Review by Elegant_Elliott
"A Wonderful Adventure Despite Its Flaws"
I love RPG games. Regardless of the console, if it's an RPG I will take the time to play it. Some RPGs really disappointed me *Xenosaga I'm looking at you* and some were put on my list of favourite games of all time *Wild Arms 2*. I came across Legaia 2:Duel Saga in a used games bin at my local video game shop. Intrigued by the design on the front cover I decided to purchase it and give it a try, because if I hated the game I only wasted 5 dollars, anyway. After playing through the entire game, leveling up my characters to 99, unlocking all the secrets, and completing the sidequests, I know this game inside and out. The verdict on this game is that it's something all RPG lovers must play through at least once. I don't mean that the game is perfect, it's filled with all of the generic elements in RPG storytelling, and the graphics leave something to be desired for a game on the PS2, but boy oh boy is the game fun beyond belief.
The graphics in Legaia 2:Duel Saga is the section that seems the most lacking. The environments don't look bad but they do leave much to be desired. Towns, caves, and forests all look pretty well done on the world map, and weather details like snow, wind, and rain are clearly visible. The Forest Maze is probably one of the most graphically beautiful environments I've seen in an RPG. However, the dungeon environments slam the graphics category down a few notches. The main problem with the dungeons in this game are that there are very few of them but they will be revisited constantly. They are incredibly recycled throughout the game, and when one looks at the same grey bricks and stones for hours on end it starts to become irksome. The character animations for NPCs and the antagonists/protagonists are done very well, though, albeit their movements in battle and during cutscenes are rather rigid. Another thing that bothered me is that only the change in weaponry is shown but not the change in armour, like in the original Legend of Legaia. That aspect doesn't bother me in most all RPGs since very few of them even show a change in armour graphics, but since it was done in the original I expect it to be done here. Nevertheless, I do applaud the character design team. There are large stalwart men, weirdos that walk around like it's still the 70s disco era, spiky-haired protagonists, busty pirate women, the token innocent looking girl, a rotund dumpy looking girl in a fairy costume, and a wonderfully handsome specimen with a great fashion sense and a rapier, along with many more. The enemy designs are wonderful as well. There are still variations of the same enemy that are just swapped a different colour, not unlike most RPGs, but they look excellent. Legaia 2:Duel Saga is aesthetically pleasing in most areas, and horribly bland in others. This averages its score to a 7.
The story is another section that could definitely use some work. When you boil it all down it's the same generic tale found in most RPGs. I'll try to summarize what the story entails: You play as a teenager named Lang with a strange birthmark on his chest. He was adopted and raised in the town of Nohl, which has a magical levitating crystal called the Aqualith that pours an endless supply of freshwater into the town's lake. One day during a patrol of the woods the guards are attacked by a strange man with gold eyes. Lang rushes to investigate and comes across the man. He, like Lang, has a strange birthmark on him. He asks Lang if he has seen a floating crystal like the other two he has in his hand. Lang gets beat up, wakes up the next day to find that the Aqualith is gone, and then goes on a journey to find the man who took it and prevent his town from dying of thirst. Along the way he finds out that the birthmark on his chest means he's part of a race of people called 'Mystics' who can summon something called an 'Origin' at will. These Origins belong to a particular element and have spectacular powers. The Mystics were almost all exterminated by the regular humans due to fear of their power and the man who stole the Aqualith wants revenge. His plan is to use the crystals to give birth to a new world for Mystics devoid of all humans. Lang's journey to get the Aqualith back turns into a journey of saving the world, and along the way he joins other Mystics who help him in his quest to beat the bad guys and save the world. The story is very straightforward and predictable. Granted, I don't want a horribly contrived storyline filled with nonsensical plot twist after the other, but some surprises would be nice in a game where the story is one of the larger aspects of the game.
