Review by DreamWarden
"Nothing new, some flaws, but still a thoroughly enjoyable game..."
The original Legend of Legaia, a console role playing game designed by Contrail and released by Sony in 1999 for the Playstation, was a sleeper hit with a small but devoted following. The follow-up, Legaia 2: Duel Saga, is not a faithful sequel to the first game. It retains some key gameplay elements, it removes some nice features from its predecessor, and it introduces a few new wrinkles (mostly copied from other games). Legaia 2 is still characteristically an “old school” RPG, with improved (but not groundbreaking) looks. Also, while the game is once again designed by Contrail, Eidos, of all companies, released it in North America. Will wonders never cease? Let’s go to the review.
Gameplay / System (Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10)
Let’s begin with the Combat system. The heart of Legend of Legaia’s battle system was transported to Legaia 2 – its combo system. Each character has a set of four attacks (the four directions on the directional pad), which are assigned to a string of “blocks”. Each block is one attack. A set of attacks chained together in a predetermined pattern becomes an “Art”. Naturally, Arts are more powerful than uncoordinated attacks. There are four classes of Arts, progressively more powerful. Arts are acquired either by experimentation on the part of the player, finding items in the game, or by story events. The most interesting of the Arts is the new Variable Art, where two characters combine their powers into a powerful double-team move. The knock against this system is that combat takes more and more time to resolve as your characters chain more and more moves. You can probably read a page of a novel during each round of battle, when your characters are chaining 14 blocks of Arts.
In place of Legend of Legaia’s “Ra-Seru”, Legaia 2 has “Origins”. It’s practically the same thing, different packaging, since both assign an element to each character and serve as the “summons” of this game. The Origins aren’t as cool as the Ra-Seru, but they serve as special-action tools when moving around in a dungeon (a concept perhaps copied from the Wild Arms series). The Origins, like the Ra-Seru, gain levels, but unlike the Ra-Seru, they don’t change their appearance as they become more powerful. Oh well.
There’s a hodgepodge of game elements that make up the sum of the Legaia 2 experience. There’s the usual equipment upgrading routine, without the coolness of seeing your character’s appearance change based on what’s equipped (which was one of the fun things about Legend of Legaia). You have your usual random encounters, and the corresponding leveling up found in most “old school” RPGs. There’s a nicely done (but hardly innovative) overhead map of the world. There’s a cooking system, last seen in the Star Ocean games. There’s an equipment-upgrading system, similar but less complex than, say, that of Legend of Mana. You can even collect pieces of furniture and decorate your own room. Nice little touch, but hardly essential. There are also mini-games, but nothing on the level of Legend of Legaia’s nice little Baka Fighter. There’s the seemingly mandatory Arena Battle segment, last seen in almost every RPG in the last five year. And there’s also a place to get some missions, so you have a bunch of sidequests as well. Nothing revolutionary, but this game borrows liberally from all over.
Story (Reviewer’s Rating: 5/10)
Well, what rating do you expect for the usual “boy from a small town needs to save the world” scenario? Yes, the details vary, and yes, the characters are different, but come on. There has to be a new story line somewhere out there. Or at least put a twist into the dead horse before flogging it.
At least the characters are sort of interesting. Not the lead, who’s your generic boy-grows-up-and-takes-responsibility type. The others. You have the bad Bruce Lee rip-off, complete with fake Chinese accent, the sweet little girl, the saucy wench, and the muscle-bound brute that’s slower than molasses. The character model for the sweet little girl is one of the best I’ve seen in years. Makes my heart ache when she goes down in combat. And she’s clothed in a white-and-blue robe / pantsuit from head to toe, so please, no Rikku comparisons.
Graphics (Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10)
Seven out of ten, because the graphics are no worse than average for the PS2 these days (about the same as Wild Arms 3, better than Suikoden 3, not as good as Final Fantasy X). The characters are sort of blocky, and you have the usual lack of attention to detail, like hair passing right through clothes. The facial expressions of the characters are nice, though, and the combat moves are pretty. I just wish we didn’t have to see them so often. The Origin summons are nothing to write home about (you might even call them below average). The overland graphics and the dungeon designs are nothing special, either. All cut scenes are rendered using the game engine. Nope, this isn’t a Final Fantasy game, but it’s far from ugly.
Sound (Reviewer’s Rating: 4/10)
This is the low point of the game. The music is forgettable generic techno-gaming stuff. Voices are only heard during cut scenes and battle blurbs, and what voice acting there is is just terrible. The oriental martial artist uses the “Funny Chinaman” accent, forcing me to take off two points just for that. The voices don’t sync with the characters’ lips, either. The battle sound bites are bland, and are nonsensical at worst. This is one are that Contrail needs to improve on in the next installment.
Replay Value (Reviewer’s Rating: Not Rated)
Yes, there’s a Cleared Game option, but c’mon, this is an RPG. With the problems in game ambience due to the average graphics and poor sound, and the forgettable story, I’d be surprised if a lot of people found any replay value here. You don’t expect replay value from a 60-hour RPG (at least I don’t), so I’ll exclude this from consideration.
Subjective Tilt (Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10)
Yes, I enjoyed this game. Why? Honestly, I’m wondering that myself. When I’m in the mood to play an RPG, I buy several, play the first 30-45 minutes of each, and then play through the game that grabs my attention. Legaia 2 beat out Suikoden 3, Wild Arms 3, Summoner 2, and Grandia Xtreme, so I guess this game has some charm that appealed to me. I did enjoy Legend of Legaia though, so that could be one of things that influenced my choice.
Final Recommendation: Rent before you buy
(Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 – not an average)
Legaia 2: Duel Saga is an old school RPG that should appeal primarily to those who played and enjoyed Legend of Legaia, but it breaks no new ground and it does have its flaws. It still has enough charm to be enjoyable, but the proper thing to do would be to take it out for a weekend and see if you can overlook its weaknesses before you commit and add it to your RPG collection.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/11/02, Updated 12/11/02
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