I’ll be honest, I groan a little bit when I’m assigned a review from one of the many “niche publishers” like NIS America, Atlus, XSEED, etc. Not because the game is bad – I’ve actually enjoyed a lot of games from these publishers – but it’s the fanbases that make these reviews difficult. Take for example when I reviewed the Vita re-release of Disgaea 3. I gave the game a decent score, said I enjoyed what was there, realized that the game is really marketed towards a specific fanbase of which I’m not quite a part of, and mentioned that you probably already know whether you’re picking up the game or not without needing my review.
Although I had mostly positive things to say about the game, I still came under fire from some of the franchise’s most dedicated fans, saying things like “I don’t know how to review the game,” or “I don’t get it.”
And I don’t. And that’s something that I even admitted in that review. And every one I’ve done like it.
My job, as a reviewer, is to offer my honest opinion of a game that I’ve played with the hopes that I might educate you, the readers, on making an informed decision on whether a game is worth your time and money or not. My job is to write a review that applies to the masses more than the few. I do this because, as I’ve always said, those of you in the niche group that are preparing an attack on me have probably already made a decision on this game purely on the people who publish it. And I don’t blame you. I’ve done the same thing.
Legasista is no different. It’s a game that automatically appeals to a very specific audience of gamers, and to them I say this; you don’t need my review. You’ve already made your mind on whether or not you’re going to pick up the game or not, thus making my review useless to you. This review is meant for those who know nothing or very little about this game, and are curious to know what the game is about.
Those of you still reading fit into two groups. You’re either a person who identifies with this niche group and are readying a volley of attacks on me telling me I don’t know how to do my job. Or you’re one of the readers who I’ve earned the respect of for being up-front and honest so far, which is something you won’t find easily from most professional reviewers out there. For the latter group, I invite you to read on.
Legasista is a game that follows the tale of Alto, a young boy who wants nothing more than to save his sister, who’s been turned into a crystal. Along his journey, he happens upon the Ivy Tower, a supposedly dangerous ruin where no one has dared venture for eons. Alto is met by an android that’s been in service for more than 9 million hours, but is built to look like a teenage girl. Her name is Ms. Dungeon. Ms. Dungeon explains that, should Alto want his sister changed back into a human, he should seek Melize, a powerful weapon with unimaginable power.
Upon awakening Melize, who also happens to be an android built to look like a teenage girl, “she” offers to change Alto’s sister back in exchange for his life. Having come so far, Alto agrees. However, in a tragic twist of fate, Melize loses her memory at that exact moment, and is unable to fulfill her end of the contract. Alto takes it upon himself to find computer bits to literally feed to Melize so she may regain her memory so she can end his life and resurrect his sister.
Also, everything is made out of bean sprouts.
That face you’re making right now? That’s basically face I made during the entire first few hours of the game. Confusion is something that you’ll become all too familiar with while playing this game. Although, I’m told that this story isn’t terribly farfetched compared to some things you’d see in regular anime, so take that as you will.
The entirety of the story plays out in the classic side-by-side dialogue sections with characters speaking to each other with subtitles at the bottom. Subtitles are not optional here simply because the entire game is only spoken in Japanese; a major turn-off for those of us that lose attention quickly. Although, if nothing else, the music and anime-styled art direction are both amazing. It doesn’t do quite enough to make you forget about the horribly cheesy and undecipherable voice-overs.
So if you know you might not like the story segments, what of the rest of the gameplay?
Legasista is a dungeon crawler from the top-down perspective. And when I say top-down, I don’t mean isometric like Diablo or Bastion or Torchlight. I mean straight up and down top-down. Many mainstays of the dungeon crawler genre are still present. You’re still working from floor to floor with the hopes of getting to the end, slaughtering enemies along the way. There are traps to avoid and loot aplenty among the many chests and fallen enemies that dot the randomly-generated map. Certain floors have their own gimmicks, like needing to backtrack in order to flip a switch and open a door, or needing to find a key from a certain enemy in order to progress. Take damage and you’ll either lose health or your equipment will risk being broken.
As you progress through the story, you’ll unlock additional characters to add to your party that you can switch on the fly in the case that using a particular character would be beneficial. Each character has their own set of jobs, and with that comes unique skills and abilities. These usually have their own pros and cons. For example, Melize, being an android, cannot eat food in order to recover her health, but she cannot be poisoned and recovers her health automatically over time.
None of these are too far from what games in this genre are known for. What sets Legasista apart is the customization options. The game sports an option to fully customize characters right down to the gear they use and their personalities. Players even have the option of importing characters on your console. How this is done is a process I’m unfamiliar with, because I either could not find the option or didn’t get far enough to unlock it. Here’s why.
As I mentioned earlier, this game sports randomly generated dungeons. It’s a neat idea, but that means there’s massive potential for the learning curve to be all over the place. Early levels were incredibly difficult, oddly frequented by the occasional level that bore a striking resemblance to a simple hallway with only a handful of enemies to it. The game would then continue to be absolutely relentless again.
I’m not sure if it’s simply because our friends in the Land of the Rising Sun are masochists when it comes to video game difficulty or if the random dungeons are to blame, but I had a really hard time playing the game. Often I would get overwhelmed by enemies or simply get lost and be unable to find my way forward. It led to more frustrating moments than a game of this nature should contain.
Which is a shame. I fell in love with the art style and the way everything else was designed and would have loved to see more. But that brick wall of difficulty made that impossible.
If nothing else, the random nature of the levels means there’s a very large amount of replay value. But that implies that you can find core value in the game in the first place.
That’s the greatest thing I can say about the game. The artistic value of the game is infinite, but there’s very little else here for the average gamer. Everything that makes the game fun or enjoyable in any way is marred by something that will cause headaches. You might love the deep amount of customization for gear, but you’ll hate the Japanese voice overs. You might love the music, but you’ll hate the nonsense story. You might find some value if you’ve ever wanted to play Bastion rendered in an anime style, or if you’re one of the aforementioned niche audience that NISA games usually aim for, but if you don’t find yourself fitting into either of those groups, you might have a hard time justifying this digital release.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided to us for review purposes.
Legasista, like many other games from the same publisher, will only be of value to a very niche crowd, which makes it incredibly difficult to recommend.