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Bringing Chaos to the Next Level
There is one thing that Capcom has always been famous for: they tend to make thousands of sequels to all their games. However, the last few years, Capcom has tried several times to create something new. With games like Devil may Cry and Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter, Capcom brought us something we had never seen before. The same can be said about their new title, Chaos Legion. There have been doubts about this game being a RPG, but if Zelda and the latest Castlevania games are included in the genre, then this should be too. Does it really live up to the hype though? Read and find out.
You only have to look at Chaos Legion for a few seconds to realize that the main focus is on the battles. The battle system is unlike any other RPG I have ever played, and it is here that most people start arguing if this really is a RPG or not. Battles are in real-time, similar to the ones seen in Devil May Cry or the Dynasty Warrior games. As you might have seen in movies or screenshots, Sieg (the main character) has the ability to summon Legions. These are helpers, that either attack the enemies around you, or defend, depending on what you tell them to through a special command. Note that this also differs a lot depending on which particular Legion you have summoned, as they are very different.
The Legions are what makes the battle system interesting though, as they can be customized a lot. You have to come up with some sort of strategy for each stage, since some enemies are more or less immune against some legions, and receive lots of damage from others. Between each mission, you can upgrade your Legions and equip other, recently achieved ones. To upgrade them, you have to distribute the experience points that you received in the earlier stages.. you get exp points for hitting the enemy, and even more for finishing them off. You can also gain more experience by collecting experience gems, that you use on the Legions later in the Intermission screen. There are also bonuses... for example, if your Legion delivers the final blow to an enemy, they get more experience than if Sieg would have killed it. If you counter attack an enemy and kill it this way, you receive four times the regular experience. Each Legion has a bunch of stats that can be upgraded, namely Force (the number of Legions summoned each time), Assist (upgrades the individual skills that comes with the Legion), Enchant (gain new skills for Seig with that particular Legion), Attack power and Defense power. Also note that Sieg does not level up, the exp goes only to the Legions. The experience points received also goes to the particular Legion that killed the enemy... so if you only use one of the Legions at all times, you can't upgrade any of the other (not recommended).
There's more to the legions than their own attacks though, they also affect Sieg and his skills. For example, if you have the Blasphemy Legion equipped, Sieg can perform Airblaze. This is a special stab attack that will only work while you have this particular legion equipped... once you equip another, this skill will be replaced by the other legion's skill. What also makes the game a little more frustrating, is that Sieg can only have two legions equipped at the same time. If you make the wrong choice here, the next stage might be much more difficult than necessary. Other than the skills gained from the Legions you have equipped, Sieg also has a sword combo, and "Lock on Shot", a handy skill that shoots a bolt at one enemy, making the Legions concentrate on killing that particular enemy. This skill can also be used to make the enemy lose control.
The Interface was okay, but it could've been better. When the game is about to explain the controls in the beginning, it doesn't use words like "The Square button" or "The R1 button", instead it says stuff like "The Shift button". Yeah, as if I know which button that is. While this isn't really a major flaw, it was still irritating at times, and it felt necessary to point it out. I recommend reading the manual more carefully if this gets to you. The controls in the game aren't as smooth as they could've been, but they are still good. I don't like that Sieg can't run while he has Legions summoned, but I guess I have to let that slide. I'm also giving it a little plus because of the camera controls... if you want to face the same direction as Sieg, simply press the R1 button. Very handy in battles.
One of the strongest points in Chaos Legion is probably the soundtrack. While other reviewers tend to claim that the soundtrack is repetitive and boring, I have to disagree. Most tracks are extremely heavy, and the choir in the background really brings feeling to the game at all times. It really lives up to the "Gothic Opera" title, given by Capcom themselves. Sound Effects are also great, but they might also give you a headache at times. Even if you play with both music and sound effects on max volume, you will barely hear the music at all. The sound effects totally takes over, and that might become a little tiring in the long run. I used to play with the music at max, and the sound effects at about half the meter.... that way, I got an ok balance between the two.
Surprisingly, the voices in the game were well timed and very fitting. I had been expecting a more darker voice for Sieg though, but his voice was still fine. One thing that bugged me though, was that the text sometimes rolled way too fast. There were many times that I didn't have time to finish reading until the next text came up. Overall, both translation and voice-acting were good.
The graphics in Chaos Legion might not be the most beautiful ever to be seen on the Playstation 2, but they are indeed pretty. The enemies and surroundings does not bring much color to the game, but they have a style that is different from anything I have ever seen. Everything is dark and depressing, totally fitting into the scenario of the game. While the surroundings and enemies aren't that detailed either, the gameplay is very smooth and have a very nice flow. I guess they had to sacrifice something to make the game run as fast as it does.
As I mentioned in the beginning, there has been lots of discussions wether this game really is a RPG or not. I like to put it this way: If the newer Castlevania games and the Zelda games are considered as RPGs, then this definitely is one as well. Maybe even more than those mentioned. However, it is certainly not your typical RPG. The Legions are what makes the game original, and the style of the battles and overall system has never been seen before in any RPG. Of course there are similarities when looking at games like Devil May Cry, but that's a whole different genre.
Like most other things in Chaos Legion, the plot is very dark and sad. While it doesn't involve that many characters, and the game isn't that long, it is still a story that I will remember for a long time. You play as the dark knight Sieg Wahrheit, who can summon Legions to fight the evil forces of this world. In Chaos Legion, you have to hunt down a man who was once your friend, Victor Delacroix. There are other mysterious persons around you, but their purposes and identities remain unclear to you until later in the game. The plot is best described as something like the one in Final Fantasy IX; simple and quite predictable, yet wonderfully told.
Players who enjoyed the first run will most likely replay the game. Once you finish the game, hard mode is unlocked, and you can also play as another character, Arcia Rinslet (the girl with dual pistols). After two runs though, I doubt that you'll want to see more of it... the stages quickly become repetitive, not to talk about the enemies. Luckily, Chaos Legion provides some challenge. I found the normal difficulty being quite frustrating at times, at least until I got a hold of the system and the Legions etc. Still, most bosses are almost always incredibly strong, so you might want to let the Legions stay up front, while you take care of the weaker enemies around instead. Later in the game though, you have the abillity to return to earlier stages to level up and collect more items to boost your stats, in case you are having a hard time. The completion time of Chaos Legion may differ a lot depending on who is playing, and exactly how much time you want to spend on leveling up your Legions and collecting more items in the earlier stages, but you will probably end up somewhere between 8 to 15 hours.
In the end, Chaos Legion was well worth the wait. It is a different yet very solid title. Massive action, RPG elements and a very heavy soundtrack was more than enough to make Chaos Legion one of the most impressive titles Capcom has released this year. While the game is far from perfect, and has a few flaws that prevents it from getting the higher grades, this is still a game that I would recommend before most other titles already released in 2003 for the Playstation 2.
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