The Legend of Legacy Review

Nope! No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! I’m not doing it anymore! I sank 17 hours of my life in to it and I will not play one more second of The Legend of Legacy.

It started with an itch in the back of my mind. After the first major collection of maps I moved on to a desert zone called the roaring valley. Up to this point I was having an okay time. I had identified some problems, certainly, but I was looking forward to The Legend of Legacy opening up a bit and giving me some new systems, abilities, and equipment to play around with. Then I encountered the Archwings; massive birds flying in formation over the map, their shadows acting as encounter points for these enemies I was ill-equipped to deal with. For the next few hours I ground my way through the roaring valley while avoiding these monstrosities placed there to gate my progress and make exploration a time-consuming chore as one step on their looming shadows and I would have to flee from battle and start over again from the entrance to the map. “You’re not enjoying this,” the itch told me. But I had a review to write and I wanted to see the full scope of what Atlus and Kyoji Koizumi had to offer, so I ignored it and moved on.

And you know what? It did get better for a time. At one point I was actually enjoying myself. I mean my team had grown so powerful that every encounter had become a trivial waste of my time, but I hoped that meant the endgame was fast approaching. Then I hit the first major “plot point” (I’ll qualify those quotation marks in a bit), the world opened up a bit more, and when I arrived in the next zone I was confronted with a mob that took me roughly 15 turns and everything my party had in the tank to beat and saw the next five just like it on the map and the itch reminded me that I have a finite amount of time on this Earth and Atlus doesn’t care how much it wastes. So I’m done with it forever and here’s what I have to say.

The Legend of Legacy is a gorgeous game that knows the hardware it’s designed for well. It delivers itself with a lovely, watercolor charm that belies its dull, punishing, repetitive nature. Characters are beautifully rendered with big heads and wide, expressive eyes reminiscent of Square Enix’s 2014 crack at JRPG nostalgia known as Bravely Default. The backgrounds are detailed and have a pop-up book effect where terrain appears to assemble itself in front of you as you explore the many locations littered throughout Avalon on your journeys.

You are one of seven adventurers come to Avalon, a mysterious island risen from the sea, in search of fame and glory in one sense or another. Exploration is the name of the game and in order to help the locals who have established themselves in the nearby sea town of Initium, you are tasked with filling in a series of maps with pertinent details regarding the geography of Avalon. This isn’t Etrian Odyssey though and the cartography system is  threadbare. All you really do is run around an area until you’ve dissipated most of the foggy overlay on the lower screen map and the rest just fills itself in. It’s completely passive and the only real value the maps have are to sell for a few extra gold coins to the shopkeeper in town. There’s no way to quickly thumb through them on the lower screen or look at how each piece connects, which makes them mostly useless for navigating beyond the one you’re currently on. Unless, of course, you spend the dozens of hours it would take to commit all this to memory which seems to be what The Legend of Legacy is demanding of you. This theme persists throughout much of the game’s design.

Take combat, for instance, the thing that The Legend of Legacy wants you to spend the majority of your time on. The actual mechanics are something that any JRPG player will be familiar with. You can attack, defend, or use magic and skills that consume your party members’ SP supply. HP replenishes after each encounter (unless a character was knocked out, in which case your maximum HP is reduced until you rest) but SP can only be renewed through consumables, spell contracts, or resting. Spell contracts allow you to cast any spells you have memorized or equipped of the same element color and the first round of combat will almost always be wasted (you’re going to see me use that word a lot) casting these contracts. I say wasted (see?) because this is exactly what galls me so much about the majority of The Legend of Legacy‘s design. Nothing is simplified or streamlined; everything is presented in long-form and the player is just expected to slog through it without loosing interest.

Magic and skills are learned entirely at random (an element popularised by the original Saga series of games), but the stronger the foe you currently face, the greater the chance that you will acquire a new skill or memorise a spell you currently have equipped. Once learned, a spell can be used as long as you have an item of the same elemental affinity equipped. This isn’t a bad idea on its own but it connects directly to The Legend of Legacy‘s problem with conspicuous waste. Once you have out-leveled everything on the maps you’re currently exploring, combat becomes nothing but busy work. There’s almost no chance you will learn anything new from fighting your 500th trash mob and, though you can avoid encounters on the map to an extent, creatures will hunt you relentlessly, forcing you to fight battle after battle after battle that will ultimately not benefit you in any way. Want to run? You’ll be sent back to the beginning of a map which means either fighting or avoiding everything you already successfully fought or avoided. The whole thing is the textbook definition of tedium. You can fast-forward battles by holding A but I’m frankly getting tired of JRPG developers giving me the option to speed up encounters I can steamroll instead of just letting me skip them altogether.

There’s also a formation system but I found it limited and it never really branched out much in the 17 hours I spent. This could have something to do with the fact that The Legend of Legacy goes out of its way to not explain anything to you which is a problem all of its own. You have attack, defence, and support stances for each of your three party members which allow for different tactical effects. In the attack stance characters deal more damage, in support their healing abilities are buffed, in defence their defensive skills apply to the entire party allowing them to absorb damage for characters that need protection. There are some others you can learn by talking to NPCs in areas you’ve fully explored but I found little difference in the way these new stances changed combat, and getting them means revisiting those areas and fighting with even more mobs you have to fast forward through. More waste.

Good equipment is hard to come by. The shop’s inventory in town is mostly useless and you will instead want to spend your hard-earned gold on ships that will go out and return with random high-level gear. These ships seem to tie in to the Streetpass feature in some way but I never encountered someone else playing The Legend of Legacy so I have no idea what you might gain through that feature.

There’s a story surrounding all this drudgery but I’ll be damned if I know what it is. It’s mostly told through short text dumps from the singing stones you encounter out in the field and a little from NPCs here and there. All the dialogue is so bland, generic, and forgettable that you can feel it struggling against the concept of remembrance even as it slips from the boarders of your own consciousness. This leaves you with absolutely no sense of continuity as you travel from place to place, not knowing why you’re there or what comes next. Oh wait, I know what comes next, more tedious combat. Always more tedious combat…

I can feel myself getting weary just writing this review. You know how you feel after you make the mistake of eating a whole value-size bag of crisps and you’re all groggy and lethargic from consuming entirely too much high-calorie filler? That’s what The Legend of Legacy is. It’s just a bunch of high-calorie filler. It wants you to play it endlessly but it doesn’t want to give you anything nourishing for the effort. Fight that mob. Fight that mob. Fight that mob. Fight that mob. Fight that mob. Over and over and over again until, well, you give up and write a review letting others know this might not be the right game for them.

The thing is, I can totally imagine the kind of person The Legend of Legacy might be right for. It’s the same sort of player that will tell me I just want my games handed to me on a silver platter – but I truly don’t. If every encounter in The Legend of Legacy offered something unique and interesting and fun there would be nothing to complain about, but that’s just not the case. It’s a game that wants to pad itself to 40 hours by forcing you to retrace its most interesting moments until they lose their appeal entirely, then it wants you to retrace them again just to make sure you’re not enjoying yourself by accident.

If the reason you play video games is to kill large amounts of time by grinding your way through an endless stream of monsters, managing sudden difficulty spikes, searching through every nook and cranny of every map, and interacting with every NPC that comes your way then The Legend of Legacy was tailor-made for you. There is a ton of stuff to explore and discover but it’s all buried so deep under the most annoying qualities of classic JRPGs that I would caution anyone that considered the encounter rate slider in Bravely Default a welcome addition to the genre to stay as far away from this one as they can.

The Legend of Legacy is available on 3DS now in North America and is coming to Europe in February 2016. Pre-order now from Amazon.