The original Legend of Legaia is not the best loved of the Playstation RPGs. It tried to accomplish a lot with its unique Arts battle system, backed with solid graphics and sound. However, the story was lackluster and many could not appreciate the Arts system. Now, three years later, the developers Contrail are giving themselves another shot to succeed in their vision with Legaia: Duel Saga.
The story this time around begins in the peaceful town of Nohl, which is blessed with a magical water crystal that provides infinite water. Of course, the water is only infinite until someone steals the crystal, which is precisely what happens. Since the people of Nohl like to drink, they call upon the somewhat arrogant Lang to get the crystal back. A functional story; itís difficult to say whether or not it can carry the game.
The way it looks now though, it seems that Contrail is gunning for the battle system to be the true strength of the game. The Tactical Arts system has players trying out different button combinations to perform attacks and moves. Itís an idea that has been touched on in the Final Fantasy series and it played a bigger role in Xenogears. Itís the experimentation aspect that is key in Legaia, however; players must discover the Arts if they want to use them. One would hope all this doesnít distract players from the actual battle. As for the nature of the Arts themselves, letís go into a little more detail. There are several different kinds:
- Normal Arts: These are regular, common arts that serve primarily to charge you up for larger moves.
- Super Arts: Like regular Arts, only super. They are of course more powerful.
- Hyper Arts: These ones are actually learnt in a different manner, not from experimentation but from items or story events. This is quite good, because it prevents players coming up with all the Arts at the beginning, either from luck with experimentation or from sucumbing to temptation and reading all the combos on the Internet.
- Variable Arts: These are Arts that can form combos with other party members! Thatís always a plus in an RPG.
- Mystical Arts: These have to do with the summon spells youíll discover.
In addition to these abilities, you can also learn some automatic skills (resist poison and the like) from equipped accessories. How do you get things like accessories, you ask? You can make equipment from combining all sorts of items. How do you get things like items, you ask? I imagine you could get many from the mini-games and side quests that are abundant throughout this title. The numerous bonus areas were one of the better things about the original Legaia, and Contrail isnít going to throw out the baby with the bath water.
The original was also very proud of itís graphics, although the fully polygon world didnít fly with everybody. This installment of the game is also fully three dimensional, but there doesnít seem to be too much to complain about. All the character models are smooth and detailed. Again, there is much attention paid to spells and Arts, as these are promised to be especially pretty. The most exciting thing for me, however, is the music potential. There are actually three composers working on this game, the most well known being Yasunori Mitsuda, who has the amazing soundtracks from Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross under his belt. Joining him is Hitoshi Sakimoto, who brought the appropriate atmosphere to Final Fantasy Tactics with his classical score, and Michiru Oshima, who has worked on Ico before making this treacherous leap to the critical world of RPGs. The result of this collaboration, Iím hoping, will be a moody and rhythm-infused classical soundtrack.
Although the worst days of bad localisation are behind us, Legaia: Duel Sagaís translation should be interesting to keep an eye on. This is because it is being published by the Eidos offshoot Fresh Games, a label dedicated to doing a top-notch publishing job on games that would otherwise have been ignored or neglected out west. This noble cause might well bring great things, but L:DS will be Fresh Games' first RPG project, and thus their first real localisation challenge. Iím curious to see how they do.
The Legaia series was doomed from the start to be a second-class series, and this sequel probably wonít break it out of that rut. Still, if the Arts system holds up, then controlling realistic-looking characters through involving battles can make for a very enticing game, especially if you get to listen to quality music throughout and play mini-games on the down time. This second chance comes out on the second of October.