One of my favorite games as a kid was Square’s PlayStation RPG SaGa Frontier. I say this despite also knowing that I don’t fully understand how the game works. Much like the other SaGa titles as well as more recent cousins like The Last Remnant, SaGa Frontier is fickle and mean at best and sadistic at worst. The term “tsundere” comes to mind – usually it hates you, sometimes it loves you, and even then it still kind of hates you. Characters level and learn new attacks seemingly at random.
The plot only sort of exists, halfheartedly pointing you in a direction before leaving you on your own. Random battles can be easy as pie or remarkably lethal. I loved every second of it, as the sense of adventure stemming from a game that couldn’t care less about you is tangible and present at all times. Naturally, when The Legend of Legacy came out, I had to check it out for myself.
This is, essentially, a new SaGa game with a cutesy graphical style and a new IP attached to it. As a SaGa game, then, The Legend of Legacy is one of the most difficult RPGs you’ll play. It starts off relatively mercifully, opening with a dungeon that hovers at around the level of difficulty you’d expect from this sort of game, and then rapidly spirals out of control into a hellish nightmare of hatred. A cautious, slow approach incorporating incredible patience is necessary to get anywhere in this game.
You’re facing daunting odds at every turn: random encounters often consist of enormous groups of enemies, each of which are wholly capable of wrecking your face. Sometimes those random encounters are actually enormously powerful mid-bosses in diguise. While you can see battles coming on the map screen, dungeons are absolutely saturated with foes, so you’re going to have to master the fine art of running away – but even then, sometimes collectible items are actually monster ambushes in disguise! You’ll rapidly get used to fleeing from monsters that are too much to deal with, resulting in a quick retreat to the entrance of the dungeon.
To try and beat back the endless tides, you’ve got a party consisting of three characters, including a main character you’ll select at the start of the game which affects the plot to some extent. I say this, but there’s a playable frog, so I’m not sure why you’d pick anyone else – nevertheless the choice is there. What’s more, the plot is a relative afterthought compared to dungeon crawling and exploration, so you should probably just pick the frog. You can switch characters in and out of your party of three, but The Legend of Legacy rewards persistence, so you’ll want to assemble a team you like and stick with them whenever possible. Character development is much like previous SaGa games; you’ll gain more of whatever you use, so characters who focus on attacking will become better at it, for instance.
Statistics are a bit unusual for the genre, with characters being ranked on three main categories: Attack, Guard and Support. These do pretty much exactly what you’d think, with Support focusing on healing and speed. Your party selects a formation during combat with each party member choosing a category to focus on. Typically, you’ll want at least one character concentrating on Guard and using shields, since enemies hit extremely hard and you’ll need some means of damage mitigation lest the whole team get wiped out. Properly managing your characters’ formation is key to both success in combat and effective character building, since having your healer focus overmuch on Attack won’t serve them well at all, just as an example
There’s a little more to it than this – skills themselves can increase in the three categories, for instance, which affects their power, defense and priority – but the underlying systems are relatively arcane and intended for careful players to unravel. Certain bits of information would have been useful to have in front of you, though, like what sort of weapons and magic characters are especially good at. You’ll learn new skills by using what you’ve got, causing a random Awakening that results in a new skill which can be used whenever later on; likewise, magic is learned by equipping charms and using the spells attached to them, eventually leading to an Awakening that allows the spells to be used without the associated charm. Characters with an affinity for a given weapon or magic type will see Awakening much more quickly than they otherwise might, so this would be helpful to know.
Even finding new equipment can be a bit of a pain. You’ll collect plenty of salable items to make gold (dealing with ambushes as you do so, of course) as well as selling completed dungeon maps, but the gear available in shops isn’t especially great. For the real hotness, you’ll want to pay gold to send off trading ships, which takes place in real time and can be sped up via StreetPass. When a ship returns from a trading expedition it comes back packed with goodies that are often far superior to what you can normally buy, so it’s a system that’s absolutely worth a look.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time with The Legend of Legacy, even if I don’t feel like I managed to make it especially far. This is the sort of game that demands a particular player, the same type of player who’s willing to bash their face against the Dark Souls games until they manage to make a breakthrough. If you’re willing to endure death and dismay for the sake of seeing everything the game has to offer, then The Legend of Legacy might be the RPG for you. If you’d prefer something a little more forgiving, I might recommend Bravely Default, which looks similar and is filled with just a bit less hatred.