Reviews: Tales Of Legendia

Well, it's certainly not the best, but it's still worth one playthough

The thing to understand about Legendia is that it is not the best Tales game. In fact, out of the four Tales games I've played, it's the worst. Even so, it's still a good game, and was still better then quite a few other RP Gs I've played.

What Legendia's really got going for it is music, background and setting, and just general awesome atmosphere. Go Shiina's music is a different style than the other games, but it fits the new setting, and damn if it isn't awesome. It's my 2nd favorite soundtrack of all time, beaten by Katamari Damacy (dur) and beating Tales of the Abyss and Pokemon Black&White. The scenery is nothing short of Scenery Porn. (Like this,this, and this. Note that NONE of those are even final dungeon graphics, just plain ole, regular dungeons and town.) Both music and scenery make for a fantastic overall atmostphere.

As for the characters and story itself, well, the story wasn't anything special for me, until it got to the Character Quests, at which point it got REALLY interesting. I liked all the characters, too (although Shirley got on my nerves a few times). But I've heard people profess their hatred for both, so there you go. It is very annoying that there's a severe lack of side quests, a feature I'd always loved about the Tales games.

The gameplay is where things really suffer, though. The dungeons are basically long roads of scenery porn with no real puzzles to play with or landmarks to keep yourself from getting lost with. What's worse is that you'll probably have to trek back and forth two or three times through each LONG dungeon (and they're all long) over the course of the game, with no quick jump. T_T For the battle system, well, it's similar to Phantasia, with a 2D version of the basic Tales battle system. For me, it was bearable at best, since getting special moves was way more complicated then it should've been and almost all spells were nerfed.

So basically:

Pluses: Fantastic music, scenery porn, and storyline

Mehs: Characters

Minuses: Dungeon length, lack of side quests, and battle system

Honey and Vinegar

Tales of Legendia is a game of contradictions. It's got an almost unbearably bad first half. The combat is wretched, being a dumbed-down version of 2D Tales battle system, with less moves available, and stupid requirements to unlock them. The story in the first half is chocked full of coincidence (It sure is lucky that Senel and Shirley just happened to crash into a ship that Shirley can control with her mental link to God), and RPG cliche's (wow, an evil empire using an ancient super weapon to take over the world, never heard that one before). None of the cast outside of Senel and Shirley get any character development, though their are plenty of times where the cast (mostly Will) does something that makes you want to smack them. No ones actions make sense, and the most interesting developments (the appearance of Grune, the backstory of Chloe) don't get any coverage until the second half of the game.

Then we finish the first half, and begin the Character quests, focusing on the six forgotten idiots. All of a sudden the game gets...dare I say it, good. The story is much better, focusing on a mysterious black mist that increases peoples emotions, specifically depression and aggression. Each of the six other characters get a chapter focused to them, some decent (Moses: Of Man And Beast), some of them help make the character less annoying (Norma: To Follow A Dream), and some are fantastic and cause you to reevaluate a character (Chloe: A Place To Call Home, Grune: Birth). Unlike the main quest, you have no idea how the second story will end, and when it does, it's heart breaking. Now the combat still sucks, the dungeons are to long, and the random encounter rate (yes, this Tales game has random encounters) is way to high (I hit over 2000 random encounters in 73 hours, when I couldn't hit 1000 on Symphonia in 90). But it's still much better.

Tales of Legendia is a game of contrasts, kind of like matter and anti-matter, except without the explosion. What is good is really good, and what's bad is the Main Quest. If I had any suggestion, I would have gotten rid of the main quest and focused solely on the Character Quest. Doing so would have eliminated the characters of Shirley and Jay from the game, and I say do it. Legendia would still not be held in the highest regard, but it would be remembered much more fondly.

The game that nearly killed my Tales fandom...

Now here's a special one, a game so terrible, it nearly made me hate the entire Tales series. It is hands down my most hated Japanese RPG ever and it really is a rare specimen that manages to get everything wrong.

To start the combat is lacking in defining characteristics, it's just a basics Tales system with several added annoyances. A fair amount of Senel's moves are practically useless throws and it takes more work than it should to gain new magic and abilities.

The characters though, are where it really "shines". The best of the characters barely make it to the level of "doesn't bug the crap out of me every time they open their mouths". Sadly only 1 or 2 reach that level. The rest are generally either annoying or insufferable. Special awards go to Norma, for the worst version of "The Nicknamer" I've ever seen in my entire life, and Shirley, whose problems I could fill unending pages with.

The story is exceptionally preachy, even by the standards of the Tales series, but never before has a Tales game managed to make me think one side was so annoying that I wouldn't mind seeing every last one of them wiped out. The Ferrines earned that dubious distinction, with their jerkass to decent person ratio being truly alarming. In a futile attempt to make them seem more sympathetic, the game gives their race a backstory that is supposed to invoke sympathy, but I couldn't help but feel like all it did was introduce plot holes.

I could fill pages with everything I hated about this game. I've played many of the JRPG genre's best and worst and nothing stands out in my mind as being worse than Tales of Legendia, if this review persuades a single person against purchasing To L, I will feel slightly vindicated, I played it, don't make my mistake.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not complete the "Character Quests" that come after the credits. I had already forced myself through the 30 hours it took to complete the Main Quest and nothing about these characters made me want to spend any more time with this game, just the opposite, when I realized I'd be spending more time with it if I wanted to complete the Character Quests, my immediate thought was "No, never, not unless I was payed substantial sums of money to do so". So, while I didn't finish the game completely, I think I played enough to know it wasn't getting better.

RPG Storytelling at its Finest

Tales of Legendia isn't like its fellow Tales games. It didn't introduce any groundbreaking mechanics, and it didn't set many standards for future installments in the Tales series. However, what it lacked in flashy gameplay, it made up for in storytelling, character development, and music.

Legendia's battle system keeps the Tales series' unique real-time combat, but keeps it on one-line, like the earlier installments in the series. It's still intuitive, fast-paced, and fun, but it's a downgrade from its predecessor, Symphonia. The overworld mechanics are also different- you walk around the world map and open up instant-access portals to each location you reach, instead of getting an airship late in the game. Instead of several scattered cities, there's a single large city functioning as a central hub. The dungeons are spaced far apart, and are very linear. If you're new to the Tales series, you'll probably enjoy the mechanics more than if you've played Symphonia or Abyss beforehand.

Where the game really shines is its storytelling. The writers went out of their way to create an interesting plot that's both familiar and new. The dialog is clever and witty, and the characterization is excellent. The RPG genre has a tendency to be dark and heavy. Legendia is serious when it needs to be, but it's usually a very upbeat game, full of vibrant colors, energetic songs, and fun, well-written characters. Every character is believable, realistically flawed, and has an intricate backstory, and they all get their time in the spotlight during the Character Quests portion of the game following the Main Quest. The character quests aren't voice-acted and don't introduce new dungeons, but are still worth playing for the insight offered into each individual character.

Also worth noting are the graphics and soundtrack. While the character models are super-deformed and a bit awkward, the dungeons are absolutely beautiful. The colors are bright and vibrant, and the backgrounds are extremely detailed. The soundtrack, composed by Go Shiina, is one of the most impressive aspects of the game, and uses a variety of musical styles, techniques, and instruments to match the events flawlessly. Many songs are fully orchestrated, and some have choirs.

Overall, Tales of Legendia is a solid RPG. If you like games with great storytelling, it's worth looking into.