Squaresoft, one of the best developers during the Super Nintendo’s hey day, was responsible for such beloved classics as Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy III, Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu III (AKA Secret of Mana 2), Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG just to name a small handful. That right there is a who’s who of SNES lore. When it came to third party developers, you could always count on the big 3: Capcom, Konami and Squaresoft. They produced some of the best games in the SNES catalog. In February of 1996, Squaresoft released a strategy RPG by the name of Bahamut Lagoon. Unfortunately, because it came out so late in the SNES lifespan and wasn’t a proven IP (unlike Super Mario RPG which came out in May of ’96), Bahamut Lagoon was destined to never leave the Land of the Rising Sun. But thanks to the dedicated efforts of Neill Corlett, Dragon Force and Clyde Mandelin (AKA Tomato), a fan translation was released and those unfamiliar with Japanese were then able to experience Bahamut Lagoon in all its glory. Earlier this year I finally carved out some time (57 hours to be precise) and got to experience one of Squaresoft’s “lost classics.” Bahamut Lagoon FREAKING ROCKS.
WHAT IS BAHAMUT LAGOON?
Bahamut Lagoon is a strategy RPG that’s unlike your typical SNES RPG. It’s extremely linear, the game is broken up into 27 chapters and getting lost is virtually impossible. Naturally, there are pros and cons to this. If you’re looking for an RPG where you can really explore and branch off on your own path, this probably isn’t the game for you. But if you’re in the mood for a streamlined tactical RPG with some badass dragons thrown into the mix, this is the perfect game for you. In Bahamut Lagoon, you control up to six parties with each party containing four members and one dragon. Of course, members are interchangeable and different formations can be selected. You can adjust strategies as you wish. That’s mainly where the game’s freedom kicks in. You won’t get to explore a vast open world, but you have a bevy of options when it comes to offense and defense. Dragons add another key element to the puzzle. But more on that later…
MEET AND GREET
These are just 15 of the characters you’ll meet in your journey. Many others are waiting to be found. As you can imagine, each of them has their own personality, strengths and weaknesses. It can be fun to mix and match. Experiment!
ENTER THE DRAGONS
You can change their default names if they’re not to your liking. Dragons must be fed frequently if you want them to grow and increase in power. After a certain point, they can even transform…
THE STORY GOES…
Resistance, Empire? Hmmm….
Squaresoft sets a serious and epic tone right away by casting ominous thunderclouds from the moment you power the game on. King Kahna tries to awaken Bahamut from its slumber to no avail. Might his daughter, Princess Yoyo, hold the key to saving Orelus and the once peaceful kingdom of Kahna?
Obsessed with ruling the skies and all of Orelus, Emperor Sauzer goes on a war torn path of destruction. Sauzer and his right hand man, Palpaleos, admire their handy work from a tower while contemplating a future where all cower before them.
Kahna: What are you scheming, Sauzer?! The Holy Dragons shall not awaken. I will not hand over their power to you!
Sauzer: They won’t wake up because their time of awakening has not come yet! The moment I conquer this world, their time shall begin! And that time begins now!
Kahna’s brutally murdered as one era ends and a new one begins…
Several winters later, Sendak (an old surviving member of Kahna) calls out to Byuu, a fierce young warrior who has since gone off grid. Sendak knows the Resistance will fall short without Byuu leading the charge. Sendak notes that everyone is saddened by Byuu’s absence and makes a harrowing proclamation: winter looks to be cold again this year. He wishes Byuu, wherever the young lad might be, the very best…
Naturally, Byuu makes a triumphant return and we get a flashback to provide a little backstory. Byuu was the one responsible for reviving Kahna’s Dragon Squad and during his hiatus he was out searching for all the dragons that went missing. Now that all the titans have been found, Byuu rejoins the Resistance force ready to reclaim the kingdom of Kahna! Pretty epic stuff, right? Squaresoft was simply the best once upon a moon…
Although the dragons have been found, it’s the Holy Dragons that must awaken. Specifically, Bahamut. Bahamut holds the key to everything…
ON THE BATTLEFIELD
Bahamut Lagoon has a unique battle system. The very first fight introduces us to the basic mechanics of the game. You can interact with your environment, something you couldn’t do in many other RPGs from that era. For example, if a bridge is broken you can’t cross the river unless you first freeze the water. It’s little things like this that makes the game so nice to play. Sorry.
