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Retro Challenge: Warsong Sega Genesis

Posted in Retro Gaming Challenge by Bryan


Today’s Challenge: Beating Scenario 1 of Warsong for the Sega Genesis


Today’s challenge involves the relatively obscure Warsong, a strategy RPG released in the US way back in 1991.  The easiest way to describe the gameplay is Fire Emblem, but with actual troops instead of a field filled with individual badass heroes.  In this game, those are your commanders, and the troops make decent fodder.  I used to rent Warsong from the local Blockbuster, and I would usually get creamed by the computer because A) I was a poor strategist and B) I didn’t realize troops suffered massive penalties when they were out of the range of their respective commanders, just like in real life!  I was 9 or 10 at the time, so you can take your superior attitude and stuff it.  Video games weren’t always playable movies with two hour tutorials.  Since then, I’ve figured the game out, and every few years I play through it again.



The actual challenge listed in the above titles doesn’t sound all that difficult, because usually beating the first level in any game isn’t that big of a deal.  However, the first mission of Warsong puts you up against overwhelming odds, and it’s up to you to decide when to retreat.  The story is a familiar premise: the bad guy is Kaiser Jerkhole (I forget his real name), who wants the sword Warsong.  He invades Castle Baltia with a large force to take it.  King Alfador tells Prince Garett to peace out and get reinforcements.  Baldarov the loyal retainer is sent along.  You never find out what happens to King Alfador, but since Garett is named King by the end of Scenario 12, it’s pretty clear that Alfador isn’t really a thing anymore.  The most important thing is that the bad guy is a Kaiser (stereotypes, people!), and sometimes I like to yell, “Kaiser uppercut!” because it’s fun.  If you’re a fan of Street Fighter II, try it out.  I’ll wait.



I may have edited this screenshot a little.


So this was my thinking: the way this mission should be played is you should attempt to get Garett to at least level 2 while letting the other commanders (we’ll get to them later) level as much as they can before they get stomped by a superior enemy force.  You can exit the stage at any time by fleeing to the north edge of the map, preferably once you can’t milk the level for more XP.  It’s actually pretty cool and a lot of fun to play it that way.


But then again...what if we just won?  Like, what if we just knocked out the enemy commanders, which in turn destroys their superior troops, and save the castle from certain doom?  Would the game just...you know...end?  Spoiler alert: the answer, which I found out one day while bored in college, is a big fat, “no.”  The game designers actually thought through what would happen if someone pulled a miracle.  But whatever.  Let’s just go win this one because we can.  ‘Murica.


Here’s an overview of the scenario.  


Our story starts in the throne room.  King Alfador is on the throne, with Garett and Baldarov flanking him.  I bought a full set of 8 soldiers for good ol’ Baldy.  Usually, I would buy troops for Garett and use Baldarov to soften up enemy troops and feed them to Garett Mama Bird style, but we’re not playing that way today.  As a level 1 Fighter Garett is out of his league, and if anything he’s a liability because his death means instant defeat.  Instead, we’re going to use Baldarov, a maxed out level 9 Swordmaster (the only one in the game, oddly enough).  He’s high on defense but low on offense, so he’s not exactly your "go to" guy for dishing out the punishment.  However, his survivability is going to carry the day for us, and he’ll pass a better commander bonus to his troops than the fledgling Garett.  Meanwhile, Garett is going to go hide in a corner (Note: Garett is actually the most powerful character in the game, but not yet).


The game will let us shrink the map for a better view of the battleground, so let’s take a look.

The first picture shows us the other allied commanders that are under computer control.  To the west is Tiberon, a Crocodile Knight leading a group of mermen.  Typing that last sentence made me die a little inside.  To the south is Calais, a Warlock leading a small group of Guardians.  To the east is Sabra, a level 3 Fighter (so almost as sucky as Garett) leading a group of Soldiers.  Alfador has some soldiers, too, but they’re going to get annihilated.  Each commander is facing an enemy commander with superior troops and numbers, meaning our allied commanders are only capable of fighting a delaying action while Garett escapes.  The nice thing is any experience Tiberon, Calais, or Sabra earn here will be saved for later when you eventually rescue them and add them to your force, but right now we’re not thinking about the long game.  We’re trying to shut this war down today, because why do in twenty scenarios what you could do in one?  Imagine if Obi-Wan had killed Darth Vader in the Death Star.  Actually, that would have been worse because Palpatine probably would have destroyed Obi-Wan and taken Luke on as his dark apprentice.  But in these days of dark heroes such as Walter White or Frank Underwood, it may have been a more compelling- oh my lord I got off track.


