This lengthy, labyrinthine Legend lacks luster
The Legend of Legacy aims to capture the spirit of the turn-based JRPGs of yesteryear, modeling its aesthetic most closely off of Bravely Default. It?s got the looks, it?s got the turn-based combat, and it?s got the fantasy quest, but unfortunately, underneath that beautiful exterior lurk some serious flaws.
The game starts you off with your choice of seven characters, each of whom has a motive to go explore the mysterious island of Avalon. In theory, this means that you can play through the story seven times and see the story in seven different ways. However, in reality, your choice of character doesn?t alter the story at all beyond the first few lines of introduction. All of the characters end up chasing after the same MacGuffin, the Star Graal, and there are barely any lines of dialogue to tell their personalities apart. I?d be surprised if my chosen character, Meurs (a descendant of an ancient clan of Elementalists with the ability to communicate with spirits), said more than twenty sentences in the entire forty-ish hours I played.
If you want to see more than one character, don?t worry?you?ll have a party of three throughout the game. Immediately after picking your main character, you?ll get two more to balance out your group, arranged so that you?ll have one character good at attacking, one good at guarding (blocking/tanking), and one good at support (healing). They?re introduced with all the subtlety of a party meeting in a tavern in a bad Dungeons & Dragons adventure: in Meurs?s intro, all three of them are on the same wagon to Avalon. The short dialogue in this initial opening scene is most of what you?ll hear from them in the entire game, so if you want to know about their characters, pay attention. At least they have nice character designs?
The remaining four characters can be found wandering around town shortly after the introduction, and can be swapped out for anyone except your main character. One problem, though?if you don?t use the other characters, they?ll fall far behind the rest of the active party. There?s no overall character level like most RPGs, but characters do learn more skills and gain more HP as you use them. I switched in the frog-like Prince Filmia for amnesiac Bianca fairly early on, and Filmia constantly lagged behind the other two for the rest of the game. Your best bet for a strong party is to pick a trio of characters you enjoy as soon as possible, mooch any good gear off of everyone else, and never swap out again.
Gameplay begins when your team sets off to map the island of Avalon. Each area is essentially a grid of maze-like paths, seen from a top-down perspective. At the start of each map, everything is covered in fog. As you move, the fog lifts, and your map fills in on the lower screen. A counter in the corner tells you what percentage of each map you?ve filled in, encouraging exploration into all those little nooks and crannies (and often, hugging the walls to make sure you can count cleared fog from the edges of the map into your total). Each exit path from the map leads into a new map, where the process repeats. Once you?ve totally explored an area, you can sell your map back in town, and other NPCs will start to wander around the area. It?s a pretty cool way to encourage exploration, and the locations are unique, eventually including things like a boiling sea and a graveyard of sunken ships.
Also present in each area are the elementals, tiny spirits/motes of light aligned with elements. All four of the elements?Water, Air, Fire, and Shadow?are usually present in every area, though their balance will change depending on the environment (more water ones will be present near a lake, for example) and what you do. Over time, you?ll collect the Singing Shards, which allow you to form a contract with the elementals. Activating them at certain ruins found dotted around the maps will cause some sort of area effect, like freezing water so you can walk across it or creating air ?elevators? to carry you to a new part of the map, and will increase the number of those elementals in the area.
So the game?s all a pleasant stroll across Avalon, right? Well, no. There are monsters running around everywhere, aligned with the Shadow elementals. If they spot you, they?ll chase you down. Unfortunately, this is where the really annoying part of the game sets in: the combat.
From the monsters? appearance on the overworld, it?s impossible to tell what kind of fight you?ll be getting into. One shadow blob could be a single enemy that goes down in one hit, or it could be a party-stomping team of eight powerful enemies that wipe out your entire crew on the first turn. Most often, it?ll be a group of three-to-five enemies that knock your health down, take five to ten minutes to defeat, and still have a decent chance of killing you and sending you all the way back to the start of the very first map of the area?a penalty you?ll also receive if you choose to run from battle. Given the frequency of encounters, this means that for every couple of steps you take in the overworld, just trying to fill in your map, all your exploration will come to a complete halt for decent chunks of time, and there?s a very real chance that you?ll be sent back several maps to the beginning of the area. It is possible, if difficult, to avoid the enemies, but they?ll chase you until you enter the next area. Since new, randomized sets of enemies respawn every time you enter an area, regardless of whether you?ve cleared it already or not, this means that everywhere you go you?ll either be desperately dodging shadowy shapes or resigning yourself to a dozen rounds of combat (and a dozen brushes with death) before you get to your destination.
So, the enemies are tough, but surely you can just level grind up a bit to beat them, right? Well, no, not exactly. Unlike most RPGs, The Legend of Legacy doesn?t give experience or have skills that level up linearly. Instead, all character progress, including passive stats like the power of attacks, skills (basic attacks) that can be used in combat, and the spells that your character has memorized are unlocked or leveled up seemingly at random. Though character progress of any sort seems to have a higher chance of happening when fighting a tough enemy like a boss, there?s no way to guarantee that anything will actually happen. There?s no consistency to it; I?ve unlocked a combat skill during a boss battle, died, and tried the battle again with the exact same combat strategy, but not unlocked that move again until ten hours later in a completely unrelated battle. Your characters will also automatically use the new move when they unlock it. This works all right for weapon-based skills, since the new move is (probably) a similar kind of attack, but it?s incredibly annoying with spells. I?ve lost more than a few fights when I tried to summon a shield at a crucial moment, only for Meurs to decide that it?s the perfect moment to learn and cast Lullaby instead. Great, there goes the party.