Decide which party to go first. Then, you have a variety of options available. This includes moving your party around the battlefield, selecting the aggression level of your dragon and even using magic attacks from a safe distance. I like to select move and at the very least analyze how far I can advance. The screen will darken when you do this, with the lighted path illuminating your options.
Typically, you won’t be able to move far enough on your first try to get close enough to attack an enemy group. You may, however, be able to hit them with one of your magic attacks from far away. It’s OK too if the square isn’t directly on them. Press the button and it’ll show you the coverage. As you can see here, that enemy group is caught in the line of fire. Although damage is weakened when the enemy is not in the center of your initial square, it’s still nice being able to pelt them!
Damage is dealt to each bad guy in the group. Keep in mind as the game progresses you’ll have more mixed groups of enemies. For example, if an enemy uses fire magic then all fire-based attacks will not hurt them but it will actually heal them. So be sure to check the groups before you start hurling magic attacks!
Dragons come into play after your party launches a magic strike. Depending on the command you select (you can choose from go, come or stay), your party’s dragon will look for a nearby enemy group to attack. If it’s close enough, it will enter a new screen where combat will be conducted. This is a little dangerous as it gives the opposition a chance to hurt your dragon. However, if the dragon is not close enough to attack, it will then launch a magic attack from a safe distance with no chance for enemy retaliation (provided your dragon has enough magic points remaining). Naturally, you receive more points and bonus items for defeating enemies up close and personal. So there’s an incentive for those types of battles. Also note your dragon will only launch a magic attack if it’s within range. Stay keeps the dragon where it is. Come makes the dragon come close to you, and go is a complete wild card. It sends your dragon anywhere on the map. This can either work out in your favor or against, and it’s up to user discretion…
Whew… and that was just one party’s turn! Now you choose what the rest of your groups will do. All of your parties must end their turn before it switches to the enemy’s turn. Here we see Sendak just barely being able to attack the ice mages.
Salmando finds himself in a close quarters encounter, which shifts the scene to the classic side view as seen in many of Squaresoft’s previous RPGs. You can still perform magic attacks here of course, which is lovely for spraying damage to all enemies. Unfortunately, you cannot control the dragons. They move and attack randomly. The only command you’re in charge of is whether they will come, stay or go. I would have preferred being able to control them but being powerful beasts, I actually like their autonomy. Besides, it brings a certain wild card element to the battles which make it extra fun and sometimes slightly unpredictable. Thankfully, the dragons tend (emphasis on the word TEND) to make the right choice more times than not…
Nothing’s as satisfying as when the dragons attack exactly as you would have done, if you could control them. The best is when they launch a magic strike that hits multiple groups of enemies. Even better is when said strike takes out a group. You’ll get Flame Grass (a fire-based magic attack) whenever an enemy is killed with fire magic. You can use Flame Grass in battle or feed it to your dragons to increase their fire potency. But more on that later…
However, nothing’s more annoying than a magic strike that BARELY leaves them alive. If only that dragon’s Thunder Gale was a level 3 and not merely a level 2. Hmmm, what if I feed it some Thunder Grass…
Defeating an enemy group in this fashion grants you more money and items. Items can aid you in battle or be used as dragon food. It’s fun to experiment! Don’t just kill enemy groups from afar. You need money and items and beating them up close and personal gets you plenty of both. You’ll also level up a lot more!
Having exhausted all your parties’ turns, it’s now time for the enemy phase. I like how Squaresoft made sure we knew! Once you kill the boss of this chapter, bonus items and points are rewarded. And just in case you didn’t know that you won, Squaresoft spells it out for ya, literally.
