Praise the Nintendo 3DS- it has become the final bastion for the JRPG genre. Even as the genre continues to die, or put out mediocre entries at best, on other platforms, the 3DS sees sustained quality support from various publishers. If you are a JRPG fan and a 3DS owner, you have no shortage of great games to play – Crimson Shroud, Shin Megami Tensei, Etrian Odyssey, Fire Emblem, Monster Hunter, and Bravely Default are just some of the great titles you can check out – but it also means that any new release has to contend for your attention.
Thankfully, The Legend of Legacy, with its (albeit redundant) catchy title, and its striking visual look, instantly commands your attention. The game’s gorgeous pop up artstyle, its old school JRPG gameplay, and its entire tone seem to channel the classic, legendary JRPGs of the SNES and PlayStation eras. In a lot of ways, The Legend of Legacy seems to be a lot like Bravely Default- a modernization and re-interpretation of classic JRPGs with current market expectations and standards in mind. It lives up to that billing quite a bit, too- while The Legend of Legacy is definitely not as essential a title as Bravely Default was, it makes for the perfect old school JRPG experience for the RPG fan on the Nintendo 3DS.
"While The Legend of Legacy is definitely not as essential a title as Bravely Default was, it makes for the perfect old school JRPG experience for the RPG fan on the Nintendo 3DS."
The Legend of Legacy is very light on the story- a brief bit of exposition at the beginning sets the stage for you to find your way to the island where the entire story takes place. The game actually presents you with various different ‘origin’ stories that you can pick from at the beginning, which are tied to your choice of starting character- and depending on which character you pick, your reasons for being at the island can range from trying to find God, trying to take out blaspheming impersonators, or simply trying to find treasure. The reasons really don’t matter- particularly since they are paid lip service to once, and they then recede to the background. It’s a bit of a lost opportunity- unlike, say, Dragon Age: Origins, which had a similar offering of different origin stories based on which character you picked to start with, The Legend of Legacy seems to play largely the same no matter who you pick. It feels like a bit of a missed chance.
The entire game’s story is actually fairly minimal- once you get to the island, it just gets out of the way, leaving you to explore the map, trying to find loot and treasures, and defeating monsters while taking on quests. The idea seems to be to give you minimal motivation to get going, and then letting the gameplay sustain your interest in the game.
It helps, then, that the game plays well. The obvious 16-bit and 32-bit JRPG influences on The Legend of Legacy are apparent from the get go- you still heal at inns (which is also where you save), battles are still turn based, and defeating monsters and investigating points of interest on the self populating map still gives you loot.
The twist here is in how these specific aspects actually play- The Legend of Legacy’s development was actually helmed by the legendary Kyoji Koizumi (of SaGa fame), so it makes sense that there would be a unique hook to it all. That hook is immediately apparent once the training wheels are off, and you start battling creatures in the forest that forms the first dungeon of the game- right off the bat, you are asked to pick a formation, and your formation determines the ‘stance’ of your party members- an attacking formation leads to higher damage on the enemy, for example, but it leaves them vulnerable to taking more damage themselves. A defensive formation minimizes damage taken, but also damage given. Support formations prioritize healing.
"It can be a lot to keep track of, and the temptation is just to button mash your way to victory."
Once you pick your formation, you actually perform your action for the turn, where you can attack with your primary weapon, a secondary weapon, use an equipped item, or use ‘Elementals.’ Elementals are the basis for this game’s magic system- in context of the game’s lore, whatever there is of it, they are entities, each affiliated with a different element (big surprise), that you forge a contract with, for different effects. You need to equip specific items and forge specific contracts to be able to utilize different element skills, and each element also has some passive effects. For instance, the Water Element heals you at the end of each turn. Elements and their effects get stronger the more of them are shown on the meter on the bottom screen (which has a chart with a cursor indicating the relative strength of each element on your party’s side in battle).
It’s a highly complex system, and it can be a while before you fully grasp it. Adding to the complexity is the actual leveling system, where your characters, in addition to having an overall character level, seem to have different stats that grow at the end of battles, based on what actions you performed in battle. It can be a lot to keep track of, and the temptation is just to button mash your way to victory. Stick with it, however, and try to understand the nuance and complexity of the systems, and you are left with a very rewarding JRPG.
The issue is that the game does make it hard for you to want to stick with it- the lack of a framing narrative context hurts the game, the lack of proper tutorials harms an understanding of the game’s mechanics, and together, the two can be absolutely discouraging to inducing further investment in the title. It’s a similar issue to what Atlus’ Etrian Odyssey games have faced until the release of Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold, or Capcom’s Monster Hunter games until Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate released earlier this year- no story and no tutorials coupled with unusual and nuanced mechanics do not encourage a player to keep playing.
"The Legend of Legacy does a great job of channeling old school JRPGs, while also adding its own nuanced twists to the old school turn based RPG formula."
That said, if you stick with the game, with the foreknowledge that it is rewarding, then yes, you get one of the more rewarding JRPGs on the system. The Legend of Legacy at least benefits from an old school charm that makes you want to give it a chance more than you would otherwise- the game looks gorgeous with a charming artstyle, resembling a popup book that immediately commands your attention. Its soundtrack sounds like something right out of an SNES JRPG, and the game’s no nonsense approach towards its storytelling certainly evokes a much simpler era. The fact that the game makes concessions to modern standards – battles are not random, but rather monsters show up on the screen, allowing you the chance to escape – is great, although some baffling aspects remain- why, for example, can you only save at an inn? A very forgiving quicksave system is in place, yes, but a hard save available anywhere would be preferable. Also bizarre is the game throwing you back to the entrance of a dungeon if you try to escape the battle- it disincentivizes escaping pointless battles, and means you have to sit through them. There is an A key to speed up the animations, but it would be much better if I could just escape and not lose my place in the dungeon.
The Legend of Legacy does a great job of channeling old school JRPGs, while also adding its own nuanced twists to the old school turn based RPG formula. There is a lot here that could be better, but sticking with the game reveals a great, satisfying title that rewards your patience. It may not be for everyone, but for those who understand it, The Legend of Legacy is truly a legacy of the legends.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS.
Gorgeous visuals, great soundtrack, perfectly channels old school JRPGs, nuanced and complicated battle mechanics
A lack of tutorials makes it difficult to understand the nuances of the mechanics, a lack of story removes any contextual framing, some baffling anachronisms remain
The Legend of Legacy does a great job of channeling old school JRPGs, while also adding its own nuanced twists to the old school turn based RPG formula.
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