The Legend of Heroes II: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch - Staff Retroview  

But I'm Heroes
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

The Legend of Heroes II: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch
20-40 Hours
+ Characters seem likeable
+ Story has potential to be entertaining
+ Soundtrack is enjoyable
- Translation ruins the game
- Combat is limited
- Interface is awkward to manage
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   Falcom's Legend of Heroes is a long-running series that is confusing to follow. These games have been around since the late 1980s and span a scattering of systems since their inception. The Legend of Heroes II: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch for the PlayStation Portable hit North American retail stores in 2006 thanks to Namco Bandai, even though the original version of this game was released in 1993. Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch is part of the Gagharv Trilogy, though the order and numbering differ between here and Japan. Even the in-game chronology is confusing, so it's best to not even worry about it. So now, five systems and many name variants later, RPGamers finally have their first means of playing this game in English, but was it worth the wait?

   The story of Legend of Heroes II holds a lot of potential, almost all of which is completely ruined. What starts as a simple pilgrimage for Jurio and Chris (Christine), turns into an adventure to save the world from destruction. As the duo ventures around the world to visit the shrines of prophecy, they end up saving villages from disaster, stopping thieves from stealing royal treasures, and preventing war between neighboring kingdoms. The front half of the game is just a teaser to the real story, as the game's main plot doesn't even come into play until over halfway through the game. What is enjoyable is the interactions between Jurio and Chris, as most of these are humorous. The supporting cast has a lot of personality as well, but sadly, all is for naught because of the game's botched localization.

   What could have been a fun, light-hearted game with entertaining character banter, humorous aside comments, and loads of personality was instead torn to shreds by a horrific translation. From start to finish, the dialogue of Legend of Heroes II is a mess. Words are left out, misspelled, or misused everywhere. Typos aren't the only problem, as awkward line breaks divide up the dialogue in a way that can make even the most basic sentence harder to read. Even if these issues had been addressed, the directness of the translation makes the characters sound so stilted and unnatural that it's painful. This isn't just a spotty problem; it's consistently bad across the entire game. The most painful aspect of this is the fact that the story seems so charming even with all of these issues, so what's underneath could really have been enjoyable had it not been ruined. If the game has been handled with care, the story would have been above average, but as is, it's sorely lacking.

Battle Less typos in combat.

   Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch is not a straightforward turn-based RPG. It features a bit of a twist in terms of combat, as positioning on the battle field affects attack range. The player selects a command for each character at the start of each turn and based on speed stats, enemies and allies will take turns accordingly. An enemy in range at the start might be just outside the character's reach by the time his turn hits, wasting that move. While this gives the appearance of strategic combat, outmaneuvering enemies isn't really the point, as it's more a matter of determining move order through trial and error.

   Characters each have a role to fill in combat, as each not only has a normal fight command, but each also has spells, skills, or a combination of both. For example, Jurio gains a taunt command that will force enemies that are within range of the skill to focus on him. This affords Chris and the other teammates more safety as they will not be targeted for a few rounds. Magic spells and skills are typical fare, offering healing and damage magic, the ability to steal, along with other buffs and debuffs. As characters attack and are hit during combat, it fills up a bar at the bottom of the screen. When that bar is full, that character can use his or her finishing move to deal greater damage. Though each character is fairly unique, there is some overlapping of skills, in some cases even finishing moves. The playable party is never customizable, but there are a handful of characters that are interchanged via plot points throughout the quest, so there is still some variety.

   Menu management and combat navigation are two awkward areas, but after a few hours to adjust and figure out the quirks, they are manageable, if not ideal. While pulling up a list of skills is simple enough, actually seeing what those skills do requires an extra step that should just be a part of the interface. Organizing equipment both in and out of shops is painful, as characters have to be cycled through to see what stats will increase and which won't, but it doesn't tell by how much. Combat options are limited, too. If a skill's area of effect is out of range, that character has to move on one turn and then attempt to use the spell on the next instead of being able to do it all in one. A good number of abilities are not worth the time it takes to use them thanks to this. While none of these complaints are game breaking; they are compounding problems that make the game more awkward of an experience than it should be.

Short lines Shorter lines are easier to translate.

   Legend of Heroes II is not really very challenging. It starts off fairly easy, and since characters gain levels quite often, especially upon entering new areas, it's rare to have much trouble. As players progress, the challenge gets a little steeper, but never too tough. Most of the difficulty comes in surviving between towns with inns where characters can restore their health and magic for free. Players can just park it in an area near one of these inns and grind quickly if need be, but that shouldn't be too necessary. There are very few boss battles throughout the game, but even those are fairly simple. Though the game has no play clock, it's estimated to last between twenty-five and thirty hours. Most people should be able to fly through this with little grinding and rarely seeing the game over screen, if ever.

   Presentation is another one of Moonlight Witch's weaker areas. When Legend of Heroes II was released back in 2006, it had little to compare against as far as PSP titles went, the graphics are still flat and uninspired. At a few points throughout the game, there are brief CG scenes, but as nice as they look, those are too short and too infrequent to add much to the game. Thankfully, the soundtrack is quite nice, but the game is still lacking in the rest of its sound quality. There is no voice acting or anything at all to make it stand out in terms of audio. The fact that the soundtrack is really impressive is the only thing that helps to save the presentation aspect of the game, but it's not enough to push it into greatness.

   The Legend of Heroes II: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch is a game that is mediocre in almost every aspect. The gameplay is decent, but not outstanding; as it's the interface that makes playing the game a clumsy affair. On top of all that, the presentation is mediocre. The single saving grace could have been its story, but that was so butchered during the localization process that even fun characters couldn't help it. There is just so much lacking here that it's sad, though I can't help but imagine that my enjoyment of the game would have been greater had Namco Bandai actually done a good job with the translation. There was plenty of room for humor in the dialogue, but it just didn't happen with the North American release. Hopefully future games in the series can overcome the problems that plagued Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch, but it's going to take more effort during localization than Namco Bandai was willing to put into this.

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