Review by Psycho Penguin

"This is a not-so epic 400th review for a not-so epic game, so it evens out."

For those of you that have talked to me about video games for more than 10 minutes probably know by now, I consider Legend of Legaia to be one of the greatest video games of all time. I even place it number two in my all time greatest video games list, behind only the equally great RPG Final Fantasy VII. It was a truly special game, with awesome battles, a very unique and fun magic system, and an original storyline with 3 of the best characters ever.

I wasn't expecting Contrail to ever make a sequel to the game, to be honest with you. So, I was stunned when I read an issue of PSM many moons ago and discovered that plans were in the works for a Legend of Legaia 2. Pleasantly stunned, of course, because I could only imagine what a terrific game it could be. Of course, I also knew that it could turn into a total disaster, as several game sequels have failed to live up to the hype (Legend of Mana, I'm looking at you.)

Fortunately, Legaia 2: Duel Saga was finally released, and I rushed to the store, and I bought it. The day it came out. I never do this any more, but this game was special. It was the game I had to have, the next true great RPG. I was surprised to see so few copies left when I got there, as the original Legend of Legaia was not exactly the most popular game around, but I knew the two games were not related in any way, so I guess many people just saw a new RPG and bought it.

That's right, Duel Saga is yet another role playing game sequel that has very little to do with the first. Besides keeping some remants of the original battle system, Contrail completely reworked the game. Sure, the basic three characters are all the same for the most part: Lang is a sword user, Maya is a magic user (Noa wasn't, but at least they're both girls), and Kazan is the old kung fu master of the group. He's much more proficient with his fists, but has the brains to back it up.

The problems start here. The characters are not developed enough compared to the original Legend of Legaia. In part one, I felt as if I was growing up with the characters right before my eyes. Here, they are just shallow deviants out to rid the world of a demon. Not helping the cause is the addition of two characters: Sharon, who reminds me of Noa, but with a sword, and a big brute named Ayne, who has the personality of a lawn gnome. And looks uglier.

The storyline, sadly, also shows hopes of promise but then fails to deliver. You start off as Lang, and you learn about your hometown having this Aqualith, which helps protect the town and keep it nice and safe from ''the nightfall'', which would destroy crops and do other mean things. Lang goes on a mini adventure and meets up with this guy named ''Golden Eyes'', who proceeds to destroy Lang with ease, and then steals the aqualith. The quest for the aqualith soon begins, but soon leads into a far deeper plotline involving *Gasp* four crystals needed to destroy or save the world. Guess what you have to do.

Fortunately, the game has some merits when it comes to storyline. Despite the lack of great character development, Lang and Kazan have some good dialogue, and the characters interact with each other surprisingly well. Everyone actually has a reason to be in the party, and each have different reasons. You get some background information into each of their lives throughout the quest, and I welcomed this. Also, sitting and resting and choosing the ''talk'' option at campsites added lots of depth to a somewhat empty storyline. So, it's not all bad, but I just expected a little bit more. The storyline is still a tad above average, but with better characters and a deeper meaning to the quest, it would have done even better.

Duel Saga won't win any awards for graphics, but I still felt satisfied with them. The game has a very unique look to it, as everything seems plastered onto the background, especially with the way the camera will move with you. Everything is done to an extreme amount of detail, from little drops of snow falling off snowmen, to bugs swirming around trees, and I for one welcomed the great attention to detail the developers showed in creating this deep game.

The battle graphics are also improved. The system just looks fresher, and definitely looks edgier and more up to date. The menus have completely changed for the better. The enemy designs are somewhat repeated from the original (Oh my god, I think I saw these Lyps before!), but they are still very nicely done. I especially liked the variety of interesting creatures you will face. From the skeleton exteriors of Bone Warriors to the devilish look of Bloodfeathers to the mammoth ogres known as Abysgigas, each enemy design is unique and creative... at first. Sadly, you will face the same enemy with different colors a bunch of times, but welcome to the world of RPG graphics.

I loved the music in Duel Saga so much, I rushed out and bought the soundtrack for it. Besides the music that was recycled from the original Legend of Legaia, which is quite good in and of itself, I enjoyed the variety of different songs. The town themes are cheery and upbeat, the dungeon themes are mysterious and deep, everything sounds just like it should. Plus, I enjoyed the boss themes in the game, and the battle theme never got on my nerves. I especially love the little beat that plays in the background of the battle theme.

The ''Man with Golden Eyes'' was my favorite song in Legaia 2, as it was very drummy and dark. I love songs with a mysterious edge to it, and that song fit his character perfectly. If there's one thing I disliked, it was the victory song, as Legend of Legaia didn't have a victory song, and the one in Duel Saga is kind of disappointing. Plus, there's not a lot of ''dungeon songs that play during battle'' that there were in the original. Oh well. I still loved the music regardless of the minor flaws and ocassional bad song.

Sadly, the voice acting during battles is HORRIBLE. Just plain horrible. I could barely stand to hear them by the end of the game. Lang's voice is truly annoying, and his lines are pathetic. ''We can't afford... *pause*... to lose'' and ''Come on, let's go!'' are some of the anti-classics. Trust me, once you hear his voice more than a few times, it will start to get on your nerves. The only one I remotely liked was ''Let's Roll!'' when he swings his sword over his head. Kazan's voice was better, but not much better. I only loved one voice in the game, and that was the one they stole from Gala's voice in Legend of Legaia and gave Kazan (see if you can spot it out), so that says a lot about the voices.

The game controls brilliantly, but what else could you expect from a role playing game? Inputting all the various commands during battle is a cinch. The game uses the same menu system as it did before, so you can just use up, down, left, and right, to input all commands during battle. I also like how you can switch characters (outside of battle) and use their origin powers with the L2 and R2 buttons without having to go to the menu screen at all.

