Title :Legend of Legaia
Platforms :Sony PlayStation
Publisher :SCEA
Game Rating :9.2
Review by :Ken Gagne

Is it a fighting game? Or a role-playing game? Neither — and both! From the folks at Sony that brought us Wild Arms, one of the first PlayStation RPGs, comes Legend of Legaia. 

Long ago, God created the Seru, a race of beings obedient to humans and committed to their survival. When worn, they granted their wearers amazing abilities. 

Then came the Mist. Wherever it blew, the Seru took on a mad will of their own, attacking their human masters. It was the dusk of civilization. 

Now, a new hope emerges in a young boy with the power to revive the Genesis Trees, which drives away the Mist and revives the Ra-Serus, a powerful Seru unaffected by the Mist and willing to help our heroes. Along with a girl raised by wolves and an obstinate warrior-monk, they are the world's only chance. 

The battle system can be likened to a turn-based Tekken fighting game. Moves can be chosen automatically (randomly) by the computer, or inputted manually by the player. Attacks are strings of moves which target the high, low, left, and right points on an enemy, with certain combinations resulting in powerful special moves. Since battles are turn-based, there is no need for combo memorization, button-mashing, or timing. 

Magic spells are also available. They are learned from enemy Seru upon their defeat, and become stronger the more they are used — much like in Pokemon, or Secret of Mana. 

Buttons, not menus, correspond to battle commands (push Right to cast a spell, Down to defend, etc). This system fits the game's feel and can make for extremely fast reaction times and command-inputting. 

The graphics would be standard, except for small extra touches here and there: a special effect when casting a spell, a full-motion video sequence, etc. The battles scroll quickly and smoothly, and even the world and town maps rotate and scale during exploration. Effective use of camera angles during brief cinema sequences heightens the mood. 

Even more so does the music shine. The combat tune, though unvaried, has heart-pounding drums and a fast rhythm. A few digitized samples in English and Japanese punctuate strong attacks. 

Legaia is no pushover; you'll have to earn your gold and experience points. The common foes can be defeated, but exact damaging levels of punishment before going down. The old RPG technique of "levelling up" is necessary, but not to the point of tedium. Learning new special spells and moves, and discovering which work best on each foes, actually doesn't take much patience, because even in this the game is fun. 

The main hero never talks, but everyone else does, and displays an unusual amount of characterization and history without getting wordy. Although the basic story premise is simple, add in a few interesting sub-plots, and it's easy to enjoy yourself in a setting such as this. 

Legend of Legaia does a lot right and very little wrong. With role-players spending most of their time in battle, it's important to have a good combat system that is not only fresh, but ultimately works. Legaia has this and more, and is worthy of becoming a legend.

This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 29-Mar-99