiles are cool and appealing enough to nod at and your characters are fashionable icons jumping around these tiles.
Bahamat puts you in the character of Byuu – a leader of a elite Dragon Squad that kicks the crap out of any invading armies lurking around in your land. The story has some interesting twists and turns that are worth following and add depth to each member of your party. If you have played and enjoyed games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem or Shining Force, this game is right up your alley.
Bahamat Lagoon does what every other turn-based strategy game does. You select your character, you move into your favorite spot on the map then (if your close enough) you fight the enemy character next to your tiles or you select a spell that tactically covers a pattern of tiles and hope there are enemies sitting on those tiles.
There’s also the capability to attack the enemy as a party. Which, depending on the scenario, can work for or against you. If your characters are strong in close quarters and as a party, you can easily dispatch enemies at a whim using regular attacks or Swordtechs (special attacks). However, closer formations also leave you vulnerable from area-based spells.
Additionally, there’s a twist. With 5 characters in the game, each character gets its own dragon. In the typical turn-based strategy world, you choose where you move your character and attack. In Bahamat Lagoon, you do the same thing except each dragon fights along side its master so once its master attacks an enemy, the master’s dragon does its thing (i.e. attack an enemy) depending on what behavior you assign it. Masters of the dragons have no control over where their dragons go. Masters can only choose to have their dragon behave in 1 of 3 ways: attack the first enemy they see (“Go”), Attack the enemy closest to you (“Come”), or tell it to get the hell away from the enemy (“wait”). This adds a complely different dimension of the game because now you are dependent on the dragon’s intelligence.
You always hope that your dragon is smart enough to select the next best target or heal your party but sometimes it will do something stupid – like fly deep into enemy territory and attack the boss while surrounded by hoards of enemies. Fortunately, the game offers a unique way to increase or modify the intelligence and attack patterns of your dragon.
This leads to the second twist. You can feed your dragons. What’s important isn’t so much how much you feed it but what you feed it. And you can feed it all kinds of weird stuff like armor, swords, potions, the whole nine. Dragons have an “Intimate” and “Wisdom” Bar along with a ton of attributes that are typical of most Strategy RPGs and each Dragon is affected by the kinds of things you feed it. You can literally feed the dragon anything that sits in your inventory. So if you have no use for the “Note to the King” you can feed that particular item and it will have an effect of your dragon.
If you fed your Dragon with Heal potions, you’ll notice that its life bar permanently increases. If you fed your dragon Long Swords, it will increase its attack attributes and be more inclined to fight head-on with enemies rather than cast spells from a distance. In fact, if you feed a dragon enough, it will change shape or form in later parts of the game. In one instance, I found a mystery item in the princess’ bed called “???” and I decided to feed it to one of my weaker dragons. It then turned into a slime-like creature.
However, to my suprise the creature morphed into other powerful dragons. Yay me. But not all the time (Boo). You’ll find yourself nursing these dragons and doing side quests just to keep them up to snuff. In some cases, you can have dragons so powerful that you can literally let them run around and wreck havoc without breaking a sweat. It is this simple yet ingenious gameplay mechanic that will have you playing for hours and this is a great thing. And although the missions usually resort to kill Mr. Boss or eliminate all baddies, it is ofset by the many different configurations and battle tactics you can deploy on the battlefield.
The graphics and animation are cleverly done through jointed sprites. It’s similar to the technique they use on Rayman but it’s effective and is fun to watch when watching the side-by-side attack screen. No 10×10 portraits attacking each other. The soundtrack is worth noting too and as the orchestration broken down by violins, flutes and drums seems to crescendo at the right moment of battle, giving each confrontation an epic feel. There’s also the game’s longevity so you’re likely to have a steady diet of strategic slaying. There are about 27-28 chapters and each of those take AT LEAST an hour to complete assuming that you win that chapter.
Any negatives? Only two.
- It can get really easy if you over feed your dragons or do just a couple of side quests. As you get farther in the missions, you’ll find your dragons killing everyone on the map before any of your characters can walk up to them. In some cases, your party will transition to the side-by-side attack screen with the enemy party and all of a sudden your dragon comes out of nowhere, swoops in and kills everyone.
- The missions hardly have any variety. You’ll have maybe one mission where you can break a dam and flood a whole army but, even then, the goals are typically the same – defeat XYZ boss or defeat all. No “protect the king” or “escort Mr. important to point A”.
Too bad this game never came officially to the states. It’s an overall great game for retrogamers everywhere looking to get back to their 16-bit roots. Get it. You can find it in the Wii Virtual Console.