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Dept. Heaven | Yggdra Union

Dept. Heaven resource post series, part 3! This is about Episode II in the series, Yggdra Union.

The masterpost can be found here!

Warning: This post is image-heavy.

Yggdra Union is Episode II of Dept. Heaven. It was first released on the GBA in 2006, and then remade for the PSP in 2008. The art was handled primarily by Kiyudzuki Satoko, with Tobe Sunaho returning to design the card artwork. The PSP version features voice acting for all major scenes, extra characters, and extra maps that expand the game’s worldbuilding.

The Story

The year is 1490.

On the mortal world of Ancardia, there was a continent home to a number of countries. The most powerful among them was a kingdom called Fantasinia, which had been ruled for ages by wise and great sovereigns. Fantasinia enjoyed a golden age under its 31st monarch, King Ordene, but it was not to last. Three years ago, the country of Bronquia—an empire to the northwest—had undergone a coup d’état, and its youthful new emperor Gulcasa had since reformed his decaying country into a strong military state.

One day, Gulcasa led his army in a blitzkrieg attack against Fantasinia. The kingdom’s mighty cavalry was no match for the Imperial Army’s strength and skill, and very quickly even the kingdom’s capital city had fallen, the king slain in battle. In the midst of the chaos, Princess Yggdra—the only survivor of the royal family—escaped the country with her father’s great sword in hand.

Fleeing to the south of the continent, Yggdra discovers allies and forms a new Royal Army. She mobilizes her troops and begins a long campaign north to liberate her country, swearing to avenge her parents on her sword the Gran Centurio, a national symbol of justice.

Along the way, Yggdra will get a crash course in everything from tactics to social justice to what makes a good ruler, and will have to question a lot of things she’s always taken for granted.

If Riviera is a story about learning to stand up to authority for your own personal morals—then Yggdra Union is a story about humanity’s shortcomings and our individual struggle to overcome them, a story about how we have an awful habit of killing our own saviors. It’s a story about making mistakes, and then picking yourself up and learning from them.

The Royal Army

Yggdra Yuril Artwaltz is the protagonist, the princess of Fantasinia and the sole survivor of the royal family. Due to her sheltered upbringing she’s sometimes a bit naïve, but she’s also extremely strong-willed and generally well-meaning. Has a very gung-ho, go-getter attitude and an aversion to sitting on her hands. Loves strawberries and her people, hates mushrooms and the Imperial Army.

Milanor is Yggdra’s sidekick, and occasionally takes up the mantle of player character when the need arises. A generally good-natured everydude. Uncultured, moderately anti-authoritarian, snarky, and has a bad case of sticky fingers. Possesses a loyal following of thieves. Has no understanding whatsoever of girls his own age.

Durant is a surviving royal knight who takes up the position of Yggdra’s tactical adviser. Takes both knighthood and his duty to support Yggdra very seriously. Very polite. He usually heads the optional tutorials, and explains the local geography and politics to whoever isn’t familiar with them. Likes pomp and decorum, hates Leon.

Kylier is Milanor’s childhood friend, a member of a minority race. She has strong opinions and is going to tell you them, and if somebody needs calling out she’s usually the one to do it. Loves griffons, the fancy clothes she has few chances to wear, and also Milanor, which is blatantly obvious to everyone but Milanor himself. Doesn’t think very much of Yggdra.

The Imperial Army

Gulcasa is the emperor of Bronquia and the killer of Yggdra’s parents. He ascended the throne three years ago at age seventeen, and his citizens and soldiers all adore him. The rest of the continental world fears him as a tyrant. Passionate, reckless, and a little bit hot-tempered. Also extremely powerful. His people call him the Blazing Emperor.

Nessiah is Gulcasa’s head strategist and has an extremely close relationship with him. Fiercely intelligent, brilliant at both magic and strategy. Excruciatingly polite. That air he has of being up to no good probably isn’t your imagination. He’s called “The Prophet” for his uncanny skill at predicting the enemy’s actions.

Emilia is Gulcasa’s younger half-sister through a shared father. The youngest member of his army. She may be only fourteen years old, but just like her brother, she is extremely powerful. Loves her people, her brother, and fashion; despises ageists. Called the “Scarlet Princess”.

