‘A magical crystal that supplied infinite water to the small village of Nohl is stolen. When a solar eclipse drowns the land in an evil light, monsters become plentiful and powerful, placing the village’s very survival at stake. Lang, a rookie member of the Nohl militia, must fight his way across uncharted lands to recover the crystal and restore peace to the land he calls home.’ – Back of the box to Legaia 2
The above paragraph sums up the basic plot to Legaia 2 nicely. Like all RPGs though, this is only the start of the game, because of course, things always go wrong…
To start, thankfully in this day and age we RPG gamers no longer have to live on story and gameplay alone in order to play a game of this genre. Legaia 2’s graphics are a colorful bunch, allowing the gamer to wander through misty forests, snow covered lands, and your average lava wasteland. It’s no Final Fantasy, but then again, what is?
Your party members are a pretty detailed bunch, if nothing but a bunch of clichés. You have your average hero (who doesn’t have spiky hair oddly enough), your basic Bruce Lee clone, a somewhat cute mage, another female who thinks she’s the women of all women, and your always needed gigantic muscled brute. While everyone is stereotypical, their animations aren’t. Fresh Games took the time to animate everyone rather well, so you’ll be impressed when you watch your team wallop their way through combat. Your character’s attacks flow from hit to hit, the camera swinging around to show the detail they put into your party. Your character’s facial expressions will change as they pound on their enemies as well, and the level of detail continues on downward, showing flowing robes, individual fingers that move and flex, and stances that change depending on your latest combo you’re executing.
Fortunately the character detail is impressive, as you’ll be seeing a ton of it. The best way to slaughter your opponents is through the use of combos (called Arts), and there are only so many ways that the game can show off those moves, so you’ll be forced to see the same animations again and again and again…
The towns and level designs are mildly interesting, if not a tad generic. You have your hero’s town, a snow covered town, a destroyed town, and of course your all-important arena/casino type town scattered throughout the land. Your dungeons are the usual fare as well – misty forest, castle sewer, lava based underground, etc. Each location is rather large and quite detailed, but taking a departure from most 3D RPGs, has no player controlled rotation capabilities. This is never a problem though, as the areas are designed so you’ll never really get lost nor need a controllable camera to navigate around.
Let me say the good things first here – the music, while mostly forgettable, is somewhat good. The battle theme for instance is upbeat, allowing you to keep awake while your characters go through their motions of wasting their latest target. Each town and dungeon tends to have its own music track as well, making sure that you don’t hear the same thing too often. Are there any really good songs that stand out though? No.
The sounds are a completely different story entirely. While they’re populated with your average smack, yell, grunt, slice, and groan, you’ll be forced to listen to some of the absolute worst voice acting since Resident Evil. While some characters sound somewhat good (the clichéd Bruce Lee clone and the mage come to mind), others (like the hero and just about all the major bad guys) are a complete and total joke. Your hero pauses in the middle of his little ‘speeches’ more often than Captain Kirk did in Star Trek. Your hero also tends to talk the most (as he is the hero after all) and most of his lines make you want to reach for the mute button on your TV.
But the hero isn’t the worst offender by far as the voice acting goes. Now, I might offend some people about this, but I need to get it off my chest. I have a serious complaint about the voice acting of one evil team in this game. See, early on in the game you’ll meet up with this group of four who basically want to kick your rear. The leader is this short, fat, 12 year old looking female, who’s voiced by someone who sounds like a 25 year old slut. Her ‘brother’ (and I’m using this term VERY loosely folks) is the most effeminate person I’ve ever seen or heard in a videogame. EVERY line ‘he’ said made me cringe. I have listened to some horrible voice acting over the years, and I have never been as offended to listen to this ‘guy’ speak as in this game. Jill, ‘The Master of Lockpicking’, or her partner Barry from Resident Evil hold nothing compared to this pair. The other two in the group aren’t much better either – it’s composed of a big dumb brute that cares a tad too much about his ape like animal companion to be normal. But nothing compares to the original duo listed above.
To Fresh Games (if you ever read this) – take those voice ‘actors’, drag them out into the nearest street, and kill them. If I ever have to listen to anything as bad as that duo again, I’ll be forced to take some corrective action myself.
Fortunately, unlike the voice acting, the controls are very well done. Simplistic, and to the point, you’ll be controlling your team of monster killers around the map and in battle with no problems at all.
Also worth noting are the mini-games that are available as you save the world. Most of them require lots of manual dexterity, and for the most part are a nice diversion from the main quest. At least for a few minutes anyway.
While this will be talked in more detail in the Gameplay header, I have to give kudos to the very interesting battle engine in this game. It’s completely original (well, short of the prequel anyway), and it’s very easily controlled. They could have made it far more complicated, but they avoided the problems entirely and made it so anybody can pick up a controller and cause a ton of damage.