Finally, to the area in which Legaia 2 completely owns everything: gameplay. I love it. I think it has terrific gameplay, with a deep battle system. For those of you unaware of the unique battle system the Legaia system brings to the genre, let me explain it for you. You get arts moves: each Arts move is inputted using a commands system. If you input the correct chain of commands (up, down, left, right), you do the arts move. The key is to chain together several arts moves at one time to really floor the enemy. Finding how to do all the arts moves is a definite high point.

Plus, in addition to the regular arts, super arts, and mystic arts, you now get to perform Variable Arts. A variable art is when two characters have the right AP and amount of spaces on their bar to perform the move, and input the commands needed. If they both input the correct command, they combine their skills for one devastating attack. There is no triple Variable Art, but the addition of the Variable Art was a good move, in my book.

How do you get to do these moves? Each move is a certain length of commands, but you only get so many commands before you run out of space. So, if you get 7 spaces, you can only input 7 commands. And, if you want to do 2 4-space commands, you can't do it, unless the last command of the 1st move matches the 1st command of the 2nd move, then you can combine the moves together. Knowing how to combine moves and proceeding to do so makes battles a lot easier. Raising levels increases the amount of art blocks you get, by the way.

The problem here is that each move you do cost a certain amount of AP. In the original Legend of Legaia, you could spirit, which defended and also refilled about 40 percent of your AP. Now, certain moves help you regain AP, but other moves take AP away. It makes battles much more strategic, as you can't just ''spirit-super art-spirit-super art'' like you could in the original Legend of Legaia. Now, you have to concentrate on how much AP you have, and have to do art moves that help you regain AP before doing the stronger ones that consume AP.

Now that I've bored you with the battle system, let me tell you about more innovations Duel Saga brings to the table. Now, you can customize your weapons, armor, and accessories. I liked this. Now, before you call me hypocritical because I usually hate customizing weapons, let me explain why. You don't have to customize anything. Mostly any weapon can be found in a store and purchased using the money you gain in battle. So, this is no FF8 or Chrono Cross here. Besides, if you do enough leveling up, you will get all the materials you need, anyways.

To get the most powerful weapons, you need to get items called Heaven's Secrets, and you do so by doing side quests. Legaia 2: Duel Saga has a lot of great side quests to keep you busy. From cooking to gardening, everything is pretty much represented here. Some of the fun mini-games include rice planting and side jumping (although they can get frustrating without a turbo controller). And you also get real side quests, like the Centurion Challenge ( Do 100 battles in a row without saving), and the Hunter's Guild (which has you perform quests for increasing amounts of money). Add to that the city of Pharcoon, with a arena, casino, and auction house, and I fail to see how you could ever get bored in Duel Saga.

Sadly, the coolest idea in Legend of Legaia, the seru system, is now gone and replaced with an average and blahful origins system. Now, instead of capturing seru and using their magic to level up, now you get an origin and it just levels up along side you. I know they wanted to make a new storyline not involving seru, but is there any way they could have made a more innovative magic system like it? You get a very limited amount of magic spells to choose from, and the origin leveling up never matters unless they learn a spell. Truly disappointing.

Fortunately, Contrail sort of made up for it by now adding skills for weapons, armor, and accessories. Each item now has a certain amount of skills which can be unlocked, and finding the right weapon with the perfect skills is key to battle. As you fight battles with the weapon/armor/accessory equipped, it levels up and learns more skills. Most skills are good and will help you out, but there are also skills which cut certain stats (like Charsima Cut), so sometimes you are forced to stick with a negative skill to reap the benefits of positive skills. I truly liked the skills system in the game.

So, Duel Saga succeeded on most of the new gameplay ideas. It's certainly a much more complex game than Legend of Legaia was, and it'd take some time for veterans of the series to get used to all of the changes. I was disappointed with the new magic system, which is really just the same old boring rehash I've seen before, and the battle system hasn't really added anything new and got somewhat worse because of the lack of a spirit to gain AP option, but with the many side quests, and numerous amount of skills, the game is still plenty deep and complex for me.

This is why I kept coming back to Legaia 2... over time. I don't know why, but this game can't keep my attention for long periods of time. It just seems like something is missing. The battle system is fresh, but doesn't seem to be fresh. The challenge level is sort of there, it's easier to level up, everything seems to be on course, but for some reason, the game is just not as replayable as the original. I think the spark of the original was lost in this, as it became more like an average RPG instead of a special game. Regardless, with the numerous side quests and special activities to do, you should find plenty to keep you busy... until you beat it.

I think the thing I missed most about Legend of Legaia when playing Duel Saga is the lack of any true challenge. I never felt challenged by any of the bosses in Duel Saga, even the final boss. The only ones I had problems with were supposed to kill me. The fear factor of the original (OMG IT'S TIME TO FIGHT BERSERKER, I BETTER LEVEL UP FOR A WHILE) was replaced with a shallow walk through a game with many bosses, but few challenging ones. I was sorely disappointed with the challenge level.

There you have it. My 400th review is concluded with a look back on a refreshingly good game that sadly failed to live up to my expectations. It's a great game, but it just feels like something is missing. The game feels less and less like a Legend of Legaia game, and more and more like a normal everyday RPG, and therefore it won't get higher than a 8 from me, despite the fact it's one of my 20 favorite games ever. I have to be fair, and it's fair to say Duel Saga is a great RPG, but it has too many missing elements needed to be a truly special game. It's still well worth a purchase, though.

But they need to bring back challenging bosses, Noa, and Seru in part 3. :(


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/20/03, Updated 06/20/03


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