Contrary to what some people might think (when they’re shouting that this reviewer is in that publisher’s pocket due to a score they disagree with) but, at times, reviewing games can be kind of tough. Analyzing absolutely every detail is a lot more draining than one might think, and sometimes, when it comes to hanging a number on the game, there is no easy answer. Sometimes, you have to sit, scratching your head for a while, until something occurs to you. Oftentimes, that’s the worst part.
Enter Legasista, a JRPG developed by System Prisma and published by NIS, available on the PlayStation Network. It brings quite a bit to the table, and while it doesn’t necessarily succeed at everything it tries to do, but it does enough right that it becomes difficult to come to an unshakeable conclusion, especially since quite a few people would look at what it doesn’t quite manage to do well, and say that it isn’t as important as what it does hit the mark on. So, it’s time for me to roll up my sleeves, and start digging around inside this bundle of mechanics and clichés until I find a number that coincides with the overall quality, finding the balance between the good and the bad. Oh, joy.
First of all, you may have noticed that I said ‘clichés.’ This game is full of them, from top to bottom. The strange thing is, the one I would point at most assuredly is the game’s story, but, at the same time, I can’t name a JRPG that tells a similar story. It’s more the manner in which the story is told that is clichéd. Put simply, in a far removed future, mankind has lost the secret of its old scientific and technological advancements, and loses any distinction between them and magic, and now treats the remnants of the old world with distrust, believing them to house ancient curses.
It is into one of these ancient structures – the Ivy Tower – that our protagonist, Alto, ventures. He has spent years delving into crumbling ruins, searching for the cure to the curse that plagues his sister, keeping her encased in a tiny crystal. Within the Ivy Tower, he believes he will find this cure and be able to revert the girl back to her normal form.
Everything about the story feels overdone, but I honestly couldn’t name a game that mixes all of those elements together. I think part of the problem is that Legasista relies too heavily on the predictable elements of JRPGs to tell its story. You have your youthful, oddly dressed protagonist, who, despite the fact that he looks to be about fourteen, has nevertheless explored more ancient towers than anyone else in the world (allegedly). You have a character whose job it is to guide the protagonist along, all the while obviously knowing more than what she’s letting on and a character whose chest looks as though it should have its own gravitational pull. The story, in its entirety, is told through text and still CG images, the dialogue is rather poorly written, and there’s even this whole thing about bean sprouts (go play the game, it’ll make sense) to add the requisite ‘quirky’ element to the game. There are so many stereotypes, pigeonholes, and formulaic, banal, trite and [insert-other-name-for-cliché-here] elements in this game that everything it’s doing feels overdone, even though, in reality, there are one or two original elements beneath the surface.
It’s not helped by the absolutely atrocious voice-acting. Japanese voices with English text is the only choice you’re given, and so I figured that I’d at least be spared the typical poor-quality VOs you often get in JRPGs, because, even if they were bad, I wouldn’t be able to tell, due to the difference in language. I’d still have to cringe at the written dialogue, but the spoken stuff wouldn’t be so bad. As it turns out, though, I was entirely wrong. The quality is so lacklustre that even though I don’t understand the language, I could tell it was poorly done. None of the characters seem to be able to settle on a volume: at one moment, they’ll be speaking their lines in what’s almost a whisper, and an instant later they’ll be shrieking as loud as they can. There’s no consistency or natural flow to what’s being said, and to be able to tell that without knowing the language just emphasizes the inadequateness of it all.
That’s where the game stumbles and falls: in the story and presentation of the same. There’s nothing engaging or exciting to be had there, and my recommendation would probably be to turn the game volume down, throw on a favourite album of yours, and skip all the dialogue, just to get to the game’s strength, which is in the dungeon delving.
Legasista follows a similar formula to the latter two Persona games, minus the social elements. It’s split into two distinct sections: the base of the Ivy Tower, called the Railyard, which serves a sort of base that you return to after successfully completing each dungeon floor, and the upper floors of the Tower proper, which serves as the dungeons your crawl through. At the base of the Tower, you can repair your equipment, manage your inventory, save your game, and so on, making your preparations for exploration, while once you start climbing the tower floors, you’ll have monsters to fight, traps to avoid – or activate strategically, as they’ll also hurt enemies – chests to open, keys to find, switches to flip, and on and on.
In many ways, this is where the game truly shines, although there is one glaring problem that I’ll get to a little later. The artistic style is bright and colourful, and each section of the tower has a distinct look and feel to it, giving you a nice variety while you’re exploring. There are so many items to find that managing your party’s inventory becomes less of a quick, annoying task, and more an in-depth… well, “chore” is the word I would use, I suppose, but that’s not the best description for it: this is part of the glaring problem I mentioned, so I’ll touch on this more in a bit, as well.