Ah, yet another RPG. As one would know, this one of the most important categories for this genre, as the saying in the past has always been ‘It’s the gameplay that’s important, not the graphics’. While this has changed somewhat over the years, the basis is still the same. Fortunately for the designers, this game does rather well in this area.
First off, the most important part – the combat system. Legend of Legaia 2 (and its prequel) completely ignored the usual tradition of ‘push button to attack, watch attack happen’ that exists in just about every other RPG ever made. In this case, you’re offered a multitude of options when you attack. See, every character gets a number of attack ‘blocks’, and not only does that number raise every few levels, but each block allows you to attack in either the up, down, left, or right direction. Some monsters, like slimes, are immune to all attacks short of down (as other attacks just go over them), while others that fly are immune to the down direction (as the attack goes under them).
Now, if this was all the combat engine had, it would get boring rather quickly. Fortunately the game offers quite a bit more. Certain combos of 3, 4, or 5 directions activate an ‘arts’ combo. These arts cause much more damage than your normal attacks would be able to do otherwise. The normal arts increase a super bar of sorts, while the super and hyper arts decrease that super bar. Then again the super and hyper arts cause a ton more damage as well, so it all balances out in the end. The best part is that these arts can themselves be comboed together into more powerful combinations, allowing you to use normal, super, and hyper arts in a single attack for an obscene amount of damage. Of course, each of these attacks is followed by a wonderful light and visual show, keeping the gamer entertained for finding these combos.
Unfortunately this leads to the first problem of the battle system – you need to find these combos. Sure, during the course of the game you’ll ‘find’ some of these combos, but for the most part you’ll have to find them all yourself by just stumbling upon them. Later on you’ll gain the ability to automatically find them in battle somewhat, but that is a long way off. One small other problem – all new characters you gain for your team (you get a total of 5) know no combos to start. When you gain your 4th and 5th character for your party, you’re faced with an interesting decision – use the characters you know most/all the combos and abilities for, or spend the time with these new characters and learn their moves. I personally picked the former, which means that I never used my newer party members at all (as your group only holds 3 at a time). That’s right folks – I didn’t use the newer characters the game gave to me because it would take a ton of time to learn their abilities. And you thought that the Final Fantasy games were bad with worthless characters on your team that you just didn’t want to power-up in the slightest…
Another complaint about the battle system – while it’s really cool to see your characters go through all the animations in wasting their current opponent, about halfway through the game I was able to absolutely devastate any wandering monster in a single hit. Unfortunately that single hit required me to go through a good 30 seconds of animations and general monster slaughtering. I also had to watch this each and every single time I killed something. Needless to say it became rather tiring after a couple dozen views. Towards the end, my wandering monster battles consisted of me inputting the commands for my team, then walking away for a good 2 minutes. By the time I got back I had won the battle, taking next to no damage in the process. On a good note though the bosses still put up a good fight.
One interesting tidbit to this game is the way you can gain weapons/armor/items. See, while your average RPG has you buy most weapons/armor/items, in this one you’ll be able to make most of your goodies. Most monsters drop oddball items when defeated (skin, teeth, etc), and by combining those items and goodies, you’ll be able to make newer and more powerful stuff. For once a game rewards you nicely by spending time leveling up as you’ll be able to create weapons beyond the ones you can currently buy. There is only one downside to this though – you’ll almost have to do this as the higher end weapons and armor become expensive later on. Fortunately the whole act of creating items is extremely easy and painless, so basically it ends up as a way to use that horde of goodies you’re carrying in your backpacks of infinite space.
And now to the story. Starting off as a simple ‘retrieve this item to save your town’ story, it quickly evolves to a ‘hero denies his destiny yet he has to find it to survive’ and then changes to the generic ‘save the world’ scenario. While this is nothing but basic fare in the RPG world, it’s kept somewhat interesting by the entertaining banter between your characters. The plot and character writing is done rather well, keeping grammatical and spelling mistakes to a bare minimum, and making the world around you alive enough that it feels like you’re not only doing something for the land, but that you don’t feel like you’re stuck in some place where nothing happens.
One final thing to note – the entire game world is no bigger than the state of Texas (if even that). A whopping six towns encompasses the entire world, along with your basic dungeons and the all-to-common arena. Adding up the entire population of the world comes to no more than 60 to 70 people, and the towns themselves don’t look like they could hold more than that anyway. Does this effect the overall score any? Not really.
Is this game worth your time and money? While you’ll get a good 40 hours or so (and lots more if you want to find everything) of gameplay out of this title, in the end you’ll feel that something is just missing somehow. The game just throws the whole ‘explore dungeon, find town’ formula your way the entire game, and by the end you’ll just be going through the paces to finish the game. The extremely long battles don’t help much either, as you’ll be using basically the same combos the entire game once you discover them.
In the end though, thanks to some interesting gameplay elements of making weapons, armor, and accessory items, and the interesting to watch yet dull combat system, this game ended up being worth it. If you aren’t a true RPG fan though, I’d recommend a rental, not a buy.