[Review] Legasista

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Legasista is an odd little dungeon crawler from a creator well-versed in making odd little dungeon crawlers.  System Prisma has been working side by side with NIS on a number of projects for years.  The fruit of their experience has come together in Legasista, a downloadable PS3 dungeon crawler.

This being System Prisma’s first real foray on to the PS3, much has to be proven.  Hit the jump to see if the Cladun developer nailed their console debut for this generation.

Gameplay:

Legasista is a hard game to judge.  Its gameplay, for the most part, isn’t all that good.  The genre has been around for years with Shiren, Diablo and many many other hit franchises that have shown time and time again what best works to grab player’s attention.  Legasista works somewhat similarly to a Zelda game, but with a focus on level by level progression instead of puzzle solving.

This level progression system works for games like Disgaea because Disgaea‘s gameplay is developed around an interesting strategy element.  Legasista doesn’t have that interesting element in gameplay instead opting to focus on maze like level design.  It relies on generic dungeon crawling action without any real strategy for it.  If the levels were truly amazing, maybe that could make up for this, but as a whole, it doesn’t.

It’s in trap squares that we get some sort of survival theme.  Traps that shoot arrows, open spiked floors, and explode are littered through levels.  Ideally, this would be a great setup for using the floors against enemies.  Sometimes it works, but more often than not, you really can’t justify the risk.  Arrows shoot from the wall you are facing, so walking up to a trap generally isn’t worth it if you don’t have any room to navigate away. Explosion traps blow up within a second, so unless your opponent is on top of you, it’s pointless.  The only consistent trap for me was the spike trap which takes up a 3×3 grid around you. I spent more time ignoring traps than using them because they only exist to annoy when swarmed with enemies since enemy movement is not strictly linear.

Items proved little purpose, as well. You have the ability to throw items at enemies, yet it does virtually no damage.  If I throw a lantern at a poisonous mushroom, I expect something to happen other than 0.23 damage.  This would have made more sense if you could throw inventory you picked up at people, but that’s not how it plays out.

That’s not to say Legasista is completely lacking.

The name of the game for Legasista is customization.  As a dungeon crawler, it’s honestly not much.  The large number of tutorial levels will teach you that real quick.  As a game set up to allow players to throw their own takes on to the gameplay, it starts becoming a bit more interesting.

What is offered to players is a robust feature where you can customize jobs, magic, weaponry used and the like for your characters.  This works because party members can swap out at any time.  It is in these elements that we see the game open up.  Players with range can get around poisonous monsters easier.  Sure, this cuts down their power, but you can play opponents to player strengths on the fly by moving one in and one out of battle.  This is unfortunately all there is to that strategy element that the game was in short supply of.

There are interesting things to be made of these, but ultimately there is nothing to grab you and keep you progressing other than the customization.  Fortunately, customization is one of the game’s biggest selling points.

Shortly after you gain your 3rd and 4th party members roughly 20 levels in, an edit mode is unlocked for you.  It is from here on that the fun begins.  Creating your characters is a big boost in this game’s favor.  You can share and import your own characters in to the game.  NIS Japan has a website with characters from their Japanese partnerships, so downloading a few extra characters is pretty nice. From all the screenshots though, you’d think it would be quite simple to create your own.  Unfortunately, it’s not.

Using the system built in is a bit cumbersome, so it’s best to import a file you’ve Photoshopped via USB.  Fortunately, this is relatively easy.  For those with image editors out there, it’s time to brush up on your skills and make something interesting.  The pieces alone aren’t too difficult, but it’s a lot of work getting everything looking stellar with so many different angles that you have to create.  Here’s a sample sprite sheet from the NIS site.  If you look at that sheet and think “no problem,” this might just be right up your alley.

There are quite a few user-created characters you can find on the internet if you search hard enough.  Unfortunately, the community isn’t exceptionally strong for this game.  That doesn’t mean I can’t find some awesome Gundam and Zelda character sheets, though.

Gameplay Breakdown:

[+Full Character Customization] [+Neat Character Swap Mechanic] [*Simple Gameplay] [-Survival Elements a Hassle]

Production:

System Prisma has been known to dabble in a few visual novels from time to time and the work somewhat pays off.  Like many of NIS and other Japanese titles, there are plenty of dialog screens like the one you see above.  The animations done with the images are nice, but it isn’t until the busty thief Leina appears in game that we really get some full bodied movement unfortunately.

