If you’ve already conquered Cladun, Nippon Ichi Software and System Prisma’s action role-playing game from 2010, and the recently ported Cladun X2, then Legasista is the next step in your adventure. The survival RPG hit the PlayStation Network this week and is perfect for those who like their dungeon crawlers long, challenging … and heavy on the anime.
Players new to the genre might find Legasista a tricky nut to crack. On the one hand, the game is friendly to novices. You can essentially sprint through the game without delving too much into its complicated system of customization and options. However, the introduction is a lot to absorb. The tutorial levels alone (roughly ten of them) — not to mention the meat of countless menus, stats, and attributes embedded in a busy interface — are enough to overwhelm beginners.
Penetrating the game’s complexities isn’t impossible, though, but the game teaches far better when it allows players to learn at their own pace. Sprouts — adorable talking bean sprouts that are happy to help — yield kernels of information when you speak to them outside of dungeons (in a hub called the Railyard), and levels are much more enjoyable when you can explore them without sitting through waves of dialogue. This is a very chatty game, especially early on.
All dungeon “worlds” (each typically containing four levels) adhere to a theme and their own style of traps and monsters, and they introduce at least one new element that can reappear in later areas (eg., timed blocks). The fourth and final level in a world is reserved for bosses, and these are usually (but not always) a play on what you’ve seen in that locale so far.
Gameplay is another beast entirely. While the rich and varied music is pleasant to listen to as you explore, easing the repetitive tedium of dungeon crawlers, other aspects can detract from the experience. Even though characters can equip multiple weapons, you can only use one at a time, and you can’t switch in the middle of a dungeon. Unfortunately, entering the Ivy Tower (think Persona 3 — it’s where all the dungeons are centralized) is the only means of testing them. It’s the same way with magic.
Once you learn the basics, though (and then more advanced tactics, but you can get away with overlooking many of them), you can chip away at the tower in time-manageable chunks. Of course, you’ll want to stop after every successful venture and check if the loot you found is beneficial to your characters (a group of three is allowed to enter dungeons) — or you can discard equipment and apply their traits (called sub-titles) to other qualifying pieces. Changing energy frames will open up new possibilities for your character, too, and you can even design new party members from scratch. The list goes on and on for what you’re able to do in Legasista.
And when you want to tackle more dungeons, you can dig holes to find new ones (from Baby-geons to Hard-geons and more) or send out sprouts to locate special dungeons and music, which you can set to play over certain places to suit whatever mood you’re in. There’s a lot going on, although much of it involves the detailed components of gameplay itself.
Although Legasista isn’t a grueling game (you’ll probably only resort to grinding sometimes, and random dungeons, or “Ran-geons,” are made for that), its difficulty is wildly unbalanced. Some levels are downright sadistic, while others feel insulting because of how easily you can handle them.
Still, it’s a game worth playing. The full Japanese voice-acting and English translations are done well, and so are the sprites, backgrounds, and character portraits … even if they’re prone to certain shameless exaggerations of the female anatomy. We’re talking special animations just for your viewing pleasure — if you’re into that sort of thing.
The story is enjoyable, too, mainly because of how fun it is to watch the characters and the energetic sprouts interact. Their designs are great, and they all have distinct personalities. It’s not the most original plot — human vs. machine vs. magic — but it’s structured well around the game, and it helps break up the action. You won’t leave a dungeon bored, and you won’t crave more dialogue than you’re given. What’s there is a great balance. It’s the gameplay and the overabundance of menus and mechanics than need fine-tuning.
Overall, Legasista is a niche game that’s worth trying.
Note: Loading times when starting up the game were routinely slow during our playthrough. We've contacted NIS America and will update this review if we receive confirmation of a patch.
Follow @wita on Twitter for tales of superheroes, plumbers in overalls, and literary adventures.