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Yggdra Union: A Game By Any Other Name Would Not Be as Unique
Company: Atlus

Until now, Yggdra Union was a game trapped in its own niche. The original came out for the GBA at the tail end of 2006, and while it wasn't completely ignored, its praises were mostly sung from the darkest corners of the Internet. Apparently those praises were loud enough that Atlus decided that the game deserved a PSP remake, giving it a second chance at finding a wider audience.

To say that Yggdra Union is complicated is a massive understatement. This isn't uncommon for Strategy RPGs since the genre is sort of known for its steep learning curve, yet Yggdra does its best to work players step-by-step through its peculiar, card-driven mechanics. As you travel through the first few battles, you are introduced to the basics of combat, slowly layering on new mechanics and strategies as each battle passes. You may not be an expert by the end of the tutorials, though you'll have enough of an idea about how to play.

The first major hurdle is getting a knack for the card-based system that dictates conditions for each turn. The battlefield is broken up into a limited number of squares and the movement number at the bottom of the card tells you how many points you have to divvy up between your army. How you move your troops requires some thought; you are only given one attack phase per turn and troop formations on the battlefield are incredibly important to how a battle will play out. Troops diagonally adjacent (an "X" Formation) to a male unit can participate in a battle, while troops directly adjacent (a "+" Formation) to a female unit can participate. When used effectively, you can get all your units in your one attack phase.

Each card also has an affinity to a weapon, laying on a little more depth to battles. If a card says "All", then anyone can take the lead, or "Ace", role in a battle. However, if the card shows an axe, then an axe-wielding unit must take the lead. Weapons share a "paper-rock-scissors" relationship. Swords can beat axes; axes beat lances; and lances beat swords. Eventually, rods and bows are tossed into the mix, offering another thing to consider before charging into battle.

The relationship between weapons doesn't completely determine who will win, but it is a major influence. During battle, you can order your troops to take an aggressive or passive stance, which can sometimes give even a weapon on the "weak" end of the relationship a little extra advantage. Some weapons, like bows, have special traits depending on how they are used in battle. For instance, bows are weak against everything when used on defense, but powerful on offense. The turn's governing card also gives you a special skill to use in battle if you can fill a small meter at the top of the screen. The catch is that this meter also fills or depletes based on how passively or aggressively you approach a battle.

Yggdra Union tosses out the concept of hit points and replaces them with morale. Individual battles are fought on a side-by-side screen similar to Advance Wars. The size of the army on each side of the screen gives a reasonably good idea of each army's health, though it can sometimes be tough to tell who is winning. Troop numbers are refreshed each turn, giving you even more reason to use formations. Even if one of your units is defeated, another can swoop in and destroy what's left of the victor. After the battle, the losing unit takes a hit to their morale number and once it hits zero, they disappear from the battlefield.

If there's any one area where Yggdra really stands out, it's presentation. Units are full of details and have a great sense of personality. The colors are bright and rich and, even though battles aren't much more than a few looping animations, they are fun to watch. Sound doesn't stand out quite as much but does its part. Plus, purists will be happy to know that the Japanese voice track is included alongside the English one.

Yggdra Union is a strategy game as unique as its name. Based on the first few chapters, it is a fun game and worth keeping an eye on.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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