I have to admit: I was pretty excited to get my hands on The Legend of Legacy. It just looked like a well put together JRPG with phenomenal visuals. Plus, you could play as a Frog. ‘Nuff said. The pedigree of seasoned developers who previously worked on popular Square-Enix games came together for The Legend of Legacy. This includes the writer of Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, the game designer from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the composer from Final Fantasy XIII, and more. They all worked their magic in conjunction with the game’s developer, FuRyu, to create a spiritual successor to the SaGa series, a franchise I was unaware of up until writing this review. After skimming through the details of SaGa, it’s easy to see how The Legend of Legacy takes many nuggets from it, including its non-linear gameplay and branching stories.
The Legend of Legacy is set in the fantastical world of Avalon, a holy land that recently appeared out of nowhere tens year prior to the events in the game. Commissioned by the king of Initium (a town in Avalon), you set out to explore the land to discover what mysteries the island conceals. At the start of your adventure you choose one of seven available characters as your main protagonist. Each of these explorers have different plot lines and motivations, so you have the choice of seven different points of view and endings. Of course, you are going to choose Filmia the Frog Prince because, let’s be honest: He’s got swag. The Legend of Legacy’s story is probably one of its biggest problems, however. It’s paper-thin and confusing, which is not something you want to hear when it comes to an RPG. Players want an epic and engrossing plot with dynamic and intriguing characters, but Legacy just doesn’t provide that.
The player is given a vague main goal at the outset. Besides that, it is basically up to you to explore Avalon and figure out where to go next. The short story is told through rocks that you’ll encounter along your journey that will provide you with minimal information about the history of Avalon. Unfortunately, since the game is non-linear you can do things out of order. That means you’ll get the history details out of order, which makes it utterly confusing. It would have helped a ton if the messages from the rocks were saved in your inventory in chronological order for easy reference and understanding. That doesn’t happen, and the only way to get those story details again is to go back to each and every rock scattered throughout Avalon and talk to them, which is just flat out tedious.
Plus, it doesn’t help that your party of three are, for the most part, boring. The game centers around the main character you chose at the beginning, so the other members you recruit are kind of just there. They rarely say anything at all and are mainly there to just help out in battle. The main protagonist you chose is not much better, either. In my experience while playing with Filmia, they have very short personal side-stories and nearly no character development. After many hours put into the game, you come to not really care about them, and only really see them as tools during battle.
Thankfully, the actual gameplay and combat are a lot better than the story. For the most part, it plays out like a traditional JRPG with turn-based battles, but the developer does add a few more layers to make it a bit more complex. At the start of each turn you have to choose a formation for your team, where they can each be in one of three stances: Support, Guard, or Attack. Each stance comes with its own perks. For example, Attack increases the character’s attack power while Guard raises the defense and applies defensive arts and counters to the entire party. The formation you choose each turn could ultimately affect the outcome of the battle.
Tacked onto that, you’ve got the Charms, which are essentially magic spells. By using items called Singing Shards you can form contracts or bonds with three different elemental types during battle: water, air, and fire. While contracted to any given element, you can then use magical attacks or defensive moves that correspond to the element type you are bonded with. This is a huge part of the combat because the buffs you receive from the contracts will be what keeps you alive. However, your opponent can also make elemental contracts, thus taking the buffs away from you and applying it them. So it can sometimes end up turning into a game of tug-o-war as you fight for supremacy.
The game does not do a good job explaining the whole system surrounding the elemental contracts and what they are used for, so for a chunk of time I was bewildered by the whole thing. A more elaborate tutorial to explain this mechanic would have been really helpful, because it’s not fun playing in the dark. Once you finally get it all squared away, it definitely keeps you on your toes more as you have a greater list of mechanics to worry about.
The leveling system in The Legend of Legacy is also quite different from your standard RPG. Rather than increasing your character’s overall level, characters level up their individual stats and skills.. This means that using a character in a battle will increase their health and magic while using a specific attack will increase the level of that move to make it stronger. And then you’ll learn new attacks as you continue fighting more monsters and using the moves you’ve already learned. It’s quite an interesting change of pace, though a bit confusing at first, works to mix things up from the usual RPG standards.
One thing I did not like was whenever you learn a new attack during battle, your character automatically switches out the move you were going to use for the turn to use the new one. This can be super frustrating and annoying because it can really mess up your flow. Even worse, it can lead to your demise. Why the development team decided to implement that I have no idea, but it’s downright aggravating.
The Legend of Legacy is not a game where you are just going to be mashing the A button during battles because it’s in no way easy. Just the standard enemy encounters alone will give you a run for your money, so you have to play strategically. Seeing the dreadful “Game Over” screen is extremely easy to come by if you are not careful. Thankfully, there are no random encounters so, if you want, you can just run past enemies on the map to get to destinations quicker — something I always appreciate in an RPG.
Since we’re on the topic of combat, The Legend of Legacy has really bad latency issues during battle. Many times I found the frame rate stuttering because of too many enemies appearing on screen at once, or an attack being too graphically intensive. Loading times and everything else about the game is buttery smooth, but once you go into battle mode, good gravy the frame rate is all over the place. Sometimes it would even freeze for a split second before catching back up. And oh boy, don’t even get me started on the final boss fight. It’s a lagfest.
Outside of The Legend of Legacy‘s frame rate issues, the presentation is pretty solid. At quick glance you would think you were playing Bravely Default, as FuRyu decided to adopt that awesome visual style. I can’t complain either as it does indeed look great — be it the superb chibi-style character models or hand-drawn environments. While the enemy models and animations do look great, I do have to say that there is quite a bit of re-skinning present here. Because of that it felt like there weren’t that many unique enemies to encounter in the game. After seeing four different skins of the same bat creature, it began to feel stale, so it would have been fantastic if there was more diversity in the creature department.
The soundtrack is all-around stellar. Composer Masashi Hamauzu of Final Fantasy XIII created a wonderful arrangement of music that has a fantastical vibe — fitting for a game such as this. It shies away from the heavy rock and roll spectrum that tends to be present in recent RPGs and instead focuses more on calming ambiances with flutes, pianos, violins, drums, and synthesizers. That’s not to say that it doesn’t pick up the pace, however, as it certainly will when the time calls for it. But just don’t expect shredding guitar solos. The game does have a magnificent battle theme, which certainly helps keep you engaged while in the heat of battle.
The game encourages you to play through seven times so you can experience all the different plot-lines for each of the seven characters, but that just seems like a big waste of time; playing through the game with one paper-thin character is enough in my book. Their personal side stories are very short with little character development, so I found virtually no motivation to go back and see what the other characters’ stories have in store.
In the end, The Legend of Legacy definitely doesn’t live up to its pedigree of veteran game developers who had a part in molding it. The game’s story is put on the back burner and is ultimately confusing. The characters are not at all exciting in the least, and the game suffers from frame-rate issues during battle. Thankfully, the game isn’t all bad as the actual combat system is complex and entertaining. The visuals look fantastic outside of the re-skinned enemies and the soundtrack is stellar. There are definitely some great RPGs out there to experience, but unfortunately The Legend of Legacy is not at the top of the list. It’s not exactly a game you should just flat-out skip, but I think it’s best to wait for a price drop before traveling into the mysterious world of Avalon.
The Legend of Legacy is developed by FuRyu and published by Atlus U.S.A. in North America. It launched on Nintendo 3DS on October 13, 2015 for $39.99.
Review copy provided by Atlus U.S.A.
You can watch my video review of The Legend of Legacy below: