Wachenröder on the Saturn

So I started playing Wachenröder. It's a late-Saturn, turn-based strategy RPG with a lot of heavyweight talent:

・Art by Range Murata (Blue Sub. 6, Spy Fiction)

・MORE art by Yoshitoshi Abe (Serial Experiments Lain)

・Character designs by Katsumi Yokota (Panzer Dragoon series)

・Compositions by Ian McDonald (King Crimson, Foreigner)

According to the Wikipedia page, it was made in the Shining Force III engine, and although I haven't played SFIII yet, it does appear to be a spiritual successor. The storybook your character reads to his sister at the beginning of the game also sounds like a reference to Shining Force, but that's just my guess based on the term "輝士" ("shining knight"?)
I was surprised to discover the game is quite polished, atmospheric, and even sometimes cute, and it has some interesting ideas like mechanical steampunk swords that you can rev like Nero's Red Queen in Devil May Cry 4-5. I don't think Wachenröder gets anywhere near the love other Saturn RPGs get, probably because it was never localized and the title doesn't stick with non-German speakers (even though Panzer Dragoon does).

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The title screen is a fancy steampunky machine thingy.

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This is a BLEAK game, especially in the beginning. There's an extended metaphor for nuclear power, where pollution from a towering "heavy water processing plant" covers the slums where you're from in ash, contaminating the air and drinking water and making people sick. You're a bereaved survivor with a lot of rage and nowhere to direct it.

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Battles unfold in your standard sprites-on-a-3D-grid format, but special moves treat you to a 3D cutscene.
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Many (all?) of the characters are references to bands/musical artists. This here is Fatboy Slim. And it's not just a name. . . .

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He blows up like a balloon when struck.

Anyone else played this? I've been really impressed with the presentation so far!

If anyone's interested, I've been streaming a playthrough and clumsily interpreting as I go. I'll spare you the first session because I was having a lot of technical difficulties, but here's the second. ↓
[https://www.twitch.tv/videos/667479012](url)

This has been on my short list of game I really, really want to see fantranslated ever since I read the HG101 article about it a long while back. I won‘t post it since it’ll probably be cooler if you experience it in game, but the end credits theme is really great. Looks cool!

Yeah, I was always interested in this at the time and have recently become interested in it again, so thanks for shedding some light on it.

I really like the models used in the intro movie and the manual.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-xNVp_CM3Q

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The whole booklet is scanned here: https://imgur.com/a/dp6m1

I submitted some of them to [Kinuko's](https://twitter.com/kinucakes) [TouchyGameArt Tumblr,](https://touchygameart.tumblr.com/) but they stopped posting years ago....hmm...that sure would make a good thread....

I‘ve played it a bit! It does have great presentation, the trouble is there’s nothing to the game itself. It‘s a pretty pedestrian turn based strategy game that takes a lot of time without giving you much back… Very standard with no outstanding features. That’s my recollection anyway. If you find something different let me know and I‘ll get back in it! I’m also not into steam punk which has consistently pushed me away from the game.

Heh, I am pretty sure I wrote the first English FAQ for the game on GameFAQs back then. You can still find it there, properly abandoned midway through. Fortunately, it seems you can find much better guides nowadays and even a complete translation. I bought the game the day it came out as I was visiting Kansai with my family that summer; I believe I bought it together with a used copy of Hissatsu! in a Super Potato store in Nipponbashi. I even managed to buy a copy of the guide in Tokyo a few weeks later, which is why I could finish the game and write the FAQ in the first place.

I was really into the game back then because it ticked many boxes, especially the involvement of Range Murata at the peak of his powers. It just oozed with artistic talent and intents in ways that would have usually benefitted a weird experimental PS1 game rather than a Simulation RPG / Tactics game. The art was cool and coherent but also different from typical RPGs from that era, the use of real maquettes rather than just CG was quite innovative, the prog rock and clubbing music references were fun, the game was included in the Segata Sanshiro campaign, and some of the staff was involved in Serial Experiments Lain which was exploding in popularity among a certain circle of nerds around the same time. I learned much later that this was not just a simple collaboration but that the story was the brainchild of Lain's author. The story is actually pretty cool.

I am less impressed in the game nowadays than I was two decades (!) ago, as it's not that deep and maps are a bit uneven. I agree that the battle system is a bit simple even by the times' standards (esp. if you compare it to Shining Force III, but even a game like Tactics Ogre had more depth). It is nevertheless not fair to say it brought nothing to the table. The game embraced its steampunk nature with a steam gauge and a gear clutch for most of the weapons. With the exceptions of a few characters, your crew had to properly manage at which gear they would use their weapons in order to inflict proper damage without overheating their weapons. I used to think this was a very nice feature thematically, but I now regret that they underused that whole steam resource aspect as part of the battle system and could have done much more with it.

It's also one of the very few video games that ever got my mother's attention back then, because she saw me read the instruction booklet and noticed the game's iconography "was heavily inspired by" (blatantly ripping off) [the Wiener Werkstätte,](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiener_Werkst%C3%A4tte) about which she is an expert.

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Thanks for the detailed information! probably the best we‘re going to get - I read a bit about the Wiener Werkstätte connection, which was definitely curious. You’ve allllllllllmost convinced me to give it another go (I‘d forgotten about the gear shifting weapons thing), but I still wonder if it’ll just be a grind. Folks really liked to make these tactics games extremely difficult back in the day.

Wachenröder was one of about two dozen Saturn games I was obsessed about, years ago, but that I had absolutely no access to buying at the time. Sounds like that‘s probably for the best, although aesthetically I can still see what I once obsessed over! …who am I kidding? It looks as though it’s not a bank-breaker like so much of the Saturn catalogue is, so I'll probably pick it up someday.