Leon is a good friend of Gulcasa’s as well as one of his strongest generals. He is an extremely vicious and even sadistic fighter, and despite being a knight doesn’t believe in traditional chivalry. Called the “Black Knight” for his armor and temperament. Has a little sister in a separate division.

Baldus is an old general who has served in the Imperial Army for generations, since before Gulcasa’s coup. He is a defensive strategist called “Bronquia’s Shield” and the “God of War”, and is highly respected by everyone in the army, even Gulcasa himself.

Aegina is the head of Gulcasa’s personal guard. She is called the “Phantom Valkyrie” for her ability to attack in such rapid succession it’s like she could be in two places at once. She seems to bear some kind of grudge against Fantasinia in general, and especially Yggdra.

Eudy is a court magister and ballistics researcher, and takes care of the Empire’s witches and its cannons. Has a distinctive evil laugh when she’s enjoying herself, and tends to get carried away easily. Likes pretty boys, but her cannons are the love of her life.

Zilva is the leader of the imperial assassins. She is very quiet and obedient, and also happens to be the commanding officer to Leon’s younger sister Elena, who she’s taken as an apprentice. Is better than most at detaching herself from her emotions.

The Format

Yggdra Union is an SRPG, and like most of those it’s played in battlefields.

Battlefields are turn-based rather than real-time, and consist of your moving your units around on a grid in order to attack your enemy or otherwise accomplish your objective. You only have so many squares you can move during your turn, which are shared throughout your entire army (if you have 12 squares and then move Yggdra 6 spaces, you will only have 6 squares left with which to manipulate your other units); too, you can only initiate one battle over the course of your turn. By using the Union formation system, you can get around this and fight up to five successive battles with the enemy’s formation.

How much you can move, how much damage you do to your defeated enemies, and what kinds of special moves are available to you during combat are all determined by the card you have selected. You choose one card every turn, and once you use up a card it’s gone until you’ve accomplished your objective. You lose if you run out of cards or if any characters you’re forced to deploy die.

Another interesting aspect of the game is that units’ Morale serves as their HP. You lose Morale whenever you lose a battle, but as long as you have some Morale left, you can fight as many battles as you like without the unit functioning any differently. Morale is restored in between maps by giving units items as gifts.

There are a large number of variables that can be used in your strategy, and perhaps because of that, the game feeds you new functions in bite-sized chunks: You don’t have the full system available to you until BF15, roughly a quarter of the way through. On the other hand, this means that you have a lot of freedom in how you come up with your strategies, and plenty of things to try out until you come up with something that works.

Yggdra Union is divided into chapters, and around the end of each of them you’ll get a more difficult battlefield that’s meant to test you on things you’ve learned (the weapons affinity chart, the formation system, et cetera). The game doesn’t start really playing for keeps until about BF17, though.

The PSP version introduces difficulty levels. You begin the game on Easy Mode, and must clear Easy Mode once to unlock Hard Mode (the original GBA difficulty level). Certain characters and events are only accessible in Hard Mode, but it is significantly easier to gain experience and restore Morale in Easy Mode.

And also? The GBA version and Hard Mode on the PSP will eat you alive if you make too many bad tactical decisions, so come in prepared for a challenge. If you’re really struggling, though, there’s always the Retry function—this allows you to start a BF over with all the experience you’ve gained from your last try, while making the enemies a bit weaker. (And its effect stacks.) As an incentive for being able to get through without using Retry, there are a few items late into the game that you can only get if you’ve never used it.

At the beginning and end of every battlefield, there are story events; in the PSP version these are fully voiced. As with Riviera, it’s worth your while to poke around exploring maps and talking to civilians—there are a number of sub-events and hidden items to discover, as well as hints to pick up about the mysteries behind this world.

Also like Riviera, there’s an Extra Contents section to unlock that will slowly fill with narrator’s monologues, character portraits, music, and items. This section will let you check your record for how fast you’ve completed battlefields without retries, too.

Extra Materials

Yggdra Union: The Complete Guide – Game guide and artbook for the PSP version. Contains an interview with Ito, Kiyudzuki, and Tobe that explains some character backstory that didn’t make it into the game.

Dept. Heaven World Guidance – Contains worldbuilding digest, discussion of more backstory, terms glossary, and a behind-the-scenes column with Ito.
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