Back in 1998, SCEA released an excellent RPG by the name of Legend of Legaia for the PlayStation. Sporting an excellent storyline, great characters, an original battle system, and a beautiful soundtrack, the game instantly became somewhat of a sleeper hit that year. Fans of Legend of Legaia were delighted to hear that a sequel to that classic RPG would be released exclusively on the PS2. Thus, Legaia 2: Duel Saga was born. Many fans of the original couldn’t wait to get their hands on it. After much hype, the game was finally released. Was it worth the hype? Well…kind of.
The story starts you off as a boy named Lang, a very self-confident teenager who tends to rush to conclusions at times without thinking much of the current situation at hand. He is haunted by nightmares of towns burning and an odd little boy who somehow destroys an entire mob of people without a weapon of any sort. He does not know the meaning of these nightmares, nor does he know what to think of them. While wondering about these dreams, Lang wonders of the tattoo mark that has been an endowment upon his chest since birth. He doesn’t know what to think of any of it.
Lang is part of the Vigilance Corps of his village, Nohl. They train to not only protect the village from invaders, but also to hunt for food, and help any villagers who are in need. Lang is new to this group, and he takes a while to adjust to waking up early in the morning. One day, while the Vigilance Corps is out hunting, they are suddenly attacked by a strange man: “The Man with the Golden Eyes,” as they called him. Lang, being the over confident young lad he is, thrusts himself into battle with this mysterious man. Losing terribly, the Man with the Golden Eyes asks him the location of the Sacred Azure Stone. Lang doesn’t know. The strange man throws Lang to the ground and Lang becomes unconscious. He wakes up in his room, back in the village of Nohl. But one thing is missing from the village: the stone that gushed out an infinite amount of water for the village. Without it, the village will surely not survive. People say that a strange man, with a god-like creature, captured the stone and just walked off. Lang knew it must have been the Man with the Golden Eyes. So Lang swears that he will do whatever it takes to find this man, get the Aqualith back, and restore peace back to his village. As the story unfolds, Lang figures out about his past and what his tattoo-like mark means, and why he has been having those dreams. The story may not be the most complex or the most original, but it still is easy to get into and it is enjoyable.
Lang is supported by a strong cast of characters: Maya- the silent and kindhearted girl who has the gift of magic; Kazan- The martial arts master who trains Lang as the story progresses; Sharon- The confident and hyper pirate who will do whatever it takes to be the best; and Ayne- A quiet giant who is sworn to protect his country. While these characters may not be the most well developed characters, they are definitely easy to become emotionally attached to. Each character has a distinct personality and they react in different ways to each situation. As the story moves on, you learn more and more about their pasts and who they are, allowing to feel for them.
The gameplay is nearly identical with Legend of Legaia. It is a hybrid of a turn-based battle system and a fighting game. Simply put, it is a turn-based fighting game. When attacking, you simply input different commands (such as Up, down, left, and right) to create combos like in a fighting game, except it’s turn-based. This means you have as much time as you’d like to figure out the best attacks to defeat your enemy. Some combos create special Arts, which are stronger than normal attacks. You must discover most of these Arts yourself (by basically randomly putting in combos), but some of them can be learned by finding scrolls. These scroll Arts tend to be stronger than normal Arts.
There are several different types of Arts. The ones that are used the most are called Normal Arts. They are simple one hit Arts that do around twice the damage of a normal attack. They are short combos, so you can pull off a lot of them. Normal Arts gain you AP, which is needed if you want to pull of the more complex Arts such as Hyper Arts. Hyper Arts are multiple hit Arts that do a massive amount of damage, but consume AP. Perhaps the coolest Arts in the game are the Variable Arts. These take two characters to pull off. Not only do they look cool, but they inflict a massive amount of damage onto the enemy.
Missing from Legaia 2: Duel Saga is the ever so popular Seru system that was introduced in Legend of Legaia. In place of that, the developers decided to create the Origin System. Origins are like summons that are embedded into the souls of their carrier. They are pretty much the Ra-Seru that were in Legend of Legaia, but under a different name. Each Origin represents a different element. For instance, Lang’s Origin, Galea, represents the element of fire. Each Origin gains levels on its own, and has its own special attacks. However, there is a limit of only one Origin per person, and the Origins only have a handful of attacks, so you will be seeing the same Origins and the same attacks a lot.
Another downside to Legaia 2’s Battle System, is that the battles move at a relatively slow pace and can take too long to complete. Due to how long each character’s combos are, and how long the enemies’ combos are, the battles can take well over 5 minutes, even when it is just a regular battle. This can be very frustrating at times when you are impatient, but when you are in the mood to play the game, the battle system is very fun and engaging. Trying out different combos and such is really fun, and each character has his or her own special Arts and combos.
When you are not spending most of your time in incredibly long battles, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied outside of battle. There are plenty of mini-games and sidequests that should keep you relatively busy. Perhaps the most time enduring side-quests are that of the Hunter’s Guild. The Hunter’s Guild is where you can be hired by people for missions. For example, one mission has you searching for a man’s missing daughter. There aren’t many of these missions, so the Hunter’s Guild will become pretty useless quickly. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other side-quests to keep you busy. There is an Arena where you fight to prove yourself. That is hardly anything new, but there are different challenges in this Arena. For instance, there is an Arena challenge called “Battle Maniax” where the player must undergo a series of challenges to defeat the enemy, such as “Defeat the enemy in 60 seconds.”
