There are a few guidelines that are attached to a majority of movies, games, or stories. The good guy beating the bad guys is the most obvious one that comes to mind. Another one is that the main character will always escape a deadly trap, especially if other people have already perished in it. Well, I’m sure we can also add to it the idea that people who bear odd marks either get persecuted or wind up with amnesia, completely forgetting their nature or their innate abilities. Eidos and Fresh Games redesign these and other concepts into their new RPG, Legend of Legaia 2.
In Legaia 2, you take on the role of Lang, young mysterious fighter and town ne’er do well. Although a young member of the Vigilance Corps, his town’s militia, Lang has never been expected to accomplish anything. In fact, most people seem to think that the Vigilance Corps is his only chance at making something of himself. Or so it seemed. Shortly after his first day on the job, an enigmatic man with gold eyes comes to town and kills a lot of Lang’s companions. What’s worse, he steals the local treasure, a magical crystal called the Aqualith that purifies the water supply for the village. As one of the few remaining survivors of the attack, it falls to Lang to retrieve the precious stone.
As is the custom with many RPGs, you’ll spend a majority of your time traveling around the world tracking down the shadowy figure, picking up cohorts along the way. From a young mute girl named Maya to a large giant named Ayne, Lang’s friends all join his adventure for separate reasons. And, as most RPGs go, the quest for your village’s jewel soon grows into a quest to save the world. In spite of this blatantly obvious twist, Lang and his friends are your stereotypical heroes. They all belong to a persecuted race called Mystics, a group of people with large birthmarks reminiscent of tattoos who can harness immense elemental powers called Origins.
There will be moments where these magical powers will be used in traversing obstacles, solving problems, or besting challenges. However, the majority of the time, these, and other skills, will be used in fighting off enemies in random battles. Like other RPG’s, you can attack, run, block or use items. Yet Legaia 2 has an additional battle mode called the Tactical Art System. By inputting directional commands from the keypad a la Street Fighter, you can trigger one of four different special attacks called Arts, combinations of strikes that do extra powerful damage. Normal Arts are the most basic of the four. Typically an opening attack, Normal Arts generates AP points that are used to activate deadlier arts. Super Arts are next, followed by Hyper Arts, which cause a huge amount of damage. Finally come Variable Arts, which use the skills and powers of two characters to attack one target.
Legaia 2’s graphics can be somewhat deceiving, primarily because of its presentation. A large amount of the cutscenes, close-ups and 3D models of main characters have a very obvious anime influence. Within these specific areas, the animations are both slick and detailed, and there are interesting visual flairs, such as hand articulations or changing victory celebrations. Many of these are found within battles, with huge, surprisingly detailed creatures attacking and countering Lang and his party. However, one of the largest detractions to the game is that many of the other graphics seem to be rather nondescript. Compared to the main characters, NPCs have blank, almost washed out faces with very little detail and minor, robotic actions that contrast dramatically. Backgrounds seem to suffer from a similar fate, with generic environs that seem out of place within the game. What also tears the game down is a bad isometric camera that is too tightly zoomed in to help you detect your surroundings. This can help get you lost or even miss blatantly placed treasure chests that are only a few feet away from your character.
Sound within Legaia 2 is also a mixed bag, considering the combination of generic and quality effects. Background sounds, such as birds chirping or rushing water, are very nice and have an adequate balance of weight and realism. Considering that you’ll find a majority of these effects within cutscenes or battles, these effects go a long way towards the game. However, game music is primarily the kind of stuff you’d find in a generic RPG, with lots of calmer, explorative music for world maps and faster, more active tunes for battle sequences. It’s not too terribly impressive, and once you’ve heard the music for the hundredth time, you’ll quickly hit the mute button. However, if you do, you’ll probably miss the oddest quirk the game displays, which is the limited amount of speech that occurs in Legaia 2, primarily at the end of battle sequences. I don’t fully understand why more speech wasn’t used throughout the game, especially because the quality of the acting isn’t bad. In fact, the voices attached to the characters feels rather appropriate.
These graphical and aural disadvantages feel pretty unfair to a game like Legaia 2, which has a lot of creative touches to the RPG genre. For example, the Tactical Arts System is a cool touch to stale combat sequences, adding a more active feeling to the traditional button mashing of battles. One of the coolest things the Arts system does is keep track of previous commands, which saves you from having to input complex strings of directions. It may not sound like an advantage, but once you’ve discovered the more advanced sequences, you won’t want to continually input them turn after turn.
Another original touch is the idea of cooking items for status augmentation. Certain recipes that you can learn bestow additional abilities. By collecting, finding or growing materials, you can cook meals that will boost characters stats for a predetermined period of time. Just as interesting are the branching paths of conversation that Lang can get involved in, which affects how people interact with him and his party. Characters can gain additional information, access to areas or nicknames that people will refer to them as throughout sections of the game. Totally affecting the way the game progresses, this adds a ton of replay.
With a novel approach to combat, branching plotlines and plenty of unique party sequences, Legend of Legaia 2 takes a new spin on RPGs. The Tactical Arts System, along with the introduction of Origins and the inclusion of menial tasks like gardening and cooking provides an inimitable gameplay experience. However, graphical and sound flaws might dissuade newcomers to the genre, most likely keeping it a game for diehard role-playing veterans or Legaia fans.