TRAIN FEED YOUR DRAGON
Following fights (and before), you have the option of feeding your dragons. I highly encourage that you do, and make sure you balance it out or else you’ll show favoritism and those neglected will lash out in various ways. Use items you’ve bought or gained during battle to feed your dragons. Some are obvious, like fire items increase a dragon’s fire magic. But some others aren’t so clear. Like what would happen if you feed your dragon a porno magazine? I’m not kidding. Find out for yourself…
IMPLORE TO EXPLORE
Explore your surroundings… you’ll never know what you might find. See, I wasn’t lying about that porno mag. It’s a real thing
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books from the ’80s and ’90s? One of my favorite things about RPGs is the option to select your response to a character’s question. There’s plenty of that sort happening here. It doesn’t change the game but it’s still nice having choices. Some humor arises like when you select “It’s kind of awkward, so don’t…” but then Princess Yoyo responds, “But… oops! Too late…”
Princess Yoyo is quite the sentimental lass. After arriving at the Church of Memories, she tells you the legend of how when two people who love each other come here, they’ll be destined to be together forever. She’ll then ask you if you want to go in. You can answer by saying “Yeah, let’s try going in” or “No way!” If you pick the former, she’ll respond “Tee hee… I’m just kidding… it’s still too early for us… we should have brought Matelite too.” Princess Yoyo is a tease after all, I guess.
Princess Yoyo changes the beat and things get a little more serious. I love this scene. It felt like something pulled right out of a Hollywood film. It reminds me of some girls I’ve known… sometimes they want you to promise them in the moment even if it’s a lie… it’s moments like this that make you forget for a split second that you’re playing a video game. At least, it was for me here.
Switching back to some lighthearted tomfoolery on a dime, Bahamut Lagoon does a good job of balancing things with the right amount of humor at the right time.
CHAPTER 1: THE BEGINNING
Before each chapter fight begins, you can adjust a variety of options and also scout the competition. This includes enemy health and even how many squares they can move. Once you’re ready, I like to take the fight right to them!
Usually before you can even attack, your dragon will launch its own strike automatically. This is nice for softening them up. Then it’s your turn. A direct hit is always satisfying, a MISS is always demoralizing.
Keeping your parties fresh by healing them when appropriate is the key to success. As with any other RPG, it’s winning 101. The cool thing about Bahamut Lagoon is that your characters can also be healed just by standing on the right square (i.e. squares containing a building). However, keep in mind that the same applies to the enemy.
Dragons are honestly overpowered, making this game even easier than it already is. But damn if it isn’t still fun watching the destruction unfold!
Sometimes your dragon will be flanked in all directions. This has the potential to be disastrous. On the bright side, it also leaves the enemies extremely vulnerable when clustered as such. A magic blast can potentially strike all groups at once for optimal damage.
Depending on the character, some are better off using magic attacks due to their physical attacks being shit. But the mini devils are the most infuriating to me. Too many times their offense will fail and you literally get a Fail! caption. You can almost hear Squaresoft’s evil crackle as it happens. There’s a reason why I sub out the mini devils as soon as I can…
Lanzenritter (no relation to John), the boss of Chapter 1, is quick to abandon ship once you prove your superiority. Bahamut Lagoon has some gorgeous visuals as you can see here.
Emperor Sauzer has kidnapped the princess and taken her to the green continent of Campbell. Palpaleos can’t sleep and decides to “check up” on Princess Yoyo in the middle of the night. It isn’t long before Sauzer has the same restless affliction and finds that his general has beaten him to the punch. They watch Princess Yoyo in the darkness as they talk — not creepy at all — and later find themselves contemplating the legend of the Holy Dragons…
CHAPTER 2: LEGEND WE DREAMED OF…
Farnheit sets sail for Campbell… but first, some basic training and words of encouragement are in order.
Matelite, captain of the guards of Kahna, gives a pep talk the likes of which George Lucas would approve of. Matelite even states that they won’t be known as the Freedom Force but rather the Resistance. Hmmm, where have I heard that before?
CAMPBELL HERE WE COME!
LONG LIVE THE RESISTANCE!
Environmental hazards come into play. Using fire magic in such areas will cause a fire to break out, which will harm anyone caught in its path. Good stuff. There’s plenty more cool tricks to discover in the game’s 27 chapters, which I’ll let you discover on your own.
Upgraded magic spells get bigger and crazier in classic RPG fashion.
Speaking of bigger and crazier, that’s what will happen to your dragons if you feed them accordingly. Don’t be shy to experiment — you never know which new forms you may unlock!
