The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion - Staff Review  

The Snack is Still Pudding
by Michael "CactuarJoe" Beckett

30 to 40 hrs.


Rating definitions 

   Being a traditionally styled turn-based RPG released for a system with few RPGs, The Legend of Heroes: a Tear of Vermilion may see a decent level of sales simply because it has little or no competition in the RPG market. The game has a number of problems in interface and plotting, but its most notable problem is a serious failure to capitalize on its combat system. On the positive side, the game has a number of things going for it on the artistic front, but with play mechanics straight out of Grandia and a limp character development scheme, it is a game which will appeal almost exclusively to gamers who yearn for the old school.

   The Legend of Heroes: a Tear of Vermilion is actually a remake of a title in a relatively unknown series called Gagharv, a title which refers to the name of the world the game is set on. Second of a trilogy within this series, The Legend of Heroes is highly derivative, not of other games in the series but rather of RPGs in general. While this may not pose a problem to fans of more elderly RPG design, the fact is that the game feels very well-worn in both play mechanics and plotting.

   The Legend of Heroes follows the travels of a young man named Avin as he tries to locate his younger sister, Eimelle, who was kidnaped when they were both very young. The story is split into three chapters, but the first, which chronicles the actual search for Eimelle, is probably the most compelling. It introduces the gameís large cast of characters as well as doing a reasonable job of showing off the setting as Avin travels from town to town. The second and third parts are largely revisits of locations introduced in the first chapter, and so the game can feel a bit tedious at times, but the characters go a long way towards relieving this. While the actual storyline is more than just a little cliched, the characters in this story are likeable, well designed and a lot of fun to interact with. Again, it isnít anything new, but that isnít the same as saying it isnít enjoyable.

Enemies may turn tail and run if you're too strong for 'em. Enemies may turn tail and run if you're too strong for 'em.

   Combat in The Legend of Heroes is turn-based, but set on an open playing field that characters are free to move about on. Spells and certain skills have areas of effect, meaning placement on the battlefield can have a huge effect on combat. However, the game makes effectively placing characters a bit of a trial. Rather than allowing players to move and then attack as with tactical RPGs, The Legend of Heroes will only allow players to select a target, and will select the side that character attacks from and the path they will take to get there. It isnít a huge problem as the vast majority of the battles are ridiculously easy, but the lack of control can cause problems with spell and skill ranges, as attacking a monster from the wrong side may knock it out of range.

   Overall, the combat system isnít poorly designed, it just doesnít really go anywhere. The system had potential in the wide variety of Skills and Magic, some of which have very interesting effects. However, as the game progresses, it isnít really necessary to use the vast majority of the skills the characters learn, with a few basic elemental spells and perhaps one or two Skills seeing use in about 90% of all battles.

The game's Deadly skills are very similar to FF7's Limit Break system. The game's Deadly skills are very similar to FF7's Limit Break system.

   Control is something of a sticking point, and could have used a bit of work. The player can use either the d-pad or the PSPís tiny analog stick, but neither is particularly exact. The d-pad has trouble traveling on the diagonal and the analog stick has a tendency to wander - release the stick and it might decide to keep going on its own. Hit detection is also a bit off, due to the fact that the game uses an odd sliding effect when the player runs into a wall, directing them along that wall rather than simply stopping them. It can be irritating to have to run back and forth along a desk, viciously stabbing the X button in order to find the hit area. Menus are a little overcomplicated, but they get the point across.

   Similarly, the gameís Pet system is a bit incomprehensible. At the beginning of the game, the player is randomly assigned either a cat, a dog, or a rabbit to follow them around. This animal can be fed or praised to make it happy, or scolded to make it unhappy. Based on its emotion, the pet will provide the player with items, raise defense in battle, or even drop a rock on the opposition. However, whatever system the pet uses to decide its current emotion is either so complicated as to make understanding impossible or these animals are suffering from the rabbit/cat/dog equivalent of mood swings. There just seems to be no clear link between what the player does and how the animal responds.

    The music is surprisingly good for a handheld, particularly in sound quality; headphones are definitely recommended. The style of music is hardly inspired, being mostly a collection of classical tunes that donít always exactly fit their setting, but it also has some subtle and interesting jazzy touches that give it a certain zing. Sound effects are more or less a non-issue, though the 'ding!' noise played when selecting an action in combat certainly gets irritating after a while, especially given the amount of menus there are to push through.

    The visuals of The Legend of Heroes are comprised of a selection of sprites moving across a fully polygonal background, and uses a variety of large, expressive character portraits alongside dialogue. Consequently, the gameís style is very inconsistent, and although none of it is particularly low in quality, the combination of elements just doesnít work very well. That said, Minako Iwasakiís character designs and illustrations are without a doubt the high point of the game. Ms. Iwasaki, who has also done work for Falcomís Yís series, brings a detailed, colorful touch to the character designs which is refreshing.

    The game is balanced fairly well, though it does tend towards being a little too easy. The only problem balance-wise is that as characters level up in a given area, monsters begin to dish out less and less EXP, a feature which makes leveling up extremely difficult and slow. This, combined with the very straightforward nature of the plot, makes The Legend of Heroes extremely linear. The game itself isnít particularly long, topping out at around 30 to 40 hours.

    The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion is a game that is going to benefit from having so little competition on the PSP. Though the game is cliched, somewhat uninspired, and more than a little clunky in interface, Golden Sun for the Game Boy Advance suffered many of these same problems and is still considered by many to be a classic GBA role-playing game. In the end, it is perhaps more of a matter of taste. Gamers who enjoy the ways of older RPGs are going to eat The Legend of Heroes up with a spoon, while those who prefer more innovative takes on the genre will probably be less than enthused.

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