Wachenroder is the name of one of the last strategy role-playing games released in Japan for Sega Saturn. This game created a new universe called "steam punk" -- an anachronistic brother of the well known "cyberpunk" based in a suburban and desolated future world, where high technology revolves around the use of old steam engines. Prepare to discover one of the most original videogames ever seen, chock full of beautiful visuals and fun gameplay.
This game makes use of an interface made of detailed 3D backgrounds and 2D characters (this kind of 2D/3D graphic engine has already been used brilliantly in games like Grandia and Shining Force III). The only part which makes use of an extensive polygon engine is when doing special attacks in battles. The story consists in several 2D scenes with speech between characters. The graphics, however, are sometimes a bit lacking (especially during the super attacks) and aren't as polished as those seen in masterpieces like Grandia. Thankfully the CG sequences are really great: They consist of a revolutionary combination of real city models (the same technique used in Star Wars), figurines and CG graphics. It's all very smooth and beautiful.
The music is a great surprise and an example of the Saturn's Yamaha chip quality. You'll find plenty of clean and inspired instrumental themes. One step further in the terrain of ambient music. Voices are as good as the music. In fact, every word in this game is spoken (except dialog in battles), it's all very well done. Sound effects include a typical mixture of hit effects (guns, swords, etc ...).
Despite the fact that there are so many strategy/RPGs already on the market, the game's innovation and fresh twists should make any strategy fan happy. First, each team goes at the same time -- you go first then your opponents. Second, every character makes actions limited by numeric action points called AP. Of course, AP needed for actions vary depending the character: A strong character can attack with less AP than a weak one, and a faster character can move with less AP than a slower one. Third, you have three types of attack: Normal (average damage, minimal AP), Steam Barrage (big damage, big amount of AP) and Super Steam Barrage (great damage, lots of AP).
This game is also more linear than Shining Force III, the only controlled part is shopping (where you can buy items to equip) and battles. The story advances with a succession of 2D scenes and dialog that will require an extensive understanding of Japanese to appreciate.
Finally, the most amazing thing in this game is the very high quality of the art: Character Design is done by the famous Range Murata and Mechanical Designs are the work of Takayuki Takeya. You will be easily immersed in the dark, surrealist and wonderful world of Wachenroder.