Legend of Legaia was hard. There’s no disputing this point; unless you leveled up repeatedly, you got your butt kicked time and again. Equipment was expensive and monsters were merciless. Some people hated it, some people loathed it, and some people thought it was the best game ever. Regardless of what you thought of the first game, you should give the second game a chance. No longer is it the insanely difficult level-fest of the original, but the story of a young man named Lang as he journeys through the trials of his life without leveling up repeatedly or random battles every three steps.
Legaia 1 was not a pretty game. Characters were blocky and suffered from a lack of polygons. Although it uses the same general polygonal engine as the first, Legaia 2’s models are far more complex than the first’s, but still have room for improvement. Every character’s face has quite a range of expressions that run the gamut from shock to joy. It seems that Prokion was more interested in the characters’ faces than in their overall models. Kazin, in particular, suffers from what I like to call “Kung Fu Grip Syndrome”; His hands rarely move, even when holding objects. Simply unacceptable that nearly one year after Final Fantasy X’s release these kinds of graphics are seen.
Environments in the game are straight up solid. They’re not impressive by any means; after all, they are a bit stale and clich? You have the peaceful lakeside town, the snow town, the casino town, and the rowdy lawless town. You are able to customize a single room in the town of Yuno after a portion of the game. I’ve not noticed any effect on another aspect of the game, although Maya does mention that if you put too many items in the room, it will lose its individuality. Chests of drawers also seem to have a problem in this world; only a single drawer in a column will open. This may seem nitpicky, but it lessens the effectiveness of Legaia’s impact.
Character designers did an effective job when creating the heroes and villains, but as with the other aspects, they don’t excel in any way. Natsumi Arisawa did a good job creating characters that the player can relate to, even if they are a bit run of the mill. I know I am able to see life through the eyes of Lang, the young militia recruit, very easily. One of the factors aiding this is the fact that the characters are built realistically, not super-deformed.
One problem that many will have with the game is its lack of FMV cutscenes. Most games released now have at least one FMV cutscene – either the opening or the ending. Legaia 2 has neither, nor any cutscenes in the middle of the game. The entirety of the plot is related to the player with in-game graphics. One of the nifty features of Prokion doing this, however, is added cutscenes in the middle of the battle – with no loading time in sight. Gripes aside, Legaia 2’s graphics engine gets the job done and allows for an enjoyable game.
“We can’t afford (long pause) to lose!” This is one of the numerous things that can be heard when playing through Legaia 2. The voice actors in this game are simply horrendous. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it the VA here sucks. Even if the VA wasn’t half bad, it seems that the programmers had a hard time synchronizing the American voices to the characters. Halfway through someone talking, the voice will begin. It’s like watching an old Godzilla movie over and over again, with the Japanese screaming with horrendous voice-overs. Only I think Godzilla did it slightly better.
Music, on the other hand, isn’t horrendous at all. What most people don’t know about the music, however, is that it is actually composed by the main man behind Chrono Trigger’s music, Yasunori Mitsuda. This is obviously not Mitsuda’s best effort, however. I had a good deal more enjoyment out of Chrono Trigger’s music than I did with Legaia 2’s. Mitsuda’s tunes do their job as they are meant to and allow players to hear lilting tones at peaceful moments and more poignant music at stressful times. None of the tracks stick out as anything special, which is a shame, because Mitsuda-san is capable of far better than this.
This is where Legaia 2 outshines all competition, the meat and potatoes of any RPG, the battle engine. Legaia 2’s engine is similar to most other RPGs; you can defend, you can use magic, you can use items, you can run, or you can attack. Defense, Magic, Items, and Fleeing are just as you would expect in a game. Attacking, on the other hand, is a brand new bag. The ‘Arts’ system from Legaia 1 has been revived, and it is kicking. The premise is simple. When you choose attack, you are given a certain amount of ‘Art Blocks’ to put in a command, either up, down, left or right. These relate to High, Low, Left or Right attacks, respectively. However, when linked together in certain combinations, these unleash massive attacks called Arts.
The Arts system is deceptively deep while looking very simple. First, there are 5 different types of arts, Standard, Super, Hyper, Mystic, and Variable Arts. Standard Arts are the building blocks of all of the other Arts. With Standard Arts, the character gains a certain amount of Art Points, or AP. With these AP, the Character can now execute other arts. Super Arts are the second type of art a character learns. A character can execute a Super Art as long as they have the required amount of AP. This drains the AP, but does more damage than a Standard Art. These Arts can be linked together. For instance, if you have an art that is “left, right, left” and an art that is “left, up, down”, you could link these together as “left, right, left, up, down”, and do two arts with one less block. Hyper Arts are arts that do even more damage than Super Arts, but generally in either a massive amount of hits or simply one. When one is linking a Hyper Art, one must use the hyper art as the base. This is due to the fact that a Hyper Art does not have any preceding hits. The last two types of arts are rather special, and are not available until around halfway through the game. Variable Arts are arts that must be shared between two characters. The first puts in their “A” portion of a Variable Art and the other puts in his “B” portion. The two both attack the same monster and deal a large amount of damage. Mystic Arts are the most difficult Arts for one to do. You are required to have 100 AP, 100 MP and must be at less than half your hit points. When one does do a Mystic Art, however, it will generally kill or deal a massive amount of damage to any monster, including bosses. When using defensive skill power-ups, you can generally kill anything in the game with a single Mystic Art.
