For longtime RPG players, specifically fans of Square Enix's SaGa series, Atlus and FuRyu's The Legend of Legacy will feel very, very familiar early on. There's much more of an emphasis on atmosphere over narrative, levelling is ability-based instead of experience-based, and even the graphics and music is an obvious homage to that series. So does it end up being just an imitation, or does this title fulfill its promise of being a spiritual successor?
You start off The Legend of Legacy by picking from one of seven main characters. You can take your pick from a number of different archetypes, including a treasure hunter, the honorable knight, a buxom alchemist, and even a frog prince from a long forgotten kingdom. You have a preset party at the outset, but you can meet up with the other characters and swap them out as you please. The designs for each of these characters are quite detailed, but their backgrounds only get minor attention in the game's introduction and ending as the real focus is on the island of Avalon itself. So if you're looking for a character-based Japanese RPG, this might be a major detractor for you.
Said island had recently risen from the sea depths, which caused numerous people to travel and investigate for a variety of reasons, whether that be riches or purely investigational. As you obtain rare artifacts called Singing Stones, you are treated with a cutscene vision of the island's past. There's also another type of artifact called Whispering Stones which are more textual and reveal what happened with the island's old king and the new king which caused the island to sink into the sea ages ago.
That emphasis on exploration plays a central role in how the environments themselves were designed. The island is home to a single town that is your base of operations, with the typical RPG amenities such as an inn, shop, and even a bar to hear the local gossip. The rest of the locales as centered around dungeon-like areas, such as a forest, a windy ravine, a lost city, etc. Graphically they're very similar like Square Enix's Bravely Default, utilizing a cel-shaded approach with a hand-drawn touch. The difference in The Legend of Legacy is that only your general vicinity is rendered on-screen, with the rest of the map popping into place like a children's storybook as you get closer. As a bonus, fully exploring a given map (and the entire dungeon itself) lets you get more money in exchange when selling it at the local town.
The developers also took a lot of care in the environmental assets, as each location feels worn by the passage of time. For example, the initial dungeon location has monuments wrapped around by the foliage and an ancient cathedral that's seen better days. Famed composer Masashi Hamauzu was tasked with The Legend of Legacy's soundtrack, and as you'd expect from his other works there's a heavy focus on strings, piano and nature-like sounds. It fits perfectly with the overall atmosphere and the graphical approach and was easily one of the highlights of the game for me.
And speaking of dungeons, what Japanese RPG wouldn't be complete without monsters to fight against? Each dungeon has its own themed set of enemies to fight against, ranging from your weak mooks to boss or boss-like behemoths. Battles in The Legend of Legacy take place in a classic turn-based format, with the turn order differing depending on their speed and what formation your party members are taking on during that turn.
The Legend of Legacy's initial tutorial highlights the idea of said formations, as each character can choose from one of three roles during each turn. The first is Attack, which focuses on dealing damage. The second is Defense, which decreases the amount of damage you take (or your party if you're using a party-wide protection skill). The third and last is Support, which lets you act faster to heal or provide other supportive functions for the party. Generally during my playthrough I kept one of the default formations that let me have one party member as defender and the other as attackers alongside other combinations such as Attack/Defense/Support or Defense/Support/Support when thing got really rough. The game allows you to create new formations in the main menu and even name them yourself (or pick from a randomly generated name), which I thought was a nice personal touch by the developers.
Going back to that supportive role, early on in the game you'll start obtaining some of the Singing and Whispering Stones mentioned earlier. Outside of their narrative function, they also play a crucial role in battles as an elemental-based mechanic. After getting your first Singing Stone, you'll obtain an item which lets you see the primary elemental favored in that area. This becomes paramount as certain monsters are either powered up or weakened depending on the elements in play.
Players have access to three of the elements, Water, Wind, and Fire, with the fourth element, Evil, available only to the enemy party. The first three give different bonuses to the party, such as Water's ability to heal the party who summoned it or Wind's power to recover extra SP (skill point) at the end of each turn. This effect works for either side, so outside of powering up the elements on your side to use magic from the Whispering Stones you also need to make sure the enemy doesn't summon the elements over to their side of the field. It makes for an interesting game of tug-and-war, as spells cast after one side pulls back that element will cause the spell to fail.
The last element, Evil, works by increasing the enemy's power and decreasing the damage from your party to them when it's higher and reverses roles when it's lower, so often times I found myself spamming elements onto the field in the battle's outset to level the playing field. It occasionally became a nuisance at times, but the battle animations are pretty brisk so it's not as critical of an issue as it would have been in other Japanese RPGs. The plethora of different battle entry animations also doesn't hurt.
Party stats and skills in The Legend of Legacy work quite different than most modern Japanese RPG fans might be used to. Utilizing a system similar to that of Final Fantasy II or the SaGa series, your stats and skills are increased by your actions in battle instead of an arbitrary experience gauge. The more you act as a defender, the higher your defensive stats and skills will raise. Similarly, combative and supportive actions improve stats and skills in a similar fashion. Each character has their own innate roles they're attuned to but with enough training one could mold them how they wish, which was something I liked.
Initially you only have access to a small subset of skills, but with repeated use you'll learn new skills on-the-fly, with an animation playing on the screen announcing the new skill and zooming into the attack to show it off. Each skill has its own SP cost, with the more powerful skills requiring more SP. It seems simple enough of a mechanic, but I often ran into situations where I backed myself into a corner getting a little too hasty as those higher-level attacks aren't guaranteed to work.
HP also works in a slightly different way than most players might be used to. You have your standard HP like you'd expect, but after battles it automatically recovers. If you happen to die in battle, you can be "revived" by using a healing item with the catch that it'll knock off a portion of your total HP until you can make your way back to the town inn to rest. This combined with an area full of tough monsters and environmental dangers which decrease your health is where another change in the Japanese RPG formula comes in that running away from a battle is relatively easy, but you'll return all the way back to beginning of the dungeon.
This becomes useful, as you can and will die quite a few times fighting a monster that's a bit tougher than you expected. Thankfully any mid-battle gains stay with you even if you run and you can quick save at any time and reload if you encounter a full-party defeat. The only issue I had with the developer's implementation of those types of monsters is that there's occasions when it's not as clearly evident there's a powerful monster nearby and I couldn't prepare properly and had to reload from an earlier save.
On a minor note, since there's multiple characters you can pick from as your starting character, the game also has a New Game+ option which was improved in the western release to carry over more of your resources and other bonuses such as making rare drops slightly easier each time you start a NG+ run. That said, if you're looking for more character development, what you saw the first time around is essentially what you'll see with any other party.
The Legend of Legacy, like it's spiritual cousin, isn't your cookie-cutter Japanese RPG. It can be a bit obtuse to those used to the usual stat and skill paradigm, and the game can and will punish those who don't take the proper precautions. This game is an instant purchase for fans of the SaGa series, but the core of the game is solid enough for outsiders who can overlook the bare-bones narrative. For those the game clicks with, your legacy in the game will be worth the time invested.
|A real treat for fans of the SaGa series.|
|The storybook cutout-like approach to the environments in the dungeons give the game a definitive look.|
|Due to the non-standard stat and skill growth system, you can mold the characters how you wish if you want.|
|Even with the save anywhere mechanic, there were times I lost progress because the more powerful enemies on the map screen took me by surprise.|
|There's little to no narrative outside of the brief character introductions and the tidbits you get as you collect the stones.|
|Players who aren't guided by their own sense of exploration will hate the open-ended nature of the game.|