The music in Legaia 2:Duel Saga is absolutely wonderful. There are three composers from what I understand, and it shows because the variety is quite nice. Each town has its own unique theme and the pieces are filled with a number of instruments. There are stringed instruments, percussion, synthesizer, chimes, just about everything. The standout tracks are the opening theme and the song in the Forest Maze. A few times when I have wanted to hear some relaxing music I've turned on my PS2, uploaded my save file for Legaia 2:Duel Saga, and gone to the Forest Maze to hear the endless repeat of the music. The battle music is pretty nice, nothing thrilling, but it isn't annoying or anything. One thing that could have been improved upon was variety in the boss music. Regardless of who the boss is, save for the last boss, it's the same exact boss theme, and while it's a good song, it doesn't get me excited enough for the fight. The sound effects are great, slashes sound like slashes, bites sound like bites, and the elements sound like all the natural elements in real life. No problems in this area. But, because of the lack of variety in the boss theme I dinged a score for the music.
Why oh why did Fresh have to take out the Japanese voice acting? I've looked up some audio files for the Japanese version of this game and the voice acting is spectacular in that one! The English voice acting here is beyond awful. The voices for the female characters are high-pitched and irritating, the voice for the martial arts master, Kazan, is absolutely horrendous. His voice actor switches from a Japanese accent, to a French accent, to a British accent all within the same sentence. Lang's voice actor, to my surprise, is Cam Clarke, the man who voiced Liquid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid series. He sounds so bad here, and his catch phrases, along with the other protagonists, are absolutely lame. Probably the most infamous one is, "We can't afford *insert long pause* to lose!" The only reason this gets a 2 is because the voices for Bubba, Velna, and Elliott fit the character designs and weren't irritating to listen to.
The gameplay is one of the better aspects of Legaia 2:Duel Saga and something that the Legaia series is apparently famous for among its fans. There are 5 characters in your party near the end of the game, but only 3 can be used in battle at once, and Lang can never be swapped out of the party. I found that the gameplay in Legaia 2:Duel Saga is very refreshing amongst most other RPGs. Rather than pressing a single button for 'Attack' and waiting for the character to hit/slash and jump back into place, one actually has a choice in the variety of the attack. There are 4 buttons that represent a different direction: 'Up' 'Down' 'Left' 'Right'. When you press 'Up' your character will do a high attack that will miss the smaller characters. Likewise, when pressing 'Down' your character will do a low attack that can completely miss some of the levitating enemies. You discover attacks as you input random directions. For example, 'Right' 'Left' 'Right' chained together will result in a special attack that deals extra damage. There are regular slashes (non-arts), normal arts, super arts, hyper arts, variable arts (you unlock variable arts after a story event that lets you chain together an incredibly strong combo between two characters) and mystic arts (an attack that requires a completely filled AP bar and at least 100 MP and less than 1/3rd your health left to execute). Normal Arts fill up your AP, whereas all other arts reduce your AP. The longer the normal art the more your AP will increase, whereas the stronger the super/hyper art, the more your AP will decrease. As you level up you will be given extra art blocks that enable your character to chain together longer combos and deal more damage. Some arts can only be found through scrolls found in treasure chests, and these attacks can be leveled up into even more devastating attacks. The variety in attacks is great and the animations for them are also excellent, but there are definitely flaws. For one thing, before every art is executed the camera will zoom in and the character will pause, similar to something from action movies like The Matrix. This is cool the first time, but when putting together large combos it gets irritating since the pauses greatly slow down the gameplay. Another thing to point out is that many of the attacks don't look like they hit the enemy. It might be more of a graphical issue, but every attack initiates some kind of mini explosion in front of the enemy and in most cases your character will look like it's striking air and not actually colliding with the enemy at all. There's a bit of a problem with the hit detection, apparently.
After a certain point in the game you will be able to use magic, called the 'Origin' in the game. Your Origin starts off with one attack, and the more your Origin levels up with you during battle, the larger variety of magic attacks your Origin can perform. The Origin attacks are useful in certain situations, such as against enemies with high physical resistance, however the MP required for these attacks is enormous so they can't be spammed. The variety of magic in this game is limited, unlike the variety in physical attacks which is wonderfully high. There are still problems with the battles, however. For one, battles can become very drawn out toward the later parts of the game. Choosing arts can take quite a few seconds, and because there's no way to skip animations you will find yourself waiting a long time for all the actions to play out. That's not even including the fact that some turns have to be used for healing rather than attacking since the enemies deal an absurd amount of damage. Quite a few times I've been ambushed and killed from enemy attacks/status effects before I've even been able to attack or heal myself. What makes it even more annoying is that the encounter rate is absurd. Every 10 steps or less you will find yourself in a random battle, and in mazes it gets incredibly bothersome.
