Release Date: August 21st, 2012
Legasista is the latest action RPG from developer Nippon Ichi Software, the creators of the Disgaea games (and their subsequent metaverse spinoffs like Phantom Brave, Makai Kingdom, and Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?). Legasista’s plot revolves around a young man named Alto, who lives in a world where technology has fallen into disuse and is now regarded as something akin to arcane magic. After his sister is cursed by an ancient relic and transformed into an inanimate crystal, Alto goes on the hunt for something (anything, really) that can restore her to her original self. His search leads him to the Ivory Tower, an ancient weapons development laboratory rumored to hold the solution to his plight somewhere in the upper levels—all he needs to do is just make it to the top. And yes, I know, the title is an incredibly stupid pun on “sister,” har har, I see what you did there NIS.
What I Liked
The Combat System
I find myself making comparisons between Legasista and Atlus’s PlayStation 2 action RPG Odin Sphere. Both games have similar structures with multiple worlds separated into levels that need to be cleared to advance the plot. Both games are geared towards quick-paced action and clearing out hordes of enemies as efficiently as possible with the trappings of modern JPRGs woven into their gameplay in a way that actually enhances the experience rather than diminishes it. The combat system is highly intuitive and holds your interest throughout the entire time you’re with it. It’s insanely fun to tear through levels and hack and slash at monsters, and it’s even more fun going back and replaying through previously completed levels to unlock all the goodies you either missed or were unable to access the first time around. The combat system is the core of the game and for what it is, it is of truly stellar quality.
Very Fast Paced
You can easily beat Legasista in about two or three days just playing it a couple of hours at a time. Though there’s a wide variety of worlds and levels to clear (about ten worlds, each with about five stages), you can breeze through them easily enough if you keep your characters properly leveled. The gameplay emphasises speed and fluidity when working your way through the various dungeons, and most levels can be cleared in under five minutes. Things grind to a stop whenever the story decides to interrupt you, but by and large the game goes by incredibly quickly when you actually have control of it.
85% of Legasista is dungeon crawling, so thank God the dungeon crawling is actually good. There’s a nice level of complexity to the dungeon system that allows you to use the environments to your advantage too. Various traps and elemental hazards keep you on your toes as you navigate the dungeons and fight off enemies. There’s a wide verity of monsters for you to face as well, each with their own unique abilities and each requiring different tactics to bring down. Whereas Rainbow Moon’s dungeon crawler mechanic breaks down after a half an hour, Legasista manages to keep introducing new features that maintain your interest and force you to strategize and not simply rush through blindly.
The RPG System
The other 15% of the game is the expansive RPG character crafting mechanic. You only get to access this in the hub area between dungeons, so it’s very easy to ignore it, but you do so at your own peril. It’s essential to your survival as the game goes on that your characters are properly equipped, leveled, and skilled, and Legasista does a very good job of making its menus and stats screens easily accessible to help you build up your party. The only part that tripped me up was the Titles and Sub-Titles, which are basically the game’s words for item attributes and sub-attributes. Thankfully, the game has an extensive on-board tutorial to explain all the little self-referential details that might be lost on you the first time around.
The Art Direction
Yeah, some of the character designs are creepy moé abominations (including two the script insists are over 1,000 years old), but that’s just par for the course from an NIS game. That aside, the broader aesthetic of Legasista is very eye-catching and creative. The stage design is colourful and beautifully crafted, and the enemies all have unique styles while still looking like they’re all a part of the same game universe. The only thing that disappointed me about them was that eventually they ran out of unique designs and just resorted to pallet swaps for stronger versions of the enemies you faced in earlier levels.
The Custom Character Creator
About a quarter of the way through the game the character creation option is unlocked, allowing you to essentially design your own characters and have them appear in the game alongside Alto and his companions. This is a neat little option that allows you to add a personal touch to the game, however it’s more geared towards people with actual artistic talent, as the creation feature is largely draw-it-yourself as opposed to the more common option of assembling pre-existing templates. That said, you can easily export your designs from the PlayStation 3 to your computer and edit them through an image editor like Photoshop and then re-import them back into Legasista when you’re done. Or, if you’re feeling incredibly lazy, you can literally copy the designs from previous NIS game protagonists (such as Laharl, Etna, Abel, and Mao from the Disgaea series) and just use them instead.
Referred to as “Ran-geons” in the game, these special dungeons can be accessed at any time after clearing a certain portion of the story. As the name implies, they’re randomly generated dungeons with up to 100 floors (you don’t need to clear all 100 levels, however) where you can score special equipment that’s otherwise inaccessible in the storyline dungeons. Random dungeons are also perfect for leveling up too, as you can alter the stats of the monsters you face each time you clear a floor, beefing up the bad guys enough to give you some decent experience points in a relatively short time period.
What I Didn’t Like
While a few characters have moments of droll humor, the cast of Legasista is largely of the flat, one-note variety, and the story segments that punctuate blocks of levels get really repetitive with few exceptions. Some of them get a little better over time, but if you’re looking for strong, interesting characters then Legasista comes up lacking, especially compared to Disgaea’s rogues gallery of infectious personalities. Thankfully, the gameplay is solid enough to support the weight of the largely uninspiring story and characters, so you can speed read through the cutscenes and not miss much.
The Voice Acting
First off, while Legasista is fully voice acted, there’s no dub, which means everything is in Japanese. And while I didn’t have much of a problem with that on principle, I did find a few of the character voices’ rather grating. You do have the option, however, of turning the voice volume down to zero, and I’d actually recommend you do it in this case. The Japanese voice work adds comparatively little to one’s understanding of the narrative. This really isn’t a game that needs voice work anyway, but that said, I’m still a little disappointed that NIS America didn’t splurge a bit and hire an English voice cast for Legasista too. I mean, way to go NIS America, you just cost Steve Blum another paycheck!
On Par With: Dust: An Elysian Tail
Just like Dust: An Elysian Tail, Legasista is a wonderful downloadable action RPG just in time for the end of summer that’s both expansive, imaginative, and involving. Where Dust is an Xbox 360-exclusive, Legasista provides a nice contrast and compliment to it on the PlayStation 3.
Nippon Ichi has made a name for itself over the last decade as the go-to studio for quirky middleweight JRPGs and Strategy RPGs, and I can safely say that Legasista (horrible title and all) fits in very well amongst its pre-existing pantheon. If you’re a fan of their previous works, I would definitely recommend Legasista. But if you’re just looking for a great low-impact dungeon crawler, I’d also recommend checking it out. The storyline might not be the star attraction, but it’s a well-made game regardless of its minor flaws and is a pretty fun way to whittle away a weekend or two.
Legasista was reviewed with a copy provided by NIS America.