The Eye of Judgement: Legends is a card game for the PlayStation Portable and although it was originally released on the PlayStation 3, employing the EyeToy peripheral in order to bring its beastly creatures to life, this portable take on the card game is a much more humble experience. Despite that, Sony's Japan Studio has still packed plenty of punch in this adventure that will have players putting their noggins to more use than the average portable game.
In Legends, the world has been torn asunder and chaos wrought to the lands of fire, earth, wood and water thanks to the invading Biolith army and their leader, Lord Scion who, for a reason that isn't very clearly defined in the game, has a hankering to destroy everything in his path. In order to bring the world out of the darkness cast by the Bioliths, a Chosen Wizard is sent forth by the gods to cleanse the lands. Players take control of said wizard, challenging many foes of varying elements as they progress through the game's story mode.
The story leaves much to be desired with a misfit cast of characters and lines that sometimes don't even make sense. It makes the story more of an instrument to simply battle an AI enemy instead of hooking players in with an interesting plot. Moreover, the story is overly mundane and cliche to the point that it becomes a bit difficult to take seriously. There are times when the plot can get climactic, but these instances are few and short-lived.
Where the game truly shines though, is in its gameplay. Most of the game will have players on a 3-by-3 grid, duking it out with whoever gets in the way of them saving the world. Cards are categorized according to their elements: fire, earth, wood and water. To keep things balanced, each element has their own strengths and weaknesses: fire is weak against water and wood against earth. Each grid itself has their own designated element and matching these can yield bonus stats like hit points and increased attack power. Strategizing and using these factors to the advantage is a very important tactic to victory. However, the game is just as much about chance as it is about strategy. Players start off a duel by drawing their hand and are given the choice to mulligan, or draw again, should the cards not be satisfactory. However, much like card games in real life, drawing cards is done at random and players will have to make do with what's available, making strategizing all the more gripping.
Actions in the game cost mana, which is drawn at the start of every turn when a card is sent to the graveyard or if the player uses certain spell cards. These actions include rotating cards, attacking, summoning and casting spells. Depending on player judgement, duels can also last surprisingly long before a victor is decided. The game features a deck builder as well, allowing players to build and customize their own decks to suit their preferences. Cards can be earned by defeating enemies or by purchasing them from the card shop. What's interesting is that having a deck filled to the brim with strong cards isn't always the best course of action as most of these cost a lot of mana to activate. Weaker cards that cost less can be of more use simply by taking advantage of the elements or used in conjunction with other cards on the playing field.
While the basic gameplay itself is pretty easy to grasp, the whole concept of the cards and their various properties and effects that may or may not occur simply overcomplicate things, making strategizing and planning out the next move a lot more brain-numbing than it should be. A whole string of effects can take place within a single turn and most of the time it's just simpler to ignore the fact as to why they even arise and just pay attention to the remaining hit points and attack power of the cards.
Aside from the story campaign, the game also features a Battle Arena mode where players can challenge foes they've defeated in the story. The duels here are noticeably more challenging with enemies seemingly always drawing really good cards. Players can also hook up with others through either Ad-Hoc or Infrastructure mode. For those that have either completed or just aren't interested in the story, these modes offer other avenues to duel with either AI opponents or players from around the world.
Much of the story is delivered through an illustrated style and graphic novel-like animations. Character portraits are charming and backdrops quite scenic. However, while there is an impressive library of cards to gain and purchase, the card illustrations aren't as detailed and are noticeably pixelated at larger scales. The in-game graphics are relatively decent, but more detailed card models would definitely be welcomed considering the undeniably stunted scale of the game. There isn't any form of voice acting either and every piece of dialogue is presented to players through text and there is certainly plenty of text to read through. Players may find this to be either a god-send or an aspect that the game is regrettably bereft of as most of the script is of the cheesy variety, making any sort of voiceover potentially vexing. On the bright side, the soundtrack is excellent with the battle theme being especially powerful in delivering the tension as duels become more intense.
The Eye of Judgement: Legends is certainly a game targeted at a very specific gaming audience. Those familiar with card games will feel right at home with what the game has to offer, however those looking for another exciting portable adventure may have to search elsewhere as the game is slowly paced and heavy on strategy and chance. Duels can last for a surprisingly long period of time and the various effects of different cards can overcomplicate things. Even so, players that put in the effort to understand the underlying concept of the game will surely be rewarded as victory is a very prized treasure in each and every challenge.