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Legend of Legaia (PlayStation)

71
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Kyle Levesque (329)
Written on  :  Jan 29, 2011
Rating  :  3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars

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Summary

It's got heart, mediocrity, gambling, and fishing.

The Good

This wasn't my first J-RPG, I'd played FF7, Secret of Mana, etc. But it was the first RPG I played that captured my imagination. What I meant by that (before you get upset) is that Legaia engaged me on my mental level at the time. Final Fantasy 7 was a grandiose experience, but it also knew very well what it was and demanded that you take it seriously. Legaia was plain, honest, simple, archetypal, and very similar to what you'd see on YTV at the time. It also did a lot of things very well.

Well, let's get started!

LET'S TALK GAME-PLAY
  • I've never felt such a rush in RPG random encounters as I did in this game in the first 4 or 5 hours - it is a lot of fun to punch in the combo's of kicks and punches - hoping that they will unlock a new technique.
  • The bosses are great, especially the mino-centaur (bull headed horse bodied man torso'd guy) and the tactics needed to beat them are often insightful. Having your three fighters bum-rush a boss will often see your three characters get slaughtered by an area-of-effect attack.
  • The controls are fine, simple, but fine.
  • The quest (story) path that you are to take is usually very straight-forward, and the side-paths are all fun.
  • Many mini-games! If you've read my other reviews you know I expect a level of mini-game competency in J-RPG's. This game was obviously influenced by the line-up of mini-games from Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy (7) - you have a casino, an arcade style fighting game, a great fishing game, and a fighting tournament.
  • Visible inventory/armour/weapons were a great thing to see back in 98.
  • Just the right length at about 60 hours with frills.
LET'S TALK STORY/ATMOSPHERE

You'll notice I include Atmosphere for this game, and let me tell you why: This game coined an honest, believable setting that stuck with me. The story was typical, but the setting is what was special.
  • The three main (and only PC) characters each have a period of individual development prior to coming into the party - this gives really good exposition and insight into their own respective goals.
  • This game thrives on neutrality and nature themes. The spell-casting here is handled by taming, training, and summoning "Seru", naturally occurring elemental types. Equipping them allows you to use different spells, and through summoning they level up. This was before FF8. I like that.
  • The main plot is light, but it also has mature moments where characters die or are in mortal peril. It balances the themes of darkness and light well. The best description is Disney-esque, but from before that was a bad thing (your father gets taken out of action immediately, that's usually a promising sign).
  • The romance within the game is cute, light-hearted, and I thank Moradin that the localization (language change between Japanese and English) came out as well as it did. Read my review of Haunting Ground to see what can happen with Japanese romance not translating. Here it is humorous, light-hearted, and sometimes genuinely funny - especially when Noa (raised by wolves) creates awkward situations with boys by being ignorant of cultural norms.
LET'S TALK GRAPHICS
  • The art designer for this game captured a style I really like. There are vines, and bulbous plants, and windmills, it captures the essence of the fantasy J-RPG so well without over-stating it.
  • Everything is 3D, and while that can be a draw-back (I'm always one to argue for pre-rendered backgrounds), it really does stream-line the look of the game.
  • Facial expressions were well done.
  • Motion capture came across great, especially considering the range of martial arts moves involved in the battles.
LET'S TALK SOUND
  • The score fits the scenery very well, it isn't an amazing score with the likes of FF7's 'over-world' theme (both of them, for that matter), nor is it as versatile, but it hits a solid note and stays there.
  • The sound effects and voice work (yes, voice work!) are both solid. The Japanese voices were retained for the English version, but the words they are saying were in English anyway.

The Bad

LET'S TALK GAME-PLAY
  • In their wisdom the developers created an 'auto-battle' function to save you from having to manually input the attack commands for every turn. Sadly the auto-battle just isn't smart enough to use. The difficulty being that you need to conserve a spirit-based form of Mana that is expended using super attacks. The auto battle just wastes it, and you wind up taking a lot more damage than if you manually fought.
  • Battles (random encounter ones) get old after only 10 hours. The enthusiasm wears off and you really just want to get on with the story.
LET'S TALK STORY/ATMOSPHERE

  • You can tell that the writers had a lot of talent, and that they really put a lot of heart into the story, but there are sections (towns) where they got lazy. And those points can cause someone re-playing the game for nostalgia's sake to stop playing.
  • The cut-scenes are too few and far between, they were so well done, but when they happen it's damn disconcerting because you're reminded what pretty CG looks like. FF7 handled this better by incorporating their SD (super-deformed) models into some cut-scenes and saving the full figure models for cinematics.
LET'S TALK GRAPHICS
  • The graphical quality also lags in the late-middle of the game, they obviously tried to flesh out a great story with filler.
LET'S TALK SOUND
  • It deserved more gravitas in the music.


The Bottom Line

Legend of Legaia is not one of the great games on the Playstation. It isn't right next to any Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. I will say, however, that it surpasses far more hyped games like Legend of Dragoon, SaGa Frontier, or even 'rare' games like Azure Dreams. And I like SaGa and Azure Dreams, I assure you, but I know Legaia is above them. My point here is that Legaia may slip under your radar because in many ways, it is mediocre, but it relies on those strengths and RPG conventions that are tested and true. It uses the staples as a platform from which it extends, and is a better product for it. I do recommend playing this game, even now, if only for the fishing, and the tournament fights.