And @chazumaru your story about your mother and the Wiener Werkstätte (which I also have an appreciation for) is fantastic and is the kind of story I always enjoy reading about here at IC!

yeah, it‘s real cheap! I probably even have a spare copy I can send you? I’ll check the ole archives this evening.

This is one of those things that I've always wanted to play but never had the Japanese skills for. That and Gunparade March, which is extremely interesting but also just a sea of kanji.

There's a Gunparade March anime adaptation. I watched that since there was no way I was going to be able to play the game. It was enjoyable enough!

I bought gunparade march a while back for like 300 yen and haven‘t played it. Maybe I’ll watch the anime first and be able to bust through the story that way!?

Oh hey, you found my scans of the manual! It's always neat when that turns up.

I thinks there's a lot that's really interesting and fascinating about the game, and I have a poster for it right here on my desk right now, but honestly I think @exodus is being generous... The gameplay just isn't good. There were a few experimental things that didn't work out, and some non-experimental things that weren't good (facing affecting damage, camera angles). It's unfortunate but at least we have the art.

Years ago I did track down most of the references to other stuff in the game, you might find that interesting.

https://www.dampfkraft.com/wachenroder/character-name-origins.html

Also, regarding Gunparade March - even without the language barrier it's really hard to understand what's going on in that game. I didn't spend a ton of time with it but it's super weird.

Oh… man I kind of love this game. I was supposed to sell it a few days ago but sat down to test it and was playing for an hour. It‘s a very interesting mishmash of gameplay systems and visuals, with the standout being the 2d art and sound – maybe the UI as well if you’re into that. I mostly agree that the gameplay is… not hooking me. This is not Ogre Battle. I do want to play a bit more into the story just to uncover the world, though.


I ended up shelving this midway through. Not sure how far I was from the end (I was in the prison break sequence if anyone knows it), but mainly I just got fatigued from live interpreting every stream for my one viewer, haha.

I agree the gameplay is pretty simplistic, but I was really taken with the weapon revving and wacky character concepts. There were some interesting ideas, like I think the weather was supposed to affect the rate at which your weapons heat up (rain slows the rate, etc.), but generally, as someone who hasn't played a lot of tactics games I was actually kind of grateful it was so simple.

I was hoping the world would feel a little more fully realized, but player control really is limited to the battle sequences, which unfold on pretty small chunks of terrain, while the rest of the game is essentially a visual novel with no free exploring. At least, not so far.

Ultimately I think if you're playing this game, it'll be for the music and artwork.

It is really unfortunate that you don‘t get to explore the world at all. It’s just one battle after another with no branching or walking around. There are shops but my recollection is that only a few items were useful. (I also can't remember how currency worked…)

To the extent the world is fleshed out it only happens in the intro story parts, and to a lesser extent at one particular point in the middle and at the end. Some of the plot threads there are left completely hanging - for example, the island the world is on is surrounded by mist and nobody has seen beyond that - except, it turns out, for one guy you defeat in the middle of the game (Vathek). But then he never comes back and everyone forgets about it.

I think this is where a game like Black Matrix really excels. It very occasionally takes you outside the grid of the battle space to visit towns, and at the very start you‘re doing almost raising sim-like rehab as you recover from amnesia and a terrible battle. It gives you the idea that there’s more to the world, even if technically there isn't that much more there.

I almost feel bad that the overall sentiment seems to be that this game is underwhelming as I am about to add my voice to that chorus. I started playing this game, maybe half a year ago, but didn‘t get very far. I am still thinking about continuing it, however, but I feel like the fractured way I played it (short sessions with a week or even two weeks in between after the initial excitement of starting a new game) may have contributed to why I was not enjoying it as much as I had hoped. Continuing at this point would therefore further exacerbate the feeling of slight disconnect I get from the game, but I also don’t feel like starting over.

I am not particularly far in the game, just saved some forest people from execution and on the run in the sewers. The thing is, neither the gameplay nor the story is really grabbing me. At first I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the initial setup, but after that I have found the story to be sort of thin and just a series of events happening. I feel like the pacing is off, somehow? Like there is a lack of connective tissue between the events. On the other hand, I have certainly played and enjoyed other RPGs which at this early point in the game didn't have a more interesting story and the game does have some cool atmosphere.

Therefore my lack of interest must be related to the gameplay as well. I like tactical rpgs in general, but this one just doesn't feel interesting. Honestly, I have a hard time pinpointing why, which is why I once again feel bad for the game as my opinion doesn't seem quite fair. It is very easy, which I wouldn't normally have a problem with, but it comes across as slightly tedious as though I am just going through the motions. Units don't feel particularly differentiated either and the heating mechanic felt more annoying than meaningful. This could certainly change later, I think forcing me to engage more with the unique mechanics of the game might have made the game better, although it could also just make it frustrating.

Somehow, the combination of factors made me lose interest. Now to be fair it is very common for me to lose interest in games, so I guess I shouldn’t be to hung up on it. I was just hoping that I would like this game as tacticcal RPGs are usually some of those games that keep my interest and the story/atmosphere seemed cool. What I should probably do if I want to give it another shot is to try from the beginning again in a few years.

Oh, I was going through this again and something just occurred to me - So on the left of the first image here you have the Wiener Werkstaette logo surrounded by six symbols, one for each of the cities in the game.

https://imgur.com/a/dp6m1

I think these are all taken from real-world things, but I don't know what they are. The bottom right one is a design used by Charles Rennie Mackintosh on the doors at a house he designed known as 78 Derngate (its address). Range Murata uses some Mackintosh-type designs in his illustrations sometimes like his high-backed chairs.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisjohnbeckett/5927164876/

Anyone have any idea about the others?