Originally Posted on June 19, 2006: Link.
Well, it’s another year, and that means another “Tales” game. It appears that Namco (now Namco-Bandai) shows up with another iteration of the popular franchise every quarter, each slightly different from the last. Each game creates its own original story and a new world, ala “Final Fantasy”. This year, it’s no different, with almost a dozen different games in the series being released internationally. However, there’s something to like about this particular title, Tales of Legendia. Looking at everything from the eye-catching art to the gorgeous environments and great voice-acting, it is easy to see why anyone who is a fan of the series will fall in love with this game. Despite some unfortunate problems that exist in this adventure, the overall quality is more than enough to overcome those obstacles.
First off, I hope I am not the first person to be completely confused with what was going on with the story initially. The protagonist of the story is Senel Coolidge, an Alliance Marine, who tries to protect his sister Shirley as they drift along in a small boat (as the game puts it, a “dinghy”. All of a sudden, they are attacked by a giant monster, leading to the boat being destroyed. They are washed ashore on a beach. A short while after waking up, Senel and Shirley meet Will, the local sheriff of the nearby city, who tells Senel he is on this large (and I do mean LARGE – the size of a continent large) ship called the Legacy, which is this artifact from the Kingdom of Terises, which is this ancient civilization that existed several thousands of years prior to the storyline. Shortly thereafter, it is revealed that Shirly belongs to a race of beings known as the “Ferines”, who also go by “the people of the water”. Not only that, but there is speculation from the local townsfolk that she is the “Merines”, or this Chosen One among the Ferines that has the ability to control the Legacy itself. At this point, Shirley is kidnapped away by a bandit and his dog. From there, the game unfolds into a series of events that takes the two through a long tale consisting of seven chapters, almost like a storybook. You meet up with all of these crazy, kooky characters who all have their own reason for being aboard the Legacy. You also meet these dastardly antagonists who are all trying to use the Legacy to win this war that’s taking place on the mainland.
The great part of this game is how much work went into building the fantastic character development of the story. You will find that each and every person that you meet is different from the last, whether it be Jay’s extensive knowledge and dry wit, to Norma’s bubbly personality and dense behavior. It is easy to start to build a connection to these people, and eventually wish there were more games about them, and that is essential to any good video game. Also, this game will take up a lot of your time. The main quest is over 25 hours long; that does include the extended character quests that delve into the epilogue of the story and start to follow each person by getting to know them better. This gives a deep persona for the characters that is strangely lacking in today’s role-playing games, which makes me depressed.
Now, here we come to one of the somewhat weak point of the game, and that’s the battle system. I’m sure most of us are all well-aware of what Namco has dubbed “X-LiMBS” (Crossover Linear Motion battle system). The players take a real-time role with their characters, and are placed into a straight 2D plane where they are able to move around freely and attack, use items, cast spells, etc. The basic controls include the X button to attack, the O button to use your abilities and spells, and the square button to block. You can even map other character’s abilities to your L2 and R2 buttons so you can keep a tap on the situation of battle (I personally used this so my characters are always healed and their attack power is constantly buffed). Every character uses a power called the eres, which grants each character either a physical and magical ability. By frequently using a certain ability, you’ll learn a more enhanced version of that ability (or even be able to learn an eres that chains two mastered abilities together for heavier damage).
In the earlier part of the game, the battles get overly redundant and even a boring hassle. You’ll be finding yourself turning away from the screen and continue to mash the X button until your foe is defeated. You will also be overly agitated by the amount of random battles there are. You won’t even take two steps without engaging in another encounter, which can drain your supplies and your patience quickly. This may not be anything new to fans of the genre, but when also have to deal with large dungeons that have plenty of backtracking and corkscrewing, which caused a huge amount of frustration on my part when I’m looking for a quick fix of RPG goodness. The only thing that made me take the longer paths was because of the treasure chests that contain items and equipment that you can’t find at any store in the game.
Also, unlike Tales of Symphonia, there is no multiplayer mode included in this game, so you can’t team up with some of your buddies to unleash the vengeance of hell upon your enemies. Although this feature has been absent in a lot of the Tales games, it would have been a feature greatly appreciated in this one.
Another problem I had was the fact that running around on the world map got to be a little confusing at times. There is not enough detail to understand if you’re going the right way to your destination, and towards the end of the game, I found myself lost at where exactly I was supposed to reach the top of the ship when I couldn’t get past that large mountain. It took plenty of backtracking and a sharp attention to the mini-map at the bottom of the screen for me to discover the right way. However, from this negative comes a big positive. Outside of every major area that you’ll visit, you’ll come upon this duct of sorts that allows you to teleport freely from one place to the other, even back to the city so you refresh both yourself and your supplies, which is a welcome addition to the series.
Perhaps what stands out the most is the art in the game. A lot of work went into the detail of the environments, because everything is absolutely beautiful. Even the character models and design are a niche of the series, and you’ll be able to tell who each character is even if they were a dot in the landscape. I couldn’t myself from quickly going to the Character Menu, going to the Status screen, and just watch a waist-up model of the character stare off screen so I can get a firm picture in my mind at how awesome they look. You’ll also appreciate that the guys actually look like guys in this game, unlike some other franchises worth mentioning (*cough*Final Fantasy*cough*). Even if the characters are super-deformed and the graphics aren’t highly detailed, that’s become somewhat of a staple for the series, so if you can bypass that little tidbit, you’ll notice just how neatly polished everything looks as well.
The music itself is orchestrated beautifully, and will bring a relaxing and soothing feeling that is present throughout the game. Everything from uplifting female vocals in Werites Beacon to the pounding techno music found in one of the dungeons later on in the game really got me in the mood. One time, I even turned on the game and set my character down in the city and do my homework just so I could listen to the background music. The only downside to this are the sounds featured in the game. For the most part, the voice-acting was superb, and you didn’t get that feeling that they were over-dramatizing their lines or any of that stuff that you might find in some other RPG. However, I did get a little annoyed by the fact that Senel says “Hoo Hah, Eat this!” about two million times during the battles. Other than that, you really felt a connection to the characters, and that was portrayed through the voices. The problem is, during the Character Quests portion of the game, the developers failed to include voice acting in that section, which is a big disappointment.
Another high mark is the big replayability that this game offers. Even after spending about 50 hours completing both the Main Quest and the Character Quests, you’ll find yourself greeted with several side missions. Everything from a cooking minigame and an item-creation system, to an Arena battle mode where you can fight a large number of monsters for items, this game has a butt load of extras. However, after playing the game for this long, I was pretty much done with it and could care less about those features.
Although this wasn’t the best title in the series (especially compared to Tales of Symphonia), Tales of Legendia more than holds its own against the other titles, as well as its competition, which grew much larger this year when it had to compete with the likes of Kingdom Hearts II and Final Fantasy XII. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of the Tales series, then you definitely need to go out and buy this game. It’s a great addition to the series, and although it has its fair amount of flaws, it’s a rather enjoyable title that will get you lost in the story, and it deserves your attention.