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

The Legend of Stockholm Syndrome
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion
20-40 Hours
+ Charming cast
+ Intriguing story
+ Can save anywhere...
- Wretched translation
- Bland visuals
- Could have been great...
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   Have you ever played an RPG with a boring battle system, a horrible translation, and inadequate visuals, but you still enjoyed it despite all of its faults? I have. That game was The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion for the PlayStation Portable. As bad as the main aspects of the game were, it had a certain charm that made me stick with it. Once I was able to ignore many of the game's faults, it became much more tolerable and I eventually started to find positive things to say about it. While this quite likely is just some form of Stockholm Syndrome, this poorly-made RPG was somewhat enjoyable.

   Tear of Vermillion's turn-based combat starts off painfully slow, and while is does improve a little, it never becomes great. Enemies appear on screen in lieu of random encounters, but are often difficult to avoid due to their aggressive nature. Thankfully, once foes have been deemed too weak to be worth fighting, they will flee from the party instead of trying to attack. This helps make the frequent backtracking much more manageable.

   Once in battle, units have a small field to move around on. Melee attacks and magic spells both have set ranges, so characters have to be close enough to attack or they will have to spend a turn moving. Each character also has a power meter that increases slowly during battle. When this bar is maxed out the party member can unleash a powerful "Deadly" attack, much like a limit break in Final Fantasy VII. One saving grace of this simple system is the variety offered due to the many characters that constantly swap in and out of the party. It helps vary combat, but sadly, all character exchanges are scripted, so players have no control over who will be with them. Tear of Vermillion's combat is not extremely challenging, requiring only cautiousness to make sure everyone is healed, so not much planning is needed to win. There is very little original about the battle system, and it can become dull very quickly, especially with all the encounters forced upon the player.

Race! Lets
go ride in the

   The awkward interface makes the experience even more frustrating. Menus are a clunky mess and inventory management is a pain. While not fundamentally broken, the interface is just more frustrating to work through than it should be. It doesn't help that only ten of an item can be kept in the inventory at a time, so players will constantly find items that will have to be left behind. The party also has a cat that follows it around, finding items and helping in combat. More often than not, those items will be trashed because the inventory is full. Players have the option of feeding the cat to obtain bonuses in combat, and they can also praise or scold their pet. None of these options really matter that much, as like a real cat, it does what it pleases regardless of how it's treated.

   Tear of Vermillion's story is a conundrum. On one hand, the plot and characters are really interesting and fun. On the other, the game has been so horribly translated that the dialogue is almost laughable. The gist of the story focuses around Avin, a young man forcefully separated from his sister eight years ago, traveling the world in search of her. During this quest, Avin and his best friend Mile find themselves caught in the middle of a battle between two religious sects: one fighting for the Bardus Church of Light and the other scheming for Octum's Apostles of Darkness. The characters met along the way are charming and would be even more so if the game wasn't butchered by an unpolished and at times confusing translation. Typos, awkward line breaks, and mistakes where dialogue is shown in blue, a text color meant to represent actions, are littered throughout. It's a mess, and that's a grand shame. What could have been a great story of love, sacrifice, and redemption, populated by lively characters, instead felt dry and lifeless.

elcargot Elcargot or Escargot? Vermillion or Vermilion? No one knows!

   This RPG's visuals do little to brighten the experience, as most everything is bland and forgettable. There are very few unique looking areas and too many enemies are palette swaps, so it just feels dated. The soundtrack is pleasant enough, though was not extremely memorable. It does help set the mood better than the visuals do, but it's still not enough to outweigh the game's other failings.

   By the end of my twenty or so hours, I found myself enjoying A Tear of Vermillion, but I never lost sight of the game's many shortcomings. This RPG really could have been a contender, as the original Japanese versions were much more interesting, featuring combat that actually required more interaction and deeper strategy. If the battle system had not been dumbed down and the localization had been handled with care instead of looking like it had been crammed through Babel Fish, Tear of Vermillion might have been a great game. Sadly, that didn't happen, so we are left with a sour taste in our mouths that doesn't do credit to the Legend of Heroes name. The fact that I was able to derive some enjoyment out the game despite its many issues is a testament to the source material, but I can't judge a game on what it might have been, merely on what it is. There just wasn't enough here to save this title.

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