That said, you do have a bit of control over your characters? battle stats. On each turn, you can assign each member of your party a stance?Attack, Guard, or Support?and if the combat skill you use that turn gains a level, it will correlate to the stance. For example, repeatedly using Slice, a sword move, in the Attack stance will eventually level up the power of that move?s attack, and using Block with a shield in the Guard stance will increase Block?s guard. However, this has the same problem that switching out members of your party does, namely that whatever you?ve been using is always going to be stronger than trying out something new. If you always put characters in the same stances and use the same moves over and over, then those starting moves will be more powerful than skills you learn in the late-game. When many of the fights are already so difficult and dying or running away carries such a heavy penalty, there?s not much incentive to experiment.
And that?s the main problem with the combat: doing the same thing over and over just gets boring. Thankfully, there?s an option to skip through battles at 2x the speed, but even with that they last for ages. There?s not much of a middle ground?either you?re holding down the A button to fast-forward an easy fight, essentially watching a movie of swing and miss and swing and hit and just waiting for it to be over, or you?re fighting desperately for your life and losing half the time. It?s even worse when you?re trying to travel through areas you?ve already explored and still have to stop every few seconds to fight. I found myself longing for something like the repels from Pokémon.
Sadly, there?s little else to The Legend of Legacy beyond the exploration and lackluster combat. There?s only one area that isn?t one of the maze-like maps, and that?s the town of Initium. With exactly five points of interest, it?s pretty lacking in features. The King who originally hired you to explore Avalon lives there, and he?ll occasionally give you money. The port lets you hire a ship, which brings you random items depending on how many hours have passed and how many people you?ve StreetPassed with. There?s a shop that?s fairly standard, though half the time the ship?s random loot is better than the shop?s selection, and a useless bar where the barkeep invites you to take a seat, despite your character not being able to sit. Finally, there?s the inn, which contains a staircase you can?t go up, a doorway you can?t walk through, and the most important thing in the entire town, if not the entire game: your one and only save point.
Yes, you heard me right. In a game all about exploration and how far away you can get from Initium, with no fast travel, with death around every corner, there?s no permanent way to save your game unless you trek all the way back to town. Given how quickly the game can throw you into an unwinnable random encounter and how many random encounters you could have in the ten minutes it takes to walk to town and back, this game would be nigh-impossible to beat if not for a saving grace in the form of the quick save feature. Once I found the quick save, I was saving the game after every minute of exploring and after every fight. I don?t know how many hours of progress I would have lost without it; I?d already had to re-do several hours of play just from the first two areas before I found the quick save buried in the menu. Since it serves almost the same purpose as a normal save (the only difference being that it doesn?t save to an actual file, and must be selected from the ?continue? option on the menu each time), I don?t see why The Legend of Legacy didn?t take that extra step and let you permanently save wherever you want instead of forcing players to backtrack to the single ?real? save point in the inn.
The Legend of Legacy looks pretty and sounds beautiful, but it?s aesthetic and appeal to classic JRPG nostalgia aren?t enough to make up for the frustrating gameplay. Let me run away from fights without resetting everything; let me fast travel to maps I?ve already cleared; let me save the game wherever I want; give me some way to consistently get stronger so that I don?t have to worry about dying so much. Yes, I?m asking for level grinding, and that?s something I never thought I?d say. The Legend of Legacy has a reputation for being difficult, but it?s not difficult in a good way. This isn?t a challenge that?s winnable by putting in the work and gaining the skill, but a struggle against the randomness, where the only chance of victory lies in re-treading the same path until it works and quick save abuse.
|Developer: FuRyu ? Publisher: Atlus ? ESRB: E10+ ? Release Date: 10.13.2015|
The Legend of Legacy has nice character designs, beautiful backgrounds, good music, and some inventive mechanics. Unfortunately, the actual gameplay is repetitive and extremely shallow, the combat system is a slog with little character progression, and simple tasks like saving the game and walking from place to place are needlessly tedious. Without a good story or developed world to keep it interesting and no real way to improve your skills, there?s no reason to fight through to the end.
|The Good||The Legend of Legacy?s aesthetic pays homage to classic JRPGs, and it boasts a good soundtrack and some visually stunning levels.|
|The Bad||For a game that?s mostly spent in combat, the combat system feels like an unavoidable chore. With no controllable character progression, winning relies more on luck than on skill.|
|The Ugly||Mechanics like backtracking in order to save and deaths sending you all the way to the beginning of a map will have you retreading the same ground over, and over, and over.|
|The Legend of Legacy is available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS. Review code was provided by Atlus USA for the benefit of this review.|