That’s where Legasista breaks down.  It’s slow to pay off.

Writing like this is simply troublesome. The story begins with the main protagonist Alto, breaking in to the ruins of an ancient laboratory. You meet the mysterious android Ms. Dungeon that has only a few interesting character traits.  Then you meet another android with a distinct personality that gets wiped.  Then you meet a third android and it’s master who beats you so bad it scares the other androids. It’s tedious to start a game and only talk to characters that move and respond like robots.  It eventually opens up with real characters, but that definitely could have been better planned.

What’s worse is that your first partners in the game almost kill you maliciously.  Then, through some miraculous circumstance, you convince them to join your side and they are now your buddies. Since they start off on a bad foot, it’s pretty hard to come back around to liking them.

So why does Alto subject himself to these people, you might ask? His sister was turned in to a crystal and Alto will do anything (including even sacrificing himself as tribute) to return her back to normal.  Everyone’s motivation is pretty weak and none of their personalities really make up for it.  If the story were stronger, a lot of the more tedious aspects could be forgiven. Simply bringing some background for the characters early on would have at least made them more relatable. A great plot certainly would have made the level by level dungeon crawling a bit easier.

It does have to be said that NIS did a good job localizing the text, but the Japanese voices don’t have that over the top dub that the company has made popular. No English dub is quite unfortunate.

Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. The character models are beautifully drawn.  Whoever they optioned to design the art assets did good work.  This detail unfortunately had to be lost with the character sprites.  Characters look and move like puppets and it is because the customization system forces these characters to be that way.  You can use all the character sprites as bases in the game which is nice, but it loses a lot of personality from hand designed sprites.  When dust trails have more personality than avatars, the game is missing something.  That being said, enemy design is still well done and it’s hit or miss on sprite quality throughout.

One thing that kind of broke away as a highlight of the game is the audio.  When I booted the game up on my first playthrough, my wife thought I was playing Nier.  For those that haven’t played Nier, that is as good of a compliment as you can get. It’s not as varied as Nier‘s, but for a downloadable title it does the job plenty well enough.

Production Breakdown:

[+Great Soundtrack] [*Uneven Graphics Quality] [-Uninteresting Characters] [-Dull Story]

Value:

Legasista received a full retail release in Japan. What you are getting here is a downloadable version of a retail release.  There is plenty of content to justify the $29.99 price tag, especially if you want to use the customization options to full effect.

For the rest of us, however, it’s a tricky sale. An English dub might have made this a more appealing package, but this really is a niche product and that’s why NISA skipped out with putting it on store shelves.  If you are truly itching to dungeon crawl with your customized Kamen Rider, then this is a no brainer.  Players also has plenty of optional content for you to revisit in the form of alternate doors that open when you find special keys.  These lead to tougher challenges to complete so replaying some levels can legitimately be rewarding.

Value Breakdown:

[+Bonus Optional Quests] [+Retail Level Content] [*Steep Price Tag]

Reviewer Impression:

As a survival action RPG, the game plays much closer to action than survival.  This leads works with the customization elements, however there just isn’t enough depth in the gameplay to satisfy.  Those that are looking for a good dungeon crawler have plenty of options right now.

This game plays exclusively to those that want customization.  For that purpose, the game is just good enough to get you in and having fun.

Final Breakdown:

[+Full Character Customization] [+Neat Character Swap Mechanic][+Great Soundtrack] [+Bonus Optional Quests] [+Retail Level Content] [*Steep Price Tag] [*Uneven Graphics Quality] [*Simple Gameplay] [-Survival Elements a Hassle] [-Uninteresting Characters] [-Dull Story]

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About Author

(Senior Writer)

I have been gaming for 20 years and have seen this industry go from one geared towards children, to one that has grown to accept all demographics. I've grown up side by side with video games and I've seen it turn into this phenomenon. Of course I also enjoy entertainment in all mediums whether it be film, book or sports. I'm just a huge nerd that loves writing about his hobbies.

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