Masaya is a studio that is closely associated with the strategy RPG series Langrisser, a franchise which went head-to-head with Nintendo's Fire Emblem in the '90s. However, the company – via Career Soft, one of its internal teams – had been dabbling in this genre for some time before that, releasing Elthlead (PC-8801, MSX2), Gaia no Monshou (PC-8801, PC Engine) and Gaiflame (PC Engine). Indeed, it would continue to explore this style of game even after Langrisser (Warsong in the west) had achieved critical and commercial notoriety, via the 1992 Mega Drive release Vixen 357.
With Langrisser currently undergoing something of a renaissance, there's a pleasing sense of synchronicity to the fact that this mech-based epic is also going to get a second chance in 2019. Super Fighter Team – the same company that has revived forgotten gems like Beggar Prince, Star Odyssey and Nightmare Busters – has announced that it will be releasing Vixen 357 in the west for the first time ever.
"I investigated Vixen 357 because the Sega Genesis community always has great things to say about the Japanese original, giving it high marks and praise," Super Fighter Team's Brandon Cobb tells us. "What I found was a charming cast of characters, a delightful soundtrack and a story I could get into. The more scenarios I played through, the more I thought that perhaps I shouldn't have shrugged off strategy RPGs all these years, in favour of the more traditional titles. Since my mind was changed about an entire genre after an experience with Vixen 357, I knew it would make a great new product for us."
While the Langrisser revival might seem like a spot of excellent planning, Cobb insists that one thing had nothing to do with the other. "The timing was literally just me deciding, 'Feels like a good time for us to publish this.' I had no idea anything new was going on with Langrisser until well after we already had the contract."
Super Fighter Team's forte is taking existing Japanese games and preparing them for western release while digging deep into the code to fix bugs and generally optimise and improve things. However, with Vixen 357, Cobb's admits there was less work to do. "This game was actually done up pretty tight by the initial developers, compared to our previous RPG endeavours. I didn't personally feel we needed to rebalance the difficulty, augment the personalities of the characters [or] 'enhance' the storyline."
Therefore, the effort was focused on making sure that the localisation was faithful to the Japanese original. "Translation and script editing for this kind of game is always intensive," Cobb explains. "The goal is to get everything sounding natively English without disrespecting the source material. That's what we've done here, to great effect: preserving the story, character attitudes and emotions, and the overall tone, without having to sacrifice any of the quality content or vision of the Japanese writers."
As before, Super Fighter Team will be releasing Vixen 357 on a physical cartridge for Sega's 16-bit system. Given that many people reading this text right now won't have access to this vintage hardware, does Cobb have any plans to make the game available elsewhere, such as on the Switch eShop? "We're in this business to provide new games for classic systems," he replies. "That is our passion. If it were about the money, we'd exploit the digital download market for sure. But we don't have any interest in supporting modern-day machines, nor for the 'faux-retro' market that's sprung up in recent years. Call it what you will: eccentric, purist... we call it devotion."