Banner of the Maid, originally only available in Chinese, now possesses a completed English text localization, opening up this game to plenty more players around the world. In a blend of turn-based strategy and JRPG, carve your path in the tumultuous times of an alternate universe French revolution as Pauline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon. Will your name smell like roses at the end of it all?
If I had to be picky, they could stand to choose a better font for the English localization, but this is more of a nitpick than anything else. Legibility ranks higher in my book, and the font is clear. There can be the occasional grammatical oddities, but the text is pretty easy to understand, which is vital when you need to make strategic decisions.
The music fits the setting, if nothing particularly exceptional, with its instrumentals. It is partially voiced in Chinese, with sound clips in the main story as well as on the battlefield. You can turn on the subtitles for these clips in the options, for that added flavour.
As for the characters themselves, their uniforms and outfits are naturally inspired by the military of the times. Don’t expect exceptional realism though. This is still anime France, and some cups threaten to spilleth over. There’s enough eye-candy for those who swing either way, at the very least.
Controls utilize both the keyboard and mouse to scroll the map and to select units. Nothing too complicated about it. I pretty much just relied on the mouse for every action, but you can utilize shortcuts as well. Click on the enemy unit to see their movement range, then right-click on a unit for their detailed stats and equipment. Left-click reveals even more details, while you’re there. I fumbled a little with the clicks, but that’s more on me than the game itself.
Ah, the meat of the game, of course. As mentioned, Banner of the Maid has elements of RPG, leaning more on the tactics side. It’s extremely easy to draw comparisons to Fire Emblem, with it also being a tactics strategy game with anime characters, except in completely fictional lands. Choose from three difficulty settings: Story, Officer and General. I personally prefer the Officer mode, as it gives a level of challenge and makes the various systems in the game more worthwhile to play around, while still having enough of leeway for mistakes. Of course, if you prefer something harder or easier, the option is available to you, which is always nice.
Weapons and items have their durability in this game. Weapon durability/charges will restore at the end of every battle, but items will not. So be sure to hold on to that bread! You can have up to three items in your inventory, which is quite limiting for choice to start with, but items do automatically go to the convoy-equivalent if you don’t have space. Characters can equip one accessory, which take a separate slot. These items will confer additional stats. There are permanent stat boosters, but they can’t be used at base, which really just encourages my hoarding tendencies even further.
The different classes in the game pretty much work like the FE weapon triangle, with some class innate traits. The Heavy Cavalry, for example, deals more damage the further distance they’ve travelled. At level 15, a unit can obtain their first promotion. It’s quite a lengthy process to get there, when stat distribution on level up seems random (so god help you if the unit you’re trying to grow is bad), and you get roughly 20 XP (out of 100 for a base class – any extra carries over fortunately) on defeating a unit. Special class quests can also open up, for a different route.
At 100% Morale, a Heroic Attack option will open up. It enables units to deal 1.2x more damage, or heal that much more. On use, it also provides +10 XP as a bonus. The first support class you get, the Military Band, can either heal or boost Morale, and also can’t attack. They also have charges to their songs, and only gain XP from using them. They’re not very fun to try to level, I know.
Campfires may be available on maps, which can heal 10HP for every unit around it (max 4). However, this is where the weather comes into play. The earliest one you encounter, Rain, douses fire as you might expect, so the campfires can’t be utilized. Weather can also affect the uses of your weapons, so there’s a lot of room for error. There will also be status effects, like Uncontrollable (unit cannot be commanded). Shops gradually start opening up from chapter 4 onwards, so you get the idea you’re in for the long haul war.
That’s not even mentioning the whole Faction system within the game. Dialogue options in the game give you the chance to increase rapport with certain factions, and you’d want to be friends with them to get some good stuff. But wait, there’s more! The game also has side quests, and being friendly with a faction can provide more opportunities.
All in all, Banner of the Maid has plenty of depth to its systems – if you haven’t gathered from the massive run through in the Gameplay section – slowly introduced to you as you progress through the story. Fans of strategy games are most certainly recommended to pick it up, especially if you want something to tide you over to the next main line Fire Emblem game.