Having never played Legend of Legaia on the PlayStation, I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started playing its sequel, Legaia 2: Duel Saga. At first sight, with its sub par graphics, clichéd story, and absolutely horrid voice acting, it doesn't seem like much. However, once you delve into the depths of Legaia 2, you'll find an enjoyable gameplay experience that more than makes up for the game's many shortcomings. Its unique and innovative battle system and detailed item creation are both fun and addictive, and they make the game well worth playing.
Legaia 2's main draw is its highly unique battle system, which the developers have dubbed "Tactical Arts System". In some ways, it's similar to the battles found in Xenogears, as you will input commands for each character using the directional pad. As you characters level up, they will acquire more spaces to place attacks. Certain combinations of commands will result in your characters learning special moves called "Arts". Arts come in several forms, and most of the game's strategy lies in finding the best combination of arts to use against a particular enemy. Normal arts are fairly weak, but they are the only ones that can build up your AP meter, which is used to unleash more powerful attacks. Super arts are somewhat stronger than normal arts, but they require AP to be used. The next step up is hyper arts, which are learned in a different way than the others. You must learn them from scrolls found throughout the game or occasionally from story sequences. They are quite a bit more powerful than regular attacks, but require a lot more AP to use than the normal arts. Variable arts are special attacks that require you to combine the attacks of two characters into one massive dose of damage. Needless to say, these are quite powerful. Not quite as powerful as the mystic arts, however. Mystic arts are the game's most powerful attacks. In order to be put into play, your character must be at less than half of his full health, with full magic points and AP. These attacks the most devastating maneuvers in the game, without a doubt.
Another enjoyable gameplay aspect of Legaia 2 is its detailed item creation and cooking systems, which are similar in many ways to the cooking and item making portions of Star Ocean: The Second Story. However, unlike Star Ocean, Legaia 2 does not require your characters to become more skilled to forge powerful items. Instead, it calls for them to procure the services of a blacksmith. New items are created by combining an already existing item, such as a sword, with raw materials that can be purchased or looted from enemies. Most of the game's most powerful equipment can only be obtained through these methods, so it pays off to give item creation a try. Cooking plays an entirely different role than the item making. Rather than creating food items with which to heal your party members, you will learn recipes that can be cooked at campsites. The resulting dish is then immediately consumed by your party, giving them a temporary boost or decrease in certain stats. It adds another layer of strategy to the game, as you will have to weigh the decreases your food will bring versus the bonuses it provides you with in order to appropriately power up your party before difficult battles.
It's quite obvious from the first time you set eyes upon Legaia 2 that it isn't the prettiest game you'll ever see. Even if it were released at the launch of the PS2, it still wouldn't be considered impressive in the least bit. The environments are generally very bland and uninteresting, complete with boring textures and overly simplistic design. The characters themselves aren't much better off, either. Their base designs are quite unappealing and generic, and they aren't modeled very well. For example, one character carries a jug of wine at certain points in the game. Strangely, the jug appears to be stuck to the palm of his hand, as his fingers do not wrap around it. This would be perfectly acceptable several years ago, but with the advances that have been made in the way of visuals, it simply looks out of place and silly. The animation is also of fairly low quality in most places. Characters run in an awkward, stilted manner, and their attacks are choppy and unnatural looking. To summarize, you will be quite let down if you go into Legaia 2 expecting some kind of visual delight.
The tale told in Legaia 2 is one that any long-time RPG player will have doubtlessly experienced many times in the past. The three elemental crystals that keep the world in balance are stolen by an evil magician who wishes to destroy the planet. All of the prerequisite RPG clichés are present. Naturally, you play as an inexperienced young man with a mysterious past. His name is Lang, and he resides in a small village called Nohl. AS you'd expect, he is the only one who could possibly save the planet, despite his relative inexperience in combat. Throughout the game, you'll visit a snowy village, a large capital city complete with a slum and an upper-class section, a castle, a sewer, and pretty much every other typical area you'd expect to see in the average RPG. It's not necessarily a bad story, but its certainly not going to keep anyone glued to the edge of his or her seat in anticipation of the next plot segment.
Yet another area where Legaia 2 manages to fall short is sound. The voice acting in the game is quite simply the very worst I have ever heard. Every voice in the game is nothing less than painful to listen to. Battle taunts from your characters are quite prominent, and each one is worse than the next. Not only are they said with no emotion behind them, they are also poorly dubbed. The old Godzilla movies managed to have better lip-synching than Legaia 2 does, and that's saying quite a bit. Even worse than the battle taunts are the cutscenes that play out during important battles. The boss enemies tend to deliver long-winded speeches that are generally of little relevance to the story, and for as bad as the short battle taunts are, these cutscenes manage to make those seem tolerable. Each enemy has a more annoying voice than the last, and their speeches get longer and longer. Eventually, it got to the point where I would reflexively hit the mute button on my TV every time I saw a cutscene starting up.
Overall, Legaia 2 is a solid game that's probably well worth your time, especially if you've already finished most of the more high profile releases to come out recently. The graphics and sound are of low quality and the plot is as clichéd as they come, but Legaia 2's gameplay is strong enough to make up for all of that. On the whole, it's a worthwhile addition to any RPGer's PS2 library.
© 2002 Fresh Games