Speaking of the dragons, take good care of them. They can catch colds. Hell, they can even get married! Yeah… I’ll let you figure that one out on your own…
Beginning around Chapter 6 or so, a side quest option is available to select. From here you can pick either Granbelos Fortress or Easy Dungeon. It’s basically a place to level up your characters, earn more items and money. The background sadly stays the same for both side quests throughout the rest of the game. The only thing that changes are the enemies. A third bonus side quest, Hard Dungeon, opens up later on and is insanely difficult. Enter at your own risk!
Landscapes vary. Some are standard but a few get pretty creative and crazy. Take, for example, the cave where the walls are organic and will close and open on every turn. If caught while it’s closed, those party members will be rendered useless for the duration of that round. I do think there could have been a little bit more variety and imagination but what Squaresoft did give us is satisfactory.
Donfan is probably the one character I remember most when all was said and done, simply because he had the most outlandish lines and he was such a creepy pervert. His interactions with the female characters never failed to entertain. A perfect comic relief character. I don’t think I used him in battle once
Bahamut Lagoon translator “Dark Force” was not too pleased with Squaresoft…
And here I thought Donfan was the pervert of the group!
[Always knew Steve was a perv -Ed.]
From a certain perspective, sure it can be. In the game’s context, most definitely. You’ll just have to play it to fully understand…
After you beat Bahamut Lagoon, an “Ex-Play” option is made available at the title select screen. This allows you to play through the game again but with your current levels, items, weapons, spells and money. Basically you’re overpowered from the start and the amount of destruction you can unleash is quite satisfying!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
It’s a shame Bahamut Lagoon never received a proper North American release. But it’s understandable. Released in Japan on February 9, 1996, it would have been mid ’96 at least until a translated copy would have hit North American stores. The SNES was on life support by then and Square didn’t want to chance it with an unproven new IP. As such, Bahamut Lagoon faded into “obscurity.” Only the most diehard of RPG and SNES fans kept clamoring for it and keeping its memory alive. Then when our boys translated the game, it reached a whole new audience. Nowadays, it’s often held in high regards. Sure, there are some critics who claim the whole thing is far too easy (they’re not wrong) and that it’s not as great as they had hoped, but the majority seems to love it more than not.
For years I had heard the hype surrounding Bahamut Lagoon. I’m glad I finally made time to play through it. Being a strategy RPG, it’s a little different from your typical SNES RPG which I found infinitely refreshing. Battles are long and I like how the game is broken up into 27 chapters. It’s almost like reading a great book. Playing one chapter at a time is enough to scratch your itch for the night. Rinse and repeat. Carefully positioning each group in your party while managing your individual and collective resources is satisfying even though the game is so easy that you could “brute force” your way through without much of an issue. Still, I like to be efficient and make sound tactical decisions wherever possible.
The addition of the dragons is a clever and intriguing gimmick. They’re a wild card, making each fight slightly unpredictable since control of them is rather limited. Feeding them is simple and handled well. It’s quick and easy, and doesn’t really detract from the game’s flow and pace. If anything, it’s a nice momentary break from the lengthy battles. The ability to alter your dragons depending on what you feed them helps with the game’s longevity, not to mention the nifty Ex-Play mode which is unlocked after you beat the 27th chapter. Graphically, the game looks gorgeous. Massive and detailed dragon designs that look like they were plucked straight out of a top selling manga, awesome spell attacks and amazing usage of parallax are just some of the key highlights. The music is classic Squaresoft — it’s epic and memorable! You can’t help but feel like there’s a spectacular struggle for power and world domination happening right in front of you thanks to the game’s stellar soundtrack.
If you consider yourself a fan of 16-bit RPGs and miss the golden age of role playing games but have yet to play Bahamut Lagoon, you should probably rectify that at your earliest convenience. It’s a grand adventure that’s just begging to be experienced at least once. It’s not Final Fantasy III or Chrono Trigger, but hey, what is? It’s brilliant in its own way and easily makes the cut as one of my top 10 favorite RPGs on the SNES. If you’ve ever wanted to summon a big ass dragon and have said beast blast a bunch of bastards to Kingdom Come, then Bahamut Lagoon is definitely right up your alley.