For those who have followed NIS America's prior releases, you're probably already aware that the publisher caters to a specific segment of the Japanese RPG market. While the publisher is most known for their long-running Disgaea series, they're also known for another smaller series: ClaDun. Developed by System Prisma, the series mixed JRPG concepts with a toned-down version of the normally hard-as-nails rougelike genre. After two outings on the Sony PSP, the developer has created a new spin-off title of sorts with the PS3 release of Legasista. Fans of ClaDun will likely pick this up, but what about those who haven't?
Legasista's world is a place where the populace has grown to fear any sort of technology as the advancements in AI and the explosive growth of magic nearly decimated the human race. Almost 1000 years after those events, the player is introduced to a man named Alto who ventures to one of the forgotten towers, Ivy Tower, in an attempt to turn back his sister into a human after being transformed into a crystal by unsealing some ancient technology buried in its depths.
After exploring around he comes across a female robot who is about to kill him in return for restoring his sister until she suddenly breaks down. This starts a chain of events where Alto must travel through the tower's many labyrinths to recover data chips which will restore the robot's memory. Sadly, pretty much after this point the story takes a backseat to the gameplay. However, it is a nice diversion from the repetitive nature of the genre and does serve its purpose even if it's largely forgettable.
If you've played either of the ClaDun games, Legasista will feel extremely familiar to you. It's essentially the HD progression of those titles as it continues on the dungeon crawling aspect both of those titles were known for. After customizing your party members and putting together a three-person team in the game's main hub, the Railyard, you'll enter a new section of the Ivy Tower which is composed of various zones which are comprised of multiple sub-zones, some of which feature multiple floors. Inside each of these dungeons you'll be evading (or attacking) enemies, avoiding traps and flipping switches in your search for the all-elusive exit.
Like other rougelikes, Legasista's combat takes place on a 2D-plane. All attacks are tied to a single button, but almost all of the enemies will deflect your attacks unless you hit them in the correct dungeon and will severely impact your health if you don't use caution. There's also a number of spells available at yout disposal, which varies per character, so planning ahead the proper team is a must when venturing into the dungeons. Thankfully it's pretty easy to switch between each of the three characters with a simple flick of the right analog stick.Par for the genre, Legasista's dungeons provide weapon and armor upgrade in the form of loot hidden in treasures inside each dungeon. Unlike some other games in the genre, only items and weapons can be picked up and immediately used inside the dungeons with armor being only usable if you successfully manage to exit the dungeon alive. Items are only usable inside the dungeon, but you can use weapons at the risk of losing them if their durability runs out before you can get to the exit. It provides a great risk/reward system as the player has to balance whether which choice is more important by thinking ahead. And even if you make the wrong decision and die inside the dungeon, the game still lets you keep the levels you earned instead of resetting you back to square-one.
All in all, these aspects mixed with the few minutes it takes to clear each dungeon provides for a very addictive game. If you are a "one more try" type of person you'll absolutely love this title. This is pushed even further with the addition of Ran-Geons after completing the 20+ hour story. For those who haven't played ClaDun and are wondering just what that term means, they're essentially multiple-level dungeons that start as a specific monster and drop level and fluctuate depending on the player's choices. Some gates might increase the drop rate while others massively increase the level of the enemies present on the map. Sometimes special conditions might even come into play, such as all enemies being poisonous. Most of the dungeons can range from 30 to 100+ floors, so it's really up the player just how far they want to progress as the payout keeps getting higher but the risk of losing it all increases in the same fashion.
And for the creative types out there, after progressing to a certain point in the story a fully-featured editing mode unlocks which lets the player create their own custom army from inside each of the dungeons. This includes the ability to draw almost every aspect of the custom characters, such as recreating characters from NIS America's Disgaea series. It's a small touch, but it does do a lot to make the player more involved in the game.
Things aren't entirely rosy, however. System Prisma did a lot to make rougelikes more accessible to modern games with Legasista, but there's still a fair amount of issues that still hold on from prior games in the genre. As previously stated, Legasista's dungeons take place in a 2D-plane. The controls are fairly responsive, but the area of vision is so small unless you use specific spells or items constantly to widen them that ranged characters are at a huge disadvantage to short-range characters to the point where they are almost unusable. Certain stages also have a poison mechanism by getting hit by specific enemies or traps which causes instant death if all of the symptoms are gotten. The issue with its implementation is that generally only these monsters have the antidotes, so you risk getting hit with more symptoms if you try removing just one. That isn't to say that placing them everywhere is the solution, but having them available in other places could make for a much less frustrating experience.
Thankfully the graphics and music do help to assuage some of these faults. If you are a fan of HD-quality 2D artwork you are in luck as Legasista is pretty much what you've been asking for. System Prisma did a great job of making each location unique and colorfully vibrant with some stages even having little touches such as dust clouds popping up from the forest floor or water effects in the underwater stages. The music also compliments the locations well, although outside of a few select tracks the music isn't very memorable.
Legasista is one of those titles that knows what it is and doesn't try much to push outside its boundaries. If you can't get enough of rougelikes its an instant purchase, but everyone else should take a deeper look before you pick this game up as its faults may quickly turn you off from the title. System Prisma's Legasista is a rougelike through and through and for some, that's all that matters.
|If you are a fan of rougelikes, you'll absolutely adore this game.|
|Wonderfully vibrant art direction.|
|You still keep your levels even if you die inside a dungeon.|
|A mostly forgettable soundtrack.|
|Some of the more annoying rougelike aspects still persist here.|
|Doesn't do all that much to expand outside its core audience.|