Back to the game.  This initial lineup of baddies may not look too terrible, but there’s some bad news.  At the far southeastern part of the map, we have this dude:


That guy is a High Priest, and while he’s actually not that difficult to defeat, the four groups of elementals surrounding him are effing murder machines.  Those things simply do not die, and they wreck any troops that get in their way.  The High Priest will always move north and work his way across the east bridge protected by Sabra.  Sabra is already in the weakest position fighting for her life against Geryon (the only bad guy commander to be named in this mission).  Geryon is a Lord, which is a class that a Fighter such as Sabra can eventually grow into.  In other words, Sabra is simply outclassed.  The High Priest showing up with elementals is really just the enemy being jerks.  From there, the High Priest and Geryon will move straight into the throne room and try to kill Alfador.  Luckily for us, Alfador is great on defense, and while he can’t outright kill a group of elementals, he can hold out for a long time.  For whatever reason, his throne provides additional defensive bonuses, so that’s going to help with our war plan.


So what is our war plan?  Simple.  The High Priest comes in from the east, so we’re going to go west.  We’ll have Baldy and Garett work with Tiberon to punch through the eastern enemy commander (just a lowly Fighter) and his archers.  This gets Garett as far as possible from the High Priest, and if Tiberon survives he can help us move south to free up Calais from her battle with the Serpent Knight.  I’m actually really worried about the Serpent Knight because they have really good attack and defense stats, even when they’re out of water.  That part is going to be tough, and we could very well lose Calais.  Finally, we’ll swing north into the throne room where we can hopefully kill Geryon and the High Priest using whatever resources are left to us.  We’ll never stop the High Priest’s elementals, but if we kill him, all of his troops will disappear (all troops wear suicide vests and go poof when their commanders bite it) and we win, just like that.  Maybe.


So let’s get started. The first thing we’ll do is send Baldarov east to reinforce Tiberon.  The enemy commander has a bunch of archers, which are going to chew up the mermen because mermen are stupid.  However, Baldarov’s soldiers do really well against them, especially when they get a good defensive bonus from Baldarov as their commander.  Garett is going to follow close behind so we can get him to a safe location.  Remember: if Garett dies, we lose.  


Here’s a cool action shot of Baldarov fighting some archers.  Yeah, he shoots boomerang swords.  It’s pretty neat.



Meanwhile, Calais and Sabra are fighting off lots of baddies.  Calais will be able to hold off the enemy commander’s troops, but once the commander, the dread Serpent Knight, runs out of troops he’ll move in and do the job himself.  Calais won’t be able to stand up to him. 



Here’s Sabra in action.  Fighters shoot out a big flame to kill things instead of...you know...fighting.  Meanwhile, her soldiers have already been wiped out.  Most of them died charging Geryon like the idiots they are.  Dummies.



So of course I forgot to get some screenshots of Baldarov whittling down the enemy Fighter’s health.  Garett actually helped get a few enemy units down because he’s not totally useless.  However, these enemy troops are as weak as it gets.  Everything from here on out is going to be a bit out of his league, and even if it wasn’t the threat of him getting one shotted by elementals is way too dangerous to ignore.  Go west, young man!


I did get a screenshot of Tiberon stealing the kill on the enemy Fighter.  The crocodile mount is an endearing quality.  I think they should make polo shirts with little “Tiberon on Crocodile” logos.  I would wear that and get all the ladies. Also, please note that he throws knives.  I like that.  My reasons are my own.



Meanwhile, Sabra has lost all of her troops and the elementals are here kicking her butt.  As you can see they knocked her down to three hit points already (all commanders start with ten).  In her defense, she seems to have lasted longer than I thought she would.



Calais has since lost all of her troops, but she can hold her own against weakened enemy forces while we get in better position to help her.  Troop movement takes time, and she’s just going to have to wait.  Sabra doesn’t know it yet, but she’s about to get punked.


Yep, there she goes.  Good job, Sabra.  You gave ‘em hell, and you somehow made it to level 4.  You go girl!  See you at the end of Scenario 3!


Here we are getting into position.  Tiberon is rushing to aid an injured Calais, and Baldy is right behind him.  I’m starting to wonder if I should have brought horsemen instead of soldiers, but there’s nothing I can do about that now.  Tiberon seems to be in a hurry to save Calais.



And here’s King Alfador, holding the throne against four groups of elementals.  They may have crushed the life out of Sabra, but he’s a lot stronger and can last a while.  This is important, as he’s going to hold the elementals off while we take care of that Serpent Knight.  I like how the throne is the equivalent of a tower in the battle animation.


Here’s Garett.  Remember Garett? His job is to hide. Good job, buddy.  You just keep on being the designated survivor.  Your country appreciates it.



So...umm...the plan was for Baldarov and Tiberon to come in and assist Calais in dealing with the Serpent Knight.  As you can see, Tiberon pulled a hero move and very much weakened the Serpent Knight (but getting himself knocked down to one hit point in the process).  Calais was able to finish him off without taking too much damage.  Basically, they shot at each other until one was dead, and since the Serpent Knight only had two hit points left, he went down first.  This was an incredibly lucky break on my part.  The last time I did this (about 12 years ago), the Serpent Knight got himself up on a wall and we had a hell of a time getting rid of him.

Yeah, AI controlled commanders totally pulled that off.  Thanks for the “help,” Baldarov.  Why don’t you go wait with Garett?  Also, you're a bum.


