In the spirit of games like 3D Dot Game Heroes and Rainbow Moon comes a robust dungeon crawler from System Prisma called Legasista. For those craving some old-school gameplay with plenty of vibrant Japanese artistry and lots of depth and customization, this one should be high on your priority list. I really have to avoid games like this during the busy times, primarily because of the inherent addictive quality; it always draws me in and keeps me playing for…unhealthy amounts of time. Legasista isn’t perfect but it does have that hook.
The interesting part about the graphical presentation is that despite an overall design that isn’t overly impressive, the character design leaps right off the screen. I’m not referring to an extreme level of high-definition refinement, either; I’m merely talking about their style and the accompanying cutesy-ness and great animations. I feel much the same way about the enemies, although I wish more would’ve been done with the general world structure. The game is mostly clean and free of visual blemishes and for a downloadable effort, it’s very satisfying for those who understand that gameplay is paramount.
The sound is similar, in that it’s not technically superior but it fits the atmosphere. We don’t have the option of English voices but that’s okay; in many ways, I prefer the original Japanese voiceover tracks for such experiences. The soundtrack, as always, is quite subjective but it definitely works, and the audio is nicely balanced throughout. The effects are crisp and fulfilling, especially when it comes to the bigger, flashier, crowd-pleasing special abilities (even little dudes and dudettes can make a big splash!). The combination of the appropriate, lively music and solid effects acts as a great complement to the on-screen action, so that’s a bonus.
The Ivy Tower beckons. It’s the only option left to young Alto, whose sister has been cursed with a crystal form, which can only be broken with a special ancient weapon that is rumored to exist in the bowels of the Tower. However, in an interesting plot twist, that weapon isn’t exactly what Alto expects and his adventure through the Ivy Tower will be one to remember. Bizarre characters, enemies and traps everywhere, and a story that – while not extraordinarily well written or particularly captivating – remains mildly intriguing; Legasista is all about the journey.
After meeting Mrs. Dungeon (yeah, these developers know how to have a little fun), you will be turned loose in the mysterious darkness of the Tower, where more weirdness awaits. This includes a girl with a chest the size of Iowa along with a few other wacky characters, all mixed into a continuous quest that never really gets boring. It gets a tad repetitive but hey, we’re talking about a dungeon-crawler here. If it wasn’t at least a little repetitive, I’m not even sure it would qualify for the genre. And beneath it all is the surprisingly touching story of a brother desperately seeking to help his sister. It gives us a sense of real purpose as well.
As is also the case with most dungeon-crawlers, there isn’t anything especially challenging or complex about the fighting. The depth comes with the expected micromanagement, preparation and customization, which I’ll get to in a moment. For the combat, you can have up to three party members traveling around at once, although you will directly control only one. You can, however, rapidly switch between the members of your party, which I deem absolutely essential if one wants to label this an “action/RPG.” As you progress, you will come across various situations that are best handled by different members of your party.
It’s mostly linear and I sorta wish there was more dungeon exploration freedom (ala Diablo), but the action is entertaining enough to keep you playing. You just clear floor after floor, moving closer to your goal. The good news is that these floors aren’t too long and tedious, and each floor is at least somewhat unique in that they’re artistically themed. Plus, once you’ve finished a portion of the main story dungeons, you will open the Ran-Gens, which are just bigger and more involved floors. Throughout it all, you will need to keep a continuous eye on your characters and you'll have to look at more than a few bars and gauges.
What I mean is that you don’t just have a health bar; there’s also a durability meter that depletes the power and effectiveness of your equipment. Once your health has disappeared, that durability starts to take serious hits and if your stuff gets too badly damaged, you’ll have to return to town to fix it. In all honesty, I’m not too sure about this feature… I mean, it adds another layer of depth but with all the customization and micromanagement going on, I’m not sure this game needed that extra layer. Really, I just found it more irritating than anything else, although I admit I was being more reckless in my play-through than I normally am.
There are six jobs to choose from and as a fun little twist, a character can change his or her job after reaching Level 20. Obviously, each job comes with a specific skill-set, and I had to grin at the Job Points; being a Final Fantasy Tactics lover, I immediately recalled the many hours I sat, grinding away for JP so I could earn awesome abilities like Blade Grasp (cheating, but so what?) and MP Switch. Anyway, the developers even give you the option of creating characters from scratch, which is fantastic. It’s like recruiting soldiers in FFT! …okay, I’ll stop bringing that up now.
Legasista sometimes feels a bit repetitive and I never felt emotionally invested in the story (despite the charming and even emotional theme). But with plenty of depth, nicely drawn characters and enemies, solid control, and that aforementioned “addictive gene,” there’s a lot to like. I was a little disappointed with certain elements of the production, most of which mentioned above, but they shouldn’t dissuade the dungeon-crawling fanatics from trying it. You’re looking at a good 15-20 hours of game time here and that’s a damn good deal as far as I’m concerned.
The Good: Nice character and enemy design, and slick animations. Decent soundtrack and effects. Plenty of depth via micromanagement and customization. Solid, accessible control. Can be addictive.
The Bad: The story doesn’t really cut the mustard. I question the durability mechanic. Often repetitive.
The Ugly: “…okay, now I remember why dungeon-crawling can get a little tiring.”
8/23/2012 Ben Dutka