Note: This review is based on the Japanese version of the game.
One and a half years after its debut on the PC platform, Nihon Falcom brought Eiyuu Densetsu (Legend of Heroes) VI: Sora no Kiseki Second Chapter (SC) to the PlayStation Portable in late September 2007. While certainly not without flaws, Sora no Kiseki SC was the first RPG after Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus spoke Zarathustra) that kept this jaded RPGFan, yours truly, awake and playing until 3:00 AM.
Sora no Kiseki SC’s presentation is decisively old school. Then again, one shouldn’t expect Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core-esque visuals from a game originally designed to run on a Pentium III 500 MHz with a mere 192 MB main memory and 32 MB video RAM. That being said, the backgrounds and sprites are quite detailed and look very polished. Character animation, be it in battle or on the field map, is solid, too. I have no complaints about the quality of the animated CG sequences either. My sole complaint concerns their placement. This may sound highly superficial at first glance, but when you use pre-rendered cutscenes to depict the appearance of the enemy’s main airship, then why not use them for an otherwise well directed, well written, and important story event? I did not expect CG fireworks au-par with a recent main series Final Fantasy installment, but at least use the pre-rendered cutscenes for major story events. I could have lived without the CG sequences depicting my enemy’s airships. However the aforementioned scene, which is of great significance for the game’s story, certainly suffered from the lack of CG.
Sora no Kiseki SC’s soundtrack isn’t bad either. Sound Team JDK’s compositions always fit the respective scenes and environments very well. I particularly liked the few choral tracks. The two vocal themes, on the other hand, did not impress me too much. The game would have certainly benefited from voice acting, but sadly outside of battles your characters stay mute. This is particularly regrettable, because the voice acting in battle is actually very well done and the voices do fit the respective characters’ personalities.
As suggested by its title, Sora no Kiseki SC is a direct sequel. The game’s story begins immediately after the events of Sora no Kiseki First Chapter. The first game’s protagonists, Estelle and Joshua Bright return as main characters. Estelle is the daughter of one of the most talented and admired military leaders of her country. Her father had adopted Joshua years ago, when he was a young kid. After growing up together as brother and sister, Estelle and Joshua successfully managed to prevent a coup d’etat in the first chapter. Throughout their first adventure, both realized that they feel much more for each other than brotherly love. At the beginning of the second chapter, however, Joshua has disappeared, so Estelle decides to search for him. One of the most well written and charming aspects of the story is Estelle’s quest to find her beloved Joshua. While comparatively well done, the main story arc is nothing that hasn’t been done before: an evil organization seeking absolute power, an ancient civilization too advanced for its own good, a protagonist (Joshua) with a dark past, etc. The background stories of pretty much all the playable characters are fleshed out rather decently and the villains’ motives are not only explained, but also comprehensible. Furthermore, to grasp and enjoy the story and setting of SC, playing the prequel is not necessary.
Once you start a new game, Sora no Kiseki SC asks you to select one out of four difficulty settings (easy, normal, hard and nightmare). I have selected easy and while I did not die once in battle, I did not feel boss battles were a piece of cake either. As for the mechanics, the game employs a turn-based battle system. As enemies are visible on the field map, you trigger off a battle by running into a foe with your characters. You can have up to four active members in your party. The number of playable characters at your disposals varies throughout the game, but before the final dungeon, you will be able to choose among a cast of 12 characters.
In battle, players can choose between the following commands: (standard) attack, move, arts (magic), craft, items and escape. Crafts are skills unique to certain characters. Using them requires CP. CP are slowly but surely replenished by either using standard attacks or arts or by taking damage. Once a character’s CP gauge reaches 100, he or she will gain access to powerful S-crafts. In addition to standard and special crafts, the game also offers players the possibility to use combination crafts. Up to four party members can team up to perform a powerful combo attack. To use arts, a player needs to equip Quarts. Quarts are made out of crystals known as Septium. Enemies drop seven different types of Septium. At Orbment stores Septium can be transformed into Quarts. Equipping these Quarts to a character’s Orbmental Battle Device will not only allow him or her to use arts, but also boost his or her stats. Arts are categorized by seven elements and (generally) five levels. One character can equip up to seven Quarts. In order to fit higher level Quarts in an Orbmental Battle Device, the device’s slots have to be upgraded. For each slot there are two upgrades, each requiring a certain amount of Septium. Similar to a strategy RPG, Sora no Kiseki SC limits the movement of characters as well as the range and target area of arts and crafts.
It took me about 50 hours to complete Sora no Kiseki SC. As you progress through the game, tons and tons of optional quests, such as defeating certain monsters or looking for missing NPCs, become available (some only for a limited amount of time, though). Since I have only completed approximately 30-40% of them, one can probably get 60+ hours worth of play time out of the game. If the game detects a clear save data of the prequel on your memory stick, you can start the game at a higher level and receive various bonus items.
Eiyuu Densetsu Sora no Kiseki Second Chapter is probably not for everyone. Those who have come to expect a presentation a’ la Final Fantasy from their RPGs may be better advised to pick up Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII or wait for Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. That is because even on PlayStation Portable, among its many ports, the visuals of Sora no Kiseki Second Chapter do feel slightly outdated. Similarly, those looking for epic storylines might be better advised to pick up Final Fantasy Tactics or Xenosaga. Those willing to see beyond the somewhat outdated presentation and cliché main storyline will find a slightly old school, yet incredibly charming RPG with solid mechanics, likable characters and a well written (love) story.