Sadly, the next turn is going to see Tiberon and Calais get wrecked by Geryon, who turned south with a group of elementals.  Baldarov was able to lure Geryon farther away from the High Priest and his elementals, and although he lost most of his soldiers in the process (mostly from shielding Baldarov from elementals), Geryon has been dispatched.  He’ll turn up later as the bad guy in Scenario 6, where we’ll just straight up murder him.  Alfador is still up and fighting, which is great.  I had some screenshots of all of this, but they didn’t save correctly.  Oh well.  Oh, and Garett is still hiding somewhere. The game won’t let me forget Garett because it starts each turn by putting the cursor on him, in an effort to highlight his particular brand of cowardice.


Now we’re nearing an important decision, as illustrated by this image.  Alfador has been casting spells at the High Priest, as opposed to directly attacking him, dropping him down to 8 hit points.  Then for whatever reason, Alfador has left the throne to attack (and finish off!) a group of weakened elementals that had retreated to heal.  Now, here’s what we know about the situation:


  1. At 5 hit points and with no defensive bonus from the throne, we could very well lose Alfador.  We don’t want this to happen.  He’s the only thing shielding Baldarov from the elementals, especially now that we’re almost out of soldiers and allied commanders to use as human shields.

  2. Enemy commanders don’t mind being slightly injured, but once they drop to 7 hit points they heal themselves (they can spend their turn healing up to 3 hit points). 8 is as far as we’re going to see the High Priest go down before he decides to do something about it.

  3. Calais and Tiberon are both defeated, meaning I can’t count on them to weaken the High Priest any further.


What does this mean?  It means the time has come to go for broke.  Baldarov, with only two groups of his soldiers left, is the only person left we can count on.  He has one shot to take off 8 hit points from the High Priest.  High Priest’s have low defense, but 8 hit points in one attack is a lot to ask of anyone.  Since high damage output isn’t exactly what Baldy is known for, this might not work.  Should he fail the elementals will surely finish him off.  His surviving soldiers could potentially finish the job on the High Priest, but there’s no way they have enough movement to get to that one open spot.  This is our all or nothing moment, people. This is where we stand up and declare as one that we will not go quietly into the night!  We will not vanish without a fight!  We are going to stop the forces of Kaiser Uppercut and declare our independence.  Can Stone Cold get a hell yeah?!


Baldarov, may your flying sword boomerangs land true, and may God himself be your copilot.  The helm is yours, noble swordmaster.

And that’s the bottom line, because eff you Lucky Charms. Baldarov, I'm sorry about calling you a bum earlier.


This story has a bad ending, of course.  As I mentioned earlier, the developers thought this exact scenario could conceivably happen, and they were prepared in case it did.  Check out this nonsense.


...There’s a second attack coming.  I mean, yeah, okay.  I get it.  Kaiser Uppercut wasn’t even present at the battle, which means he’s probably nearby with an even bigger force, and this time he’s not going to give a bunch of elementals to a soft and squishy priest.  

 Okay, I get it.  You’re going for reinforcements.  Good for you.  


The thing that really makes this clever is that Alfador doesn’t have any further lines like, “You go do that, son.  I’ll stay here and die awesomely.”  That’s because it’s entirely possible that Alfador died during the scenario, so it wouldn’t make sense if he had any lines after he died.  Garett, on the other hand, has to always be alive or otherwise the game ends.  The game does this a lot in later levels, which is why the other commanders pretty much never have any lines after they are recruited.  The Shining Force games operated in a similar manner, and I found that annoying. Maybe I want to know what that little turtle guy with the helmet has to say about things.


So on one hand, I called Warsong’s bluff and got burned.  On the other hand, I get to have a Han Solo moment and say something badass like, “Never tell me the odds!”  With that said, I wouldn’t continue on the game from here because Garett barely got any XP.  I would just start over and play the scenario as suggested.  It’s actually counter productive to try to win this level, other than to say I’ve done it.  Since I’ve done it (twice now), I’m going to add it to my resumé.


As this article is not meant to be a game review, I’ll leave off by making this simple statement about Warsong: It’s a good game and I like it.  A low quality sequel just recently came out for the 3DS, but it’s just okay.  Most reviewers will suggest you turn off the battle animations, just like real life.


A note about the screenshots: I used an emulator to play through the first scenario.  I own the actual Sega cartridge (I wish I could say I stole it from Blockbuster, but in reality I got it on eBay for practically nothing), but it’s easier to get screenshots from the computer.  


Also, I totally saw a video on YouTube where the dude not only beats the stage, but gets Garett to level 6 in the process. Let it be known that I never claimed I was the best, because I'm not.


Special Thanks to: The guy that wrote the FAQ linked below on gamefaqs.  When I dig out Warsong every few years, I re-read this FAQ.  It's probably this guy's fault that I call Baldarov "Baldy." If anyone knows him, tell him I said, “Hello.”  Also, tell him I’m sorry about wasting so many experience points.  Please mention that his quiz was super hard.

Greatest Warsong FAQ ever.


Next time, we're playing Contra! 


Thanks for noticing.