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Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion

Reviewed November 2005 by Corbie Dillard

Publisher: Bandai
Developer: Falcom
Release Date: November, 2005
ESRB Rating: "T" for Teen
Genre: RPG
Price: $39.99

It's certainly no secret that the PSP owners in the US have been anxiously awaiting a traditional RPG release now for over 8 months. Luckily, Bandai has taken the initiative and translated the second game in this popular Japanese RPG series and released it upon eager RPG fans here in the US. Exhibiting a mix of old-school RPG gameplay mechanics with a slightly updated visual presentation, not to mention an enormous 40+ hour quest, Legend of Heroes attempts to bring the console quality RPG experience home to the portable PSP system. But can this game possibly live up to the mammoth expectations it's had heaped upon it over the past few months and somehow deliver the knockout RPG punch fans have been desperately searching for?

Story

As the land of El Phildin becomes caught up in a struggle between the gods of light and darkness, two young children, Avin and his younger sister Eimelle, find themselves stuck right in the middle of the turmoil. When tragedy strikes, Avin and Eimelle become separated from each other. Years pass as Avin grows into a young man and trains to become an adventurer in the hopes of setting out to find his lost sister. Along the way he'll meet many interesting characters and make many new friends in his struggle to locate his missing sister who's been targeted by the clan of the darkness. One question remains: will he be prepared for what he'll find?

Gameplay

Legend of Heroes certainly isn't going to set any new standard for RPG originality, but what it does bring is the tried-and-true gameplay elements found in most 16-bit/early 32-bit era RPGs to the portable PSP system. As in most traditional RPGs, exploration plays a key role in how the story in the game unfolds. You travel from town to town through various wilderness areas, fighting battles with the various enemies along the way. Unlike the random encounters found in other RPGs, Legend of Heroes allows you to see the enemies moving around. A unique feature of Legend of Heroes is that how strong your characters are determines how the enemies around you will behave. If your characters are very strong, enemies will tend to move away from you, whereas if your party tends to be weak, the enemies will stalk you much more aggressively. Throughout the game you'll be presented with tasks to perform which generally involve traveling to surrounding towns or villages. This is where the game can become a little repetitive as you'll spend a lot of your time backtracking to places you've already been, making it feel like the developers were trying a bit too hard to pad the length of the quest. The control of the characters can also be a little challenging as the game has an odd way of allowing your characters to move around things when they're trying to face them. This slightly awkward hit detection can sometimes make speaking to people or looking at items a little tricky. While it's certainly nothing that will cause you any undue frustration, it does take a little getting used to, but is well worth the effort.

The combat system in Legend of Heroes is pretty standard fare. Battles take place through a typical turn-based combat system. One unique feature of the game's combat system is the use of the distance between your characters and the enemies they're facing. Your characters can only move a certain amount of space in each round so you have to target enemies that your weapons or spells can effectively reach. This adds a nice amount of strategy to the battles and forces you to think out your command selections a bit more carefully. Aside from the typical attack and magic commands, the game also presents you with what's known as a "deadly" attack. Once your power gauge has filled up you can choose to inflict a deadly attack on your enemies with devastating results. Once you've used this command, your gauge empties and you must use other attacks until your gauge can refill. You'll also have the use of a pet throughout the game. How you take care of your pet determines how the pet will react in different game situations. If your pet is happy it will find you special items as well as help your party out during battle, whereas if you neglect the pet or scold it too often, the pet will not be as helpful. It's little things like these that really add a fresh and innovative touch to the gameplay and battle system.

Graphics

Graphically, Legend of Heroes is pretty much a mixed bag. Most of the towns and villages in the game show a surprising amount of detail using a mixture of 2-D and 3-D visuals, but once you hit the open areas, the visuals tend to dip a little in quality. Coupled with the fact that these areas are where you're going to be doing a lot of your combat, this also makes the battle scenes seem a little bland and uninspiring. One unique touch that greatly helps out in these wilderness areas is the creative use of the PSP's special effects. Using the lighting effects, the developers have managed to add a very nifty solar flare effect that adds a nice touch of realism to these areas. All of the characters and enemies in the game also have a nice, clean look to them, and move quite fluidly. Overall, Legend of Heroes may not have the flashy visuals that many are expecting from the PSP, but the game manages to pull off a rather "old school" RPG with a surprising amount of flare for a portable title.