This brings me to my next point, the Skill system. When a character obtains an item, it will have anywhere from one to six skills on it. The first skill is always available when the item is obtained, but the others must be gained through item experience. The item gains experience through combat and it will unlock different abilities. There are two general types of abilities, those that are automatic if the item is equipped, and those that must be attached to Offense or Defense. For the automatic skills it is obvious, they just happen. For the skills that need to be equipped, however, you can only have one offensive and one defensive skill attached at a time. The offensive skill triggers every time the character makes an attack, whereas the defense skill triggers whenever the player selects the ‘defend’ command for a character. These skills play a large part in the game, as many of the items that have the best skills also contain a crippling skill, one that will dramatically lower one’s attack or an attribute.
The Magic system is provided to players very early in the game, after you acquire Maya. Each of the characters, save Ayne and, for a portion of the game, Lang, have an Origin, or a source of true power. These Origins level up with the characters and gain new magic where the characters’ attributes increase. Each character’s origin is true control over a different portion of nature. Sharon controls lightning, Maya controls Life, Kazin controls Earth, and Lang eventually controls fire.
Also available to players to toy with their attributes is the cooking system. The player obtains ingredients all over the gaming world and hoards them for when he reaches a camp location. When camped, the player can choose to cook using the different ingredients he has. It’s not a unique concept by any means, but it does add to the atmosphere of the game.
Not to be forgotten are the minigames found in the casino city. These are by far the least compelling of the minigames. A simple slot machine and “Roulette” game are all that are offered in the casino portion of the city. Also available is an Auction House and an Arena. The one thing that irritated me is the fact that you are required to play through the arena at least once to continue the plot of the story near the end of the game. Not fun, because by this point in the game, you have obtained nearly all, if not all of your arts, and combat simply becomes pressing the X button repeatedly.
Legaia 2’s story is nothing to pick up the phone and call mama about. It’s the story of a young man named Lang as he enrolls in the Noll Militia. Noll is a small waterfront town that relies on a magical stone called the Aqualith for water. As would be expected, there is a catastrophe on Lang’s first mission and the town’s source of water; a man named Avalon steals the Aqualith. From here Lang begins his mission to retrieve the Aqualith from Avalon, and eventually to save the world. Lang is an easily likable character, and with a few choices, you can meld him into the character you want him to be, to an extent. Eventually, Lang finds that he is a “Mystic”, or one who can control an Origin. Each of these origins is a living creature that has a symbiotic relationship with the mystics. They take a back burner in the plot, however, and become an outside advisor character, rarely seen in the real plot.
Along Lang’s journeys, he attracts a group of four other adventurers. Maya is a young girl he meets near the beginning of his journeys in a dungeon and befriends when attempting his escape. Maya is a mute girl for most of the beginning of the game. After their daring escape from the dungeon, Maya brings Lang to a man named Kazin. Kazin is a grizzled, middle-aged martial arts master. Kazin brings Lang under his wing and begins to train him. Also on his journey, Lang meets a dashing, swashbuckling woman named Sharon and a reluctant Giant named Ayne. All of the characters are likable, but I didn’t become overly attached to them, mainly because of the horrible voice acting. The plot does its job; it allows the player to enjoy a well-built game.
Legaia 2 is one of the games that can truly be said that it is more than the sum of its parts. The game offers mediocrity in nearly every category, but comes out to be a truly enjoyable game. The graphics are average, the sound is rather poor and FMV is nonexistent. The more I played Legaia 2, the more I became engrossed in it. I didn’t care for many of the options, but there was something that was driving me to save Legaia’s world. The game is not nearly as difficult as the first game, which is good, because it eliminates mindless leveling up. Prokion did a good job creating a sequel to Contrail’s baby.
There are better RPGs out there to play, certainly, but there’s nothing that isn’t solid about Legaia, overall. Those looking for the uber hardness of the first game will be disappointed. Those who are looking for a fun romp that lasts about 25 hours will be pleased. After all, a game that includes the line “Master, you certainly have some bargaining skillz!” can’t be that bad.