The concept of science and magic being one in the same is one of the more popular themes in modern sci-fi. We can thank Kenneth Branagh’s Thor for most recently making us feeble mortals understand that the ancient teachings of mysticism and magic are easily explained by the wonders of real science. NIS (Nippon Ichi Software) has also climbed that proverbial mountain in its newest PSN exclusive, Legasista.
In true Nippon Ichi fashion, Legasista is a heavily anime-inspired title. This time around you play as Alto, an explorer searching for a magic relic to heal his sister, Mari, who was turned into crystal. Alto enters the Ivy Tower and its long chain of dungeons that will provide him with the tools to turn her back into an anime stereotype. You see, from the design side Legasista is a giant anime mess. The cast is filled with stock anime characters: A strong-willed, yet naive hero, an all-knowing fembot, and annoying “cutesy” beansprout creatures that will make the first hour of Legasista almost unbearable. While presentation and design are not Legasista’s strong points, the game’s mechanics has enough strength to merit it as a solid action-RPG.
Legasista is a fairly standard dungeon crawler with a 2D top-down perspective which makes it reminiscent of classic action rpgs like Zelda and Ys. Each dungeon is a series of floors that contain enemies, items, traps, and all sorts of 2D goodness. The Ivy Tower’s central hub is known as The Railyard. From there, you can send bean sprouts to explore dungeons and find new items, and equip your party, change items, and talk to Ms. Dungeon, the fembot who serves as a guardian of the Ivy Tower. It’s also a great resting place to take a break from frantic 2D combat and the sometimes overwhelmingly steep difficulty curve. During this game you’ll need a few minutes here and there to relax and take in the catchy musical score while strategizing the next series of dungeons.
Alto equips a great assortment of weapons from swords to bows, as well as the unique ability to jump–something not necessarily common in this type of game. What sets Legasista apart from other dungeon crawlers, is that there are fairly deep equipment, customization, and upgrade systems, as well as the ability to join up with and create support characters. The equipment and support character lineup in Legasista is deceptively robust.
Legasista is by no means perfect, but its incremental fun factor crept up on me and became more addictive each time I turned it on.
Luckily, after finishing each dungeon you return to The Railyard and the equipment repairs itself. Sadly, any equipment you pick up while “crawling” is unusable until you return to the hub.
Legasista employs a unique sight system that only allows you to see in your immediate area without lanterns and other light-based items. Enemies can “hide in the dark” and while the screen isn’t dark around Alto, enemies, traps, and items are invisible on the screen until you move closer to them or use a special item. You can see further in front of you than behind, but you can’t see through walls so you may find yourself getting damaged and not knowing where it’s coming from.
In each dungeon there are series of traps that can hurt or heal the player. Most of the time these traps are dangerous and can deal incredible amounts of damage to your party, poison your party, or call more monsters into combat. If you activate traps intelligently you can use them against enemies; the dungeon can actually become a weapon against itself. I loved triggering arrow traps to have giant arrows take out dungeon villains.
After the first series of the “tutorial” dungeons, Alto meets his first support character, Melize. It’s a “war mage” robot who holds the secrets to saving Alto’s sister, but she conveniently has amnesia. Alto needs to find all the necessary data storage devices to help her reboot.
Along the way Alto meets more support characters, but you can also create a support team of your own. NIS has given Legasista an incredibly fun character creation system that you can get lost in. The editor is a little difficult to use if you’re not the greatest Dual-Shock artist, but it comes with pre-loaded skins that will be familiar to NIS fans. You also select the character class and starting level (up to 10). You can change classes as well, but you need at least 20 levels in a class to make the jump. You can travel with up to three characters at a time, which opens up all sorts of avenues for customization. No two players’ games are entirely the same.
The support character system is my favorite part of Legasista, as it adds much-needed depth to combat and gives this title a very unique feel. You can change characters by hitting the right thumbstick up or down. Each character and class has its own set of moves and while you can have only one character active at a time, you can use a support ability to help you defeat foes.
Even though only one character is active at a time, it still felt like I was controlling a team. As the game moves forward the player encounters more teammates and items. As you finish dungeons you gain experience and Job Points. Job Points are spent on new abilities for each character and will carry over between classes.
Legasista is by no means perfect, but its incremental fun factor crept up on me and became more addictive each time I turned it on. After the first hour or so, the game hits its stride and becomes an intense dungeon crawl that tops out at about 30 hours of storyline play. After you clear the dungeons, you should be strong enough to explore incredibly difficult dungeons called Ran-geons. They range from 30 to 100 floors and will ruin your day. Ran-geons are randomly generated and require a greater grasp of strategy to traverse.
Legasista thrives on it’s robust leveling, equipment, and support systems. While the story is fairly derivative and characters anime mainstays, it’s compelling enough to push you to the end. Legasista is simply designed and any anime fan will love the big-eyed visuals, bright colors, and ridiculous sound effects. While I did enjoy Legasista, I don’t think it’s worth the $29.99 price tag unless you are a hardcore dungeon crawler. Legasista feels like the suped-up Civic of dungeon crawls; it may not look overly impressive at first glance, but it makes up for it once you get it on the road.