Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: October 13, 2015
The Legend of Legacy has been on my radar since its initial announcement in Japan, due to its star-power. As I“ve mentioned many times before: this game“s development team mostly consists of folks formerly from Square-Enix and Level-5. Any decent amount of digging will lead to names most RPG fans know and love... like Chrono Trigger writer Masato Kato, for example. I had every reason in the world to be excited for this game, especially as one of the people who enjoyed the earlier SaGa games (titled in America as the â€œFinal Fantasy Legendâ€ series). I had hoped The Legend of Legacy, marketed as a spiritual successor to the SaGa franchise, would bring the series to the modern era and welcome newcomers in the same way that something like Bravely Default: Flying Fairy did last year.
I“ll start by detailing the game“s story and presentation, since a lot of what I wrote during E3 2015 about the game still feels fresh in my mind. You“re given seven characters to choose from upon first starting your adventure. ATLUS have released
Rather than focus on bonds between characters, there is a strong emphasis on the game“s world itself. Each major arc in the story comes with a few cryptic rhymes about god-people and the beings that created the world, and there are many more poems riddled everywhere you find magic spells in the game. I“m truly pressed to come up with reasons to experience the game as the other characters I didn“t choose, since there was so little dialogue between them in the forty hours I spent with the game.
The visuals and soundtrack do a good job of carrying the premise I outlined earlier, making the game look and sound appealing to new and old RPG fans alike. As mentioned before, the game“s dungeons unfold before you as you chart the map. Environments genuinely felt diverse enough to keep my interest. You“ll explore areas that embody water, wind, fire and shadow. And there“s something to be said for the way the game“s music sometimes takes extra steps to enhance players“ immersion -- like not transitioning to the usual battle music when you“re in a high-pressure situation, and instead sticking with the music that“s already playing both during and outside of combat. If you“re willing to approach the plot differently than most RPGs and enjoy the idea of exploring lots of different environments, I“d say this experience might be something you“d enjoy.
For all the ways the game“s presentation tries to modernize things and appeal to you, though: the gameplay of Legend of Legacy will only leave a small handful of people truly satisfied. FuRyu did very little to modernize traditional SaGa gameplay -- if anything, they made already brutal aspects of games from the past even worse. To start off on a positive note -- the game“s Formation system is intuitive, and mastering it will lead to less headaches during battles. To explain how this works: each character can assume the role of an attacker, defender, or supporter. Your defender will become capable of shielding allies from almost any attack very early on, allowing your supporter to heal and attacker to handle themselves properly. You can create your own Formation and mix and match the game“s full cast of seven to your liking to suit any combat situation.
Most RPGs award combatants with experience points and feature a battle system that has characters level up to become stronger. The Legend of Legacy is exactly like the SaGa games, insofar as its battle system doesn“t work that way at all. Characters“ stats increase randomly. Theoretically, you could fight 10 different battles and not even be awarded money or items for your time spent. The game wants you to face stronger opponents -- thus increasing your chances of stat gains based on the weapons and attacks you use. Stats are also awarded based on the Formations your characters assume in battle. But again: character growth is random, which makes tracking your progress difficult. This method of developing party members also discourages the use of other playable characters who join your quest. This type of gameplay only appeals to a small niche of people who don“t mind an incredibly long grind, unless steps are taken to make the process more respectful of players“ time and efforts.
Unfortunately, The Legend of Legacy takes steps to be even more difficult, rather than alleviate the grind. Anyone familiar with RPGs knows how to run away from battles. In The Legend of Legacy, if you run away from a battle because a foe is too strong for you, you“re sent back to the beginning of the entire dungeon you“re in. It doesn“t matter how far you“ve explored -- nope, back to the start. And all the foes you“ve killed along the way have regenerated, so you“ll need to fight them all again to proceed -- or avoid them. I“d be willing to let this aspect of the game go, because it lets you auto-save whenever you like to avoid being sent too far back for your liking. Goodness knows I“ve used the L+R+start soft reset feature of the game hundreds of times to reload my last quick-save.
There are several areas in the game that have super-strong foes you“re obviously not capable of defeating during your initial exploration of the area. An example of one of these foes is a big, hulking bird seen in the game“s Roaring Valley area. Upon arrival, your character makes note, â€œThat bird looks pretty formidable. We should avoid it.â€ Rather than appear as typical foes do on the map, these giant birds are shadows you have to avoid. If you happen to run into the shadow and initiate an encounter, you“re forced to either run away or die with dignity. I can“t explain how frustrating it is to be in the middle of exploring an area, trying to chart 100% of an area“s map, only to accidentally run into one of these formidable foes and be forced to restart. I could only slightly alleviate this by choosing to save after every single battle I ever fought, in case the game throws something else at me too difficult for my liking. It“s unwelcoming at best, and absolutely cumbersome at worst.
The Legend of Legacy wants so badly to be a game built on exploration and world-building like Xenoblade Chronicles or the Golden Sun series. But the rewards for fully exploring an area aren“t worth it (you“re just given money, and more adventurers journey to the map so you“re able to be saved after dying instead of being sent back to the title screen), and the map-charting aspect of the game often feels like a tool that was just included to give you something to accomplish while grinding.
I wanted this experience to feel welcoming and bring a gameplay style that makes me nostalgic to the modern era. The Legend of Legacy feels stuck in the past, though. If you“re a seasoned RPG veteran who thrives on grinding and doesn“t mind the very 1991 philosophy of facing immensely stronger foes gradually (until you“re stronger yourself) I“d say this game is worth looking into. I“m hesitant to recommend this experience to everyone, though. While it feels like some of the concepts presented here could be refined and modernized to create an experience that feels refreshing, I can only describe what I played as antiquated. Even with its awesome pedigree, it feels more stubborn and stratified in the past than fun for everyone.
+ The pop-up visuals are charming and help make the game feel like an unfolding story
+ Appropriate polish has been given to music, environments, and enemies -- everything about how this game is presented feels modern.
- The gameplay is truly antiquated, and will probably turn away newcomers with its difficulty and pacing.
- A game that markets itself on choosing from seven characters and experiencing its plot with multiple perspectives... has very little character development, and is focused more on the world at large.
Overall Score: 6 (out of 10)
The Legend of Legacy has a fully fleshed out world to explore, but its difficulty will only appeal to grizzled RPG veterans.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable 3DS code provided by the publisher.