Bosses can either be incredibly fun or incredibly irritating, since you cannot skip cutscenes and if you lose, which is highly likely for some of the earlier bosses, you'll have to sit through the cutscenes all over again. One big problem about the boss fights is that the variety between bosses is almost non-existent. You fight the same boss on numerous occasions or bosses that are incredibly similar to bosses fought before. The challenge of the bosses in the later portions of the game is laughable as well. Once your party unlocks Mystic Arts/Variable Arts, along with a few custom accessories, you can basically kill the boss in one or two turns. In this way the customizing breaks the challenge of the game. But, there's one boss character in the game that is excellent beyond all reason and his name is Elliott. A very handsome man with a wonderfully evil looking Origin and awesome looking attacks that he creates with his rapier. He and his sister Marienne are quite a challenge both times you fight them. It's a shame he can't be a party member.
Speaking of customization, it's a very large part of the game, and a very fun one at that. The number of customizable weapons and armor are very high and it's great fun to experiment with all the possible combinations. You can also equip accessories on your characters that will add effects to increase strength/magic or even give defects in certain areas while boosting others, so strategy is very important in this area. Stores sell a bunch of materials to combine together in order to create more customizable weapons or armour. Enemies also drop rare items that you can use for customization. There's also a fun feature called 'camp', which is exactly that: camping. You set up camp at these little tent icons in dungeon areas and can use it to discover a bit more about your character backgrounds through chatting at the camp fire. Additionally, you can cook a variety of items to increase stats for your characters for a set period of time (the changes wear off after a certain amount of battles). Meals are found through cook books or sometimes by examining a food item on a table. You can also buy ingredients at stores to add to your possibility of menu items. A large amount of humorous dialogue comes from these campfire sessions, but also at entirely random parts of the game. Sometimes when visiting a store or a scenic part of town you'll come across a party member and talking to them will initiate a (usually) funny cutscene.
The world map is very small compared to other RPGs. There's no actual travelling on the map. Certain story events unlock new locations on the world map and upon completion of the story event you can just click on the newly opened icon and your character will travel there in an instant. This means there's no worrying about random battles on the world map, but it also means many areas in the game are constantly revisited and the size of the world of Legaia 2:Duel Saga feels quite small as a consequence.
The mini-games and sidequests are more fun then the actual story. This means the sidequests/mini-games are awesome or the story is lackluster. I think it's a bit of both. Either way, the sidequests and mini-games are great. There's a side jumping mini-game, a rice planting race, a battle arena with a variety of match types in which you can battle other party members or bosses previously fought in the game, an auction area, and a hunter's guild where you can complete quests for money. These guild quests often add a bit more to the story as well.
Legaia 2:Duel Saga is a mixed bag as far as challenge goes. There are only a couple bosses in the game that are challenging, most of them are downright simple. The enemies are what cause major problems. They can cause so many status effects and deal such copious amounts of damage that often times you'll die before you can even get an attack in. Luck plays a large part in the random battles, unfortunately. The mazes and puzzles are medium difficulty. Nothing extraordinarily hard, but not too simple. Some puzzles will make you set your controller down and think for a while. All in all, this game has a good blend of challenge with simplicity.
Rent or Buy?
If you like RPGs, buy this game. If you don't like RPGs, don't buy or even rent this game. It's that simple. If you like RPGs, Legaia 2:Duel Saga will provide you with hours of gameplay, a fun battle system, and a number of traditional RPG elements that should keep you satisfied. It's a remarkably fun game despite its flaws, give it a whirl. If you find that this game isn't for you, you've only wasted a few dollars anyway. I thoroughly enjoyed this game and I have a feeling I'll be playing it off and on for years to come.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/15/10
Game Release: Legaia 2: Duel Saga (US, 10/01/02)
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