The difficulty level of Legaia 2: Duel Saga is set pretty high. Almost every new dungeon is massively harder than the last, and the regular battles are sometimes harder than the bosses themselves. This is a problem, since there are many random battles, and if you have trouble with every single one, there is bound to be frustration. The bosses are very hard at times, but some are also very easy that you could just kill them in a matter of one or two turns.
The dungeons themselves are very hard as well. While they might not be very long, the puzzles in some of them are just brutal. Some of the puzzles offer no hints at all and you will find yourself sitting there wondering what to do next. That, mixed with the many hard random battles (compounded with the slow battle system) makes for one frustrating game that needs a lot of patience to complete. But the cool thing about some of these puzzles is that you need your Origins to complete them. For example, in one dungeon you need to knock down a rock. Simply by hitting the square button, Lang’s Origin (Galea) will appear and destroy the rock. Each of the characters has different Origin powers that are used for different puzzles. This variety keeps the dungeon crawling fresh and interesting.
The controls are very simple and it doesn’t take much time to figure them out. In battle, the controls are even simpler than the out of battle controls (which is odd). While in battle, all you need is the D-Pad (or the analog stick) to select which command you would like to and the X Button to select that command. The whole layout of the in-battle menu is laid out like the D-Pad on your PS2 controller. If you hit left on the D-Pad, it will select that certain command (which would be the Attack command if you were to hit left on it).
The out of battle controls can be annoying at times. Lang runs at a slow pace, which can be frustrating when you want to get a dungeon over with as quickly as possible. The X button can be unresponsive at times which can cause you to tap it a couple times just to talk to someone. Perhaps the worst part about the out of battle controls is the use of the Origins. You have to be perfectly aligned with your target, and if you are not, then the Origin will not work. Other than that, the controls are simple and very easy to understand.
Graphically, Legaia 2: Duel Saga impresses in one section, and falls in the other. The characters are very well detailed 3D anime characters, and boast excellent animations and facial expressions. The Non-Playable Characters that you come in contact with are impressive as well, but come nowhere near as close to the detail of the main characters. The environments are pretty solid, and are completely 3D. However, the environments lack detail, and are not very colorful. But they are not extremely pixilated and jaggy either. The textures for the environments are nice and smooth.
The biggest downside of the graphics is the monster design. While they do look smooth, they are dull and lack detail. The animations for the monsters are great, but they do not make up for the poor design in the monster models themselves. The monsters are also very repetitive. You will be seeing the same monsters almost every time you enter a dungeon. The designers sometimes didn’t even bother to change the color of the monster, so when you are fighting a monster you thought was easy (because it looks exactly the same), you end up dying because it turns out to be a completely different monster (despite it looking exactly identical). There are some cool looking monsters, though, that look like they were ripped straight out of the movie Alien.
The music in the game is very good. It was composed by 3 composers, one of whom is the legendary Yasunori Mitsuda (who is famous for soundtracks such as Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, and Xenogears). The other two are Hitoshi Sakimoto (who is doing the soundtrack for Final Fantasy XII and who also did other famous work such as some of the Final Fantasy X soundtrack) and Michiru Oshima (who did the soundtrack for the first Legend of Legaia). A lot of the tracks in Legaia 2 are just remakes from the first Legend of Legaia. Although there isn’t much variety in the soundtrack, the tracks that are there are excellent. The first Overworld Map theme and the main boss battle theme are two shining examples. There are a couple of bad seeds, however, such as the song that plays at Paradise Island which will likely give the listener a headache. Despite only a few bad songs that are not listenable, the soundtrack is very well composed and sounds great.
The sound, on the other hand, isn’t very good at all. The simple slices and dices of the weapons in battle do not sound very advanced. Simple dings and rings and such outside of battle are very simplistic as well. The voice acting is not good at all either. This is bad, because you will be hearing it a lot in battle (characters scream and yell as they attack the enemy with their Arts). Although, some of the voice acting can be rather entertaining (mainly because it just feels so…corny).
As with most RPGs, Legaia 2 isn’t the most replayable RPG out there. The story is around 20-30 hours long, so it is short enough to go through a couple of times. But it is hardly entertaining enough to go through a second time. There are a lot of sidequests and mini-games to play once you get done with the main quest. The sidequests, however, should only last you around another 20 hours or so after you beat the main quest. But overall, once you beat this game, you most likely will put it down and not play it for a while.
Overall, Legaia 2: Duel Saga is worth a purchase. It doesn’t live up to the hype, but it is a worthy sequel to Legend of Legaia. It is relatively cheap these days, and is pretty easy to find. If you can get past the slow (but great) battle system and the countless random battles, you will find a lot to enjoy in this game. The story and characters may not be the most in-depth or original, but they are still pretty good and it is easy to become attached to them. The game isn’t very long or replayable, but most RPGs aren’t. So if you ever run into Legaia 2: Duel Saga (either at a rental store, or your local Game store) then try it out. You may find out that you love this underrated game.