Tales of Legendia - Reader Review  

Keep Cool with Coolidge
by Jeremy, the Duke of Otterland

25-75+ Hours


Rating definitions 

   A boy named Senel Coolidge is sailing through turbulent waters with his sister, Shirley, escaping enemies, when they encounter a giant island that seems to appear out of nowhere; the island is actually a giant ship, the Legacy, a relic of an ancient kingdom. Tales of Legendia follows Senel's adventures across the Legacy as he gains a few friends and seeks to stop villains who wish to wreak havoc on the ship, as well as the world's mainland. Though not actually developed by Namco's Tales Studio, Legendia proves to be a worthy addition to the franchise.

   Legendia's battle system more resembles the incarnations in pre-Symphonia installments of the Tales series, reverting to a 2-D battlefield where characters and the enemies, of course, freely beat the crap out of one another. Random encounters, I should mention, are back, although the player can increase or decrease the rate respectively with Dark Bottles and Holy Bottles. Dungeons, moreover, have many Chaotic Zones where the player can encounter more powerful foes, which disappear after the player fights a battle within them.

The sun is exploding again! Watch out, Radioactive Hand!

   Most the battle system itself is standard 2-D Tales fare, with the player controlling one character (sorry, no multiplayer available this time), while the A.I. handles the other three. Players can assign up to four of the leader's skills to shortcuts combining the circle button with one of the directional buttons, and assign shortcuts to the L2 and R2 buttons for easy access to ally skills, as well, which the player can also access from the battle interface, alongside items, A.I. settings (which include the ability to disable the use of certain skills by allies), and so forth. The game is, I should mention, pretty nice to players when they die, letting them restart battles in which they do so.

   Melee fighters master physical skills after using them fifty times, which may unlock arcane skills, also mastered with fifty uses. Among melee techniques are "Lift" skills, which the protagonist, Senel, can use against enemies when they're on their backs, and basically involve throwing them around for a certain amount of damage. Players can also "assemble" compound skills for the melee fighters, consisting of combinations of three skills, and typically being effective against particular types of enemies. As for magicians, gaining new magic requires the collection of a certain number of Sculptures from various types of enemies that they randomly drop. Players can, at times, spend a while hunting monsters just to gain a specific kind of Sculpture, although players need not collect every spell to complete the game successfully.

   As Senel and company fights, moreover, they build up a Climax Gauge, which, when full, allows the player to enter Climax Mode with the L1 button, during which enemies freeze and the player can freely beat the crap out of them. Anytime before the Climax Gauge expires, the player can press L1 again to execute a powerful Climax Combo on a single enemy when the player's battle party has four characters. The player can also gain recipes to bake various kinds of bread with diverse ingredients, which the player can use outside of battle to restore lost HP and TP to all party members.

   The player is able to adjust the difficulty in Legendia any time during the game, with Easy, Normal, and Hard modes. Supposedly, the setting only affects how much HP enemies have, though I distinctly remember getting my ass handed to me quickly when fighting the first boss battle on the hardest difficulty, and even on the easiest difficulty, there are a few minor tough spots, so Legendia does certainly have the potential to be a challenging game, depending on the player's choice. In the end, there are only a few minor shortcomings with the battle system, such as the aforementioned difficulty at times in Sculpture-hunting, the game not keeping track of the various kinds of compound skills the player assembles, and a few minor A.I. issues, but otherwise, combat is largely enjoyable.

No, there's not an extra joke here, you sicko. Oh, the innuendo.

   Legendia, for the most part, features a spotless interface, with the menu system popping up very quickly and being easily navigable, and a quest log mostly keeping players moving in the right direction. Ducts that players access on the overworld, usually near dungeons and towns, also provide rapid conveyance across the Legacy. There are only a couple of minor shortcomings, such as the inability to exit dungeons instantly (the Character Quests make you revisit some dungeons and backtrack out of them), the lack of a scene skip option, and, to a lesser extent, the spacing of save points at times (though the fact that the game doesn't dump you back to the title screen when you die largely compensates for this), but otherwise, Legendia is very user-friendly.

   Legendia isn't a terribly inventive game, filching most of its basic battle mechanisms from the 2-D Tales games while introducing some new crap such as compound skills, the ability to throw enemies, and the Chaotic Zone system. The idea of the island ship in the story, though, is fairly original, although as far as gameplay goes, Legendia pretty much upholds a philosophy of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

   Though many have blasted the Tales games for their allegedly-lackluster storylines, I actually found Legendia's story to perhaps be one of the best of the series. Character development, for one, is perhaps the strongest of the franchise, helped especially by the lengthy post-game Character Quests, with the supporting characters being memorable, as well. The Legacy itself gains reasonable backstory during the game, too. Granted, the villains seem a bit neglected, and it's a bit disappointing that the characters don't explore the world's mainland at all during the game. Still, Legendia's story offering is among the strongest of the Tales series.

   Legendia is the first game in the series to not feature Motoi Sakuraba as one of its composers. Instead, Masaru "Go" Shiina and his flunkies from the Namco Sound Team provided the game's soundtrack, largely orchestrated. The music is, for the most part, nice, with some gorgeous town, cutscene, and dungeon pieces making effective use of the violin, an instrument this reviewer feels has been missing from many RPG soundtracks, some bombastic battle themes, the most common of which rarely loops, and a good overworld theme. The voicework is well above average, as well, although Namco unfortunately cut most of it out of the Character Quests, accounting for a few silent cutscenes. Still, Legendia is a pretty nice-sounding game.

Can't touch this! Doo, doo-doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo... Stop...Hammertime!

   Legendia uses a visual style far different from Symphonia's. Gone are cel-shaded characters, replaced with models reminiscent of chibi character sprites from the 16-bit era; still, the models show plenty of emotion during story scenes. During many cutscenes, moreover, the main graphics darken (though the character models still move around), with character portraits doing the talking (with lips moving, no less) and moving around occasionally. The character models really shine in battle, though, showing fluid animation and greater detail alongside equally well-designed enemies, even if many are just repainted versions of one another, and reasonably noisy skill and spell animations. Environments contain nice color and detail, moreover, despite the occasional iffy texturing job, and the overworld is a definite step up from Symphonia's. There are also a few anime cutscenes, as well. Overall, a decent-looking game.

   Although one could possibly complete the main quest in as little as twenty-five hours, the Character Quests, not to mention a few sidequests, building up skills, hunting for Sculptures, can easily boost playing time to the vicinity of seventy-five hours, with a replay mode added to the mix, as well.

   Ultimately, Tales of Legendia proves to be just as enjoyable as its predecessors, having, among other things, a solid combat system, perhaps the strongest story of the series, nice music and voicework, and a quirky visual style. Admittedly, if you didn't like previous games in the series, odds are Legendia won't make you a fan of the franchise, and it might disappoint those expecting it to play like Symphonia, who may wish to import Tales of the Abyss instead (or wait for a possible localization, which the back of Legendia's instruction book indicates could happen). If, however, you enjoyed older titles in the series or grew up on old 2-D fighting games, Legendia might just be your cup of tea.

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