Sound

Legend of Heroes sports an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. Fully orchestrated music brings all of the many themes and ever-changing moods of the game to life. Ranging from soft and melodic pieces to the driving musical styling of the battle scenes, each and every piece of the game's many musical tracks seem to fit the current situation perfectly. If there's one complaint to be found it would have to be the lack of voice work in the game. It seems RPG gamers have become spoiled over the past several years with the use of live voice actors to convey the emotions of the storyline, leaving Legend of Heroes to do so with the use of emotion bubbles over the character's heads. While this may seem like a major omission, it really doesn't take much away from the characters and storyline. Far and away one of the best soundtracks to grace an RPG in a good long time and one that will keep you humming its tunes long after you've put it down.

 

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Conclusion

Despite a few minor flaws, not to mention an inordinate amount of spelling and grammatical errors, Legend of Heroes succeeds in many ways in bringing a console style RPG to the PSP. What it lacks in cutting-edge features it more than makes up for with its fresh approach and styling. While the seemingly high expectations may bring some slight disappointment to some RPG enthusiasts expecting a flawless RPG experience, it's worth emphasizing that Legend of Heroes is an extremely fun, engaging, and fully functional portable RPG experience in and of itself. It's got everything you could ask for in an RPG including a long and entertaining quest, a solid and strategic combat system, not to mention a wonderful musical score to carry it all along. If you can look past the vaulted expectations of this being the first traditional RPG release for the PSP and just enjoy a good old-fashioned RPG adventure, then you'll find Legend of Heroes quite to your liking.

Playing Hints and Tips

- Talk to everyone you come across as many times they can offer you priceless clues on your adventure. Also remember to always stop off at the adventurer's guild in each town.

- Don't hesitate to outfit your characters with the best weapons and armor as these items will greatly benefit your characters in battle situations. Also always keep your party stocked up on specialty items like healing potions.

- Target your enemies carefully and always be aware of their distance away from your characters. There's nothing worse than wasting an attack turn because the enemy you targeted suddenly moves out of range.

- Always keep your pet happy. Feed him and praise him if you expect any help from him throughout the game. You'll be glad you did when he helps you out in battle.

- Since you can save your game at virtually any point in the game (aside during battles) it's a good idea to save your game often. That way if your party is defeated you can always start back at your last save point.

 

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

While the visuals in the game might not be quite as over-the-top as some would expect in a PSP RPG, they're nicely detailed in most areas and a definite step up over all previous portable role-playing games. Great use of colors and some really eye-catching lighting effects do a nice job of giving off a flashy "next generation" look to the PSP's first traditional RPG title.

Sound

The sheer level of variety in the different musical tracks throughout the game is astounding and a tribute to the time and effort that must have been spent on the soundtrack. Voice work would have added a nice touch to the game, but it's hard to fault the game's lack of voice-overs given the high quality of the game's musical package.

Fun Meter

If you can manage to look past the few flaws in the game, what you'll find is a very enjoyable and entertaining RPG adventure that will keep you busy for many hours. The game does tend to rely on "busy work" to lengthen the quest with a lot of backtracking, but it's all tied into the quest itself quite well so you won't feel like your time is being completely wasted. Given the sheer size of the adventure, you can be sure that you'll get your money's worth with this one.

Addictivity

As with most RPGs, you'll most likely play through this one and then not pick it up again for awhile. Given the fact that the quest itself is in excess of 40 hours, you should pretty much get your fill of this game your first time through, but the game is enough fun that you'll most likely come back to it again in the future.

Total Score= 4.125 Dragons, 82.5%



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