Legend of Legaia - Review

Legaia: Sleeper hit of '99?

By Martin Drury, RPGamer Writer

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9.0
   Gameplay 8.0
   Music 8.5
   Originality 9.0
   Plot 9.0
   Replay Value 7.5
   Sound 9.0
   Visuals 8.5
   Difficulty Medium/Hard
   Time to Complete 55-65 hours 

    On the surface, Sony's Legend of Legaia looks similar to 1997's Wild ARMs. Developed by the same company, Contrail, and featuring a trio of heros, the first impression is luckily for Legend of Legaia, a brief illusion. Legend of Legaia is a vastly more entertaining game than Contrail's previous offering and one of the better games of 1999.

    The graphics of Legend of Legaia, are, for the most part, outstanding. Most outstanding are the battle graphics. The battles are executed in full, crisp 3D, with hardly any glitches or missing textures. The FMV that is included in the game is also sharp, and well done. In fact, the only time the graphic quality drops off is when the camera zooms in on characters during the "cut-scenes".

    Legend of Legaia's few FMV sequences are of very high quality, its a shame there are so few of them. Even though the cut-scenes work very well to keep the game flowing, something FMV sequences are notorious for destroying, a few more of the same quality would not have hurt.

    Not only are the battle graphics of Legend of Legaia top notch, the battles themselves are quite a refreshing sight. The battles are similar to Xenogears in that you do not just choose "Fight" and be done with it, but instead you push different buttons on the control pad, corresponding to a High, Left, Low, or Right attack (if your characters are equipped with Ra-Seru and/or weapons, Right and Left are replaced by Arms and Ra-Seru). The number of different buttons you can press is determined by a meter at the bottom of the screen, which can be lengthened either by leveling the characters, or by using the battle command "Spirit". By pressing the right button combinations, your characters can perform Arts, Hyper Arts, Super Arts, or their Miracle Art.

Blasting the enemy
Blasting the Enemy  

    Spells in Legend of Legaia are handled by each character's Ra-Seru. The Ra-Seru learn spells by defeating Seru Monsters, or through special items. There are a total of 29 spells, and each character's Ra-Seru can learn the same 21 spells from defeating enemies. However, unlike some RPGs, where every character can learn every spell, with little or no penalty, the Ra-Seru are linked to an element, so when casting a spell of an opposing element, the effectiveness is drastically reduced. For example, Meta, Vahn's fire based Ra-Seru, does approximately 1/3 to 1/2 damage compared to Noa's wind based Ra-Seru, Terra, when casting water spells. All spells in Legend of Legaia are performed via summons. However, Legaia's creators have learned from others mistakes, and have kept the length of the summons to a minimum, while still providing the excitement of summoning other creatures into battle.

    Of course, the battles are not all fun and games. Legend of Legaia is split into three "Continents"; Drake's Kingdom, Sebucus Islands, and Karisto Kingdom. The battles that take place in Drake's Kingdom are rather easy, and in fact give the impression that the game is going to be a push over. A few of the boss battles were a bit challenging, but when compared to later battles, these were a piece of cake. The result is, you are forced to spend time leveling up, the bane of every RPG. Luckily, there is always the fun and games at Sol Tower, or fishing at Vidna or Buma to take your mind off the tedious process.

    The music in Legend of Legaia runs the gambit, from catchy and upbeat, to slow and depressing. While some of the music is quite good, other pieces are so repetitive they make you want to turn the radio on to drown them out, or so lackluster that you forget them 5 seconds after you turn the PlayStation off. Overall, the music leans towards the good side, with the number of good pieces outweighing the bad.

Noa's Innocence Shines Through
Noa's Innocence Shines Through  

    While on the surface, the plot of Legend of Legaia may seem like the tried and true "save the world from evil" cliché, it is actually a well written tale of sorrow and loss, love and redemption. While the main plot does a good job of pulling you into the story, some of the minor nuances of the game, such as Noa's childish behavior, both push and pull you. Some of the events that result from her innocence are rather funny, bordering on hilarious, while others are quite tedious and irksome.

    Another aspect of the plot that I found to be rather unusual is the Songi-Gala interaction. This character comes and goes, always taunting Gala and the rest of your party, and causing general mischief. Although at first he seems to be a minor character, later he plays an important role, but how he made this transtition is never completely explained, leaving a hole in the plot.

    If anything bad can be said about the plot, is that, for the most part, it's rather depressing. Even the good intentioned acts of your characters can cause pain and sorrow to the innocent bystanders of Legaia. However, I think this is just another point the game is trying to make, that no matter how bad it looks, or how bad the result of your actions are, you should not give up, but instead, keep your eyes on the goal and fight to attain it, because the rewards always outweigh the pain and suffering along the way.

    Legend of Legaia is a bit linear, although it does have a few sub-quest, and the optional fishing/Sol Tower games. There are no airships, boats, or other modes of transportation that can be used to adventure to new areas. Instead, if you can not get their by foot, you have to clear out the current area, then move on. Still, the engrossing story helps to allieve the need for free movement, albeit is some what limited when you have no choice but to spend time leveling up, so you can beat the current boss and go on to a new area.
Jessica talks some smack
Shining Happy Genesis Tree  

    In fact, the need to spend time leveling up the characters late in the game heightens the one only true horrible thing about this game. The overworld animation is so sluggish, it is almost painful. Imagine, if you will, that the Earth was suddenly covered with waist deep molasses. That is what it feels like to walk around in Legaia. After a while, one becomes used to it, but undoubtedly, it is the one reason why doors of wind are constantly refered to by NPCs.

    The translation of Legend of Legaia is very well done, with only a few minor errors coming to mind. It would appear, that players' complaints about translations of previous RPGs are indeed being heard, and that something is beind done to rectify the situation. However, I did notice that Noa's name was changed from Noah. Whether or not this was done as a "censoring" or not is not clear, because her Miracle Art is still called "Noa's Ark", an obvious religious reference.

    As for replay value, Legend of Legaia does feature some dialogue sequences where your choice of answer(s) effects the results, and which can not be simply redone by leaving the room and returning. Legend of Legaia also features four endings, but which ending you see is decided entirely upon a single decision, which you make at the very end of the game. At the very end of the game, after the credits roll, a screen is displayed showing how well you played. It includes time taken to beat the game, number of deaths for each character, and number of treasure chest and spells collected. In fact, unless you are a minigame playing nut, the most replay value found in Legend of Legaia is search out each and every treasure chest, and collecting each and every spell, including the 4 other Ra-Seru spells, and the Juggernaut spell.

    Even though the replay value is somewhat lacking, if you are looking for a challenge, Legend of Legaia is definitely the game for you. All the bosses can be difficult, even if you discover their weaknesses (and darn near impossible if you don't). The storyline is also engrossing, one of the better and more unique tales to come along in a while.

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