I’ve been noticing for a fairly long time that the Playstation 3 has been home to an ever increasing number of incredibly niche and incredibly Japanese titles. We’re starting to see more JRPGs and Strategy titles localised on the Sony system above any other home console at the moment, which is a really great thing to see. I only hope that this trend continues into the next console generation and we begin to see more of these titles selling well, opening up the flood games to titles that the vast majority of gamers haven’t yet experienced. Legasista is a new JRPG title to be released on the Playstation Network on 21st August, developed by Nippon Ichi Software of Disgaea fame. Does the title manage to join the ranks of top tier PSN titles, or end up being lost in translation?
Legasista begins with little background information on the world itself, deciding instead to drop you straight into the main characters’ perspective. We begin with an extremely simple premise; Alto (our main character) is on a quest to save his little sister from a rather frightening case of crystallisation, which after months of research and exploration of dungeons has lead him to the famed “Railyard”, a hub where long lost technology has been left to run rampant and accumulate dust. While the story itself isn’t something particularly spectacular in itself, the characters themselves are brilliant. Within the first hour of gameplay we’re introduced to a full cast of excitable, charming and loveable characters, each being surprisingly likeable and funny. Humour is a real strong point here as the characters interact in explosive and comical ways and I often really looked forward to the next cutscene just to listen to some more conversation. Unfortunately, Legasista only supports Japanese Audio with Subtitles, instantly alienating a percentage of their potential audience.
The Railyard itself ends up acting as a central hub area for the rest of the game, allowing you to change and configure your party and gear as well as providing a location to interact with side characters and party members. Of course, you also use the rather empty area as a launching pad to head into the dungeons, which is where you’re likely to spend the vast majority of your time in Legasista. Luckily, Dungeon play is the standout part of the title, taking on a rather interesting Action RPG Gameplay style. Rather than stocking up on items like in 99% of RPG titles, the NIS game disallows the player from taking in any items other than currently equipped gear, forcing them to forage for healing items while crawling and using their heads to avoid taking damage at all, if possible.
I really love how the gameplay mechanics in dungeons really force the players to carefully approach every situation and evaluate whether a battle is really worth the potential award, which combined with being an action RPG title and having a rather steep difficulty curve and unforgiving opponents, creates a very challenging but rewarding experience. I can’t praise what Legasista has done in regards to dungeon crawling enough, it plays well and rewards good play while fairly punishing mistakes. More titles need to take note, because this is dungeon crawling done right. On a less positive note, however, before you’re fully unleashed on these great exploration sections, it is necessary to battle boredom through an hour plus long tutorial. I can’t really understand the need to fully explain every game mechanic in painstaking detail before providing the player with any freedom at all.
Unfortunately, while Dungeons are the primary strong point of Legasista, I feel they are also one of its biggest flaws. By focussing so much on creating an enjoyable experience in these sections they’ve not only neglected the other sections, but completely left them out of the title. Once you tire from exploring the Ivy Tower Dungeons, your choices are to head back to the Railyard to rest up for another trip, or to head onto side quest random dungeons (Ran-Geons, great name, hub?) and explore some more. I found myself needing to stop after an hour or two of play and take a short break due to the sheer repetitiveness.
On the subject of “Ran-Geons”, while I thought they were an interesting twist on the Item World we’ve seen so many times in Disgaea titles by the same developer, I found them more infuriating than anything else. I found above all else that luck played too big a part in your success or failure in Ran-Geons: in fact, it was the sole defining factor in the majority of my multiple visits. I once found my Lv15 party on a floor full of Lv999 endgame bosses, which resulted in a painful game of cat and mouse as I desperately dodged attacks while searching for the exit before finally succumbing to the overpowered onslaught. It wasn’t as fun as it sounded, trust me.
Legasista is a real diamond in the rough, in my opinion. It brings some incredibly original, interesting and above all fun gameplay mechanics to the table while managing to deliver a meaty helping of content with just the right amount of challenge, but is let down on the whole but its lack of accessibility and variety. I would have loved to have given it a better score, because I genuinely really enjoyed my overall experience with the title and would love to see more downloadable titles like this released in future, but unless it manages to sell particularly well we may not continue to see this interesting breed of game on Western consoles. As a closing note, Melize is the cutest character in any game. Ever.
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