GameSpite Journal 9 | Tales of Legendia

Tales of Legendia is a bit of an oddity. Structurally and mechanically, itís actually quite a bit different from previous entries in the series, mostly because it was developed by a new team within Namco rather than the primary Tales team which had developed all of the flagship entries up to that point.

At the time, the series had just made the shift to a psuedo-3D battle system with Symphonia. Legendia, for some reason, moved the series back to a 2D plane. While that wouldnít necessarily be a problem in and of itself, its half-assed nature undermines the seriesí hallmark: Its real-time battle system, which demands some precision of control. Legendia lacks that precision, and while it has a great many other problems, its imprecision is the most crucial one.

When a game has been loosely designed at its core, that looseness tends to run through the rest of the game as well. Thus, Legendiaís story is long, drawn out, and filled with a mostly unlikeable cast centered on one of the most stereotypical and unlikeable protagonists ever. It also happens to be the only game Iíve seen where the ďpost-gameĒ is longer than the regular game, as the A-plot wraps up roughly halfway in to be replaced by a series of character-based chapters that slowly lead to a final chapter at the very end of the game. These are almost all 100% retreads of past dungeons with new enemies and treasure. Itís a stunningly boring slap to the face, and one that is only partially made up for by the music, composed by Go Shiina.

On the more positive side, it does shake up a few series conventions, which had already become more than a little moribund by the time Legendia was released. Namely, the hero doesnít use a sword like 99% of RPG protagonists. Heís a grappler, though the game still manages to make this boring and unresponsive despite Farahís example from Tales of Destiny II to draw on.

Legendiaís real problem is that it doesnít really catch the ďfeelĒ of the series, such as it is; the common mythological elements underpinning Tales as a whole are implemented in a scattershot fashion, and while it does do several things differently from the norm in the series, thereís a sense that itís mostly because the developers were unfamiliar with the series beyond the broad strokes and were just told to make a Tales game because the Tales team was busy making Abyss.

As a whole, Legendia isnít really bad from an absolute standpoint; while greatly flawed in several respects, it does a number of things that separate it from its peers in both the wider genre and its own series, for good or ill. It is the red-headed stepchild of the series, and a good example of what happens generally when a different team mucks with the staple franchise for a major gaming company. Thereís often a synergy of design present in the games of a series handled by a consistent team thatís hard for others to replace or replicate, and thatís what happened with Legendia.

Not to say that the Tales series isnít in need of some major rethinking about the general design drift of the franchise, but Legendia proves that turning it over to a different group isnít the way to go about it.

By Andrew Bentley? | July 23, 2011 | Previous: Aliens Vs. Predator | Next: Valkyria Chronicles