Legend of Legacy is an RPG for the 3DS published by Atlus in 2015. Since playing and enjoying Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold I’ve been getting more interest in Atlus. I played a demo of this game a year or so ago and was interested by it.
Setting: The Isle of Avalon mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. Numerous adventurers have traveled to the island seeking to solve its mysteries and find treasure. You pick one of seven characters who is traveling to the island, each for their own reasons. Your pick will be the main character but the others will join up with you and form a party.
Tale of Two Legends
I’ll lay it out right now: this game was a miss for me. I got tired of it and didn’t finish it. It did some cool things but ultimately had some big flaws that just annoyed me too much. It kind of reminds me of Legend of Mana; a cool game that gets held back by its flaws. But unlike Mana the cool things that Legacy does weren’t enough to counteract the flaws for me.
The Bad: Leveling System
Legacy follows a “you get better at what you actually do” system. For a lot of RPGs your wizard will get smarter and better at magic even if you have him just hit things with a stick over and over. Legacy is one of those games that does away with conventional overall levels and instead assigns levels to all the different skills and abilities you use. This by itself is fine but I’ve found that implementation can be difficult to do well.
Unfortunately the game Legacy most reminds me of with this is Final Fantasy 2, an NES game where the leveling is largely seen as a major weakness. The leveling is per-action and I’ve yet to see a per-action system that doesn’t make drawing out battles seem necessary to an extent. Though this isn’t to say per-action is immediately bad, just that it has inherent weaknesses. Indeed, Legacy made me draw out some fights longer than they needed.
But the worst part is the randomness. Even FF2 had measured experience meters with consistent progress for its weapon and spell levels. Legacy, as far as I can tell from both playing it and looking online, is random. You can do everything right and not get a level up in a skill for a long time. One streamer I watch recently discussed this while playing a PS1 RPG, saying something like, “If I’m doing things right I should be rewarded for it, not just given a slightly better chance for it.”
Indeed, there was one spell I used a lot in a variety of fights and as far as I know I did everything right for leveling it. Over 10 hours later I finally got the crucial level up for it. More on that later.
The Bad: Encounters
Legacy utilizes “monsters are on map, touch them and get taken into the battle screen” for encounters. I’ve covered this in a few other games now. As usual, you can avoid fights if you want though sometimes it’s tough. My main problem with the implementation is that unlike most other games the enemies on the map don’t reset or move at all when you get out of a fight. Also, the enemies are very aggressive and persistent in chasing you. So what happens is if you don’t want to get into a fight you try to get around an enemy. Unless you’re in a wide open space the enemy will see you. You run from it and in doing so run by and aggro two other enemy groups. Eventually you run to a dead end and get into a fight with one of the groups. End the fight and the other two groups are still there so you end up getting into three consecutive fights when all is said and done.
Also the leveling system is balanced such that weaker encounters will give you little to nothing in level ups. Most easy fights will get you nothing. At least games with EXP or SP make easy fights not entirely useless. And whether you get and easy fight or hard fight is pretty random too. The last dungeon I was in before quitting I was still getting fights from the first dungeon mixed up with tough fights with little way to tell which would be which.
The Bad: Magic Headaches
Here is my main gripe with the game: how magic works. First, magic is lame in Mana but Mana is easy enough that it doesn’t matter. Legacy is decently tough to where I doubt hacking and slashing on its own would get through without a bunch of grinding.
Here’s what you need to do to use magic. All magic fits into elements and to use magic of an element you need to spend a turn making a contract with that element. A character can only make a contract with an element if he/she has that element’s Singing Shard equipped in one of two accessory slots. So already to use magic you need to spend a turn with a character that has an accessory slot used.
Enemies can use magic too but the unfair thing is when they use magic they get to use a spell and gain a contract in one turn. Also, Legacy has a “choose turns at the beginning of the round” combat system that makes this even more problematic. Plan to use a spell but then an enemy gains the element’s contract from you. Wasted turn and SP (this game’s version of MP). Also, plan to have your fastest character and a slower unit use a spell and by chance the faster character goes after the slower one? Wasted turn and SP. The last fight I did in Legacy was a tough fight in which this situation happened twice that finally made me rage quit.
It gets even worse when it comes to learning spells. Spells are learned by Whispering Shards, another accessory. So you have to sacrifice your accessory slots to use magic and thus you can only have so many spells. But fret not for eventually you can learn spells! However, as mentioned above this is finicky and random. I used Hailstorm, a nice AoE water spell, for crowd control often from the moment I got it. Only 10 hours later did my hero learn Hailstorm so she could finally equip a different Whispering Shard to learn a spell.
The Good: Field Elements
One cool thing the game did was have elements affect battle and change during fights. When you enter a fight the elements will be at certain levels. For example, when you’re in the water temple fights usually start with water in the high teens while the other elements are close to 10.
When an element is stronger than the others it has an effect on battles. Water will half magic damage, wind halves physical damage, fire increases physical damage, and shadow increases magic damage. This goes for allies and enemies. Thus, if you’re in a fight with lots of physical bruisers it helps to strengthen wind in the field.
Getting contracts with an element also produces effects. Getting a water contract will give your characters HP regen at the end of the round and a wind contract will give up SP regen, allowing you to use spells and SP-costing skills at will. Thus, tough fights can be a fun exercise in getting contracts and strengthening elements to produce effects you want.
The Good: Mortal Damage
Legacy handles 0 HP in a unique way. Characters are still down for the count at 0 HP as usual. But there are no special reviving skills or spells for 0 HP. The same healing spells you use on someone still standing work when they have 0 HP and will get them back on their feet. Easy, huh? The trade-off is that all damage a character takes while at 0 HP lowers their max HP. Don’t worry, it’s not permanent; characters’ normal max HP is restored by going back to town and staying at the inn. Characters can still be targeted at 0 HP and take more mortal damage.
Fights are tough enough that you’ll see mortal damage fairly regularly. Your party is restored to full HP after every fight but only up to their current max HP. So the game is forgiving despite its difficulty but then it becomes a risk-reward game where you can carry on with your units weakening or eventually decide you need to rest.
The Good: Stances
There are three stances available at the start of the game. The game made it seem like more would be unlocked later but I never saw that happen. Anyway, the stances are Attack, Support, and Guard. You create formations where you choose stances for each character and you choose a formation at the beginning of every turn. Attack increases damage. Support increases the odds of going first and makes healing better and status ailments more likely to hit. Guard decreases damage and any defensive skills use apply to the whole party. One tactic Legacy teaches you early is to have one person in Guard use Block. They will take physical damage for the whole party and that damage will be reduced from using Block.
This made for some interesting tactical decisions. Need something done early, put someone in Support. Against a group of physically tough enemies you’d generally want to put someone in Guard. It’d get very interesting when you have conflicting goals. Someone at low HP and you need them to fire off a healing spell? Do you put them in Guard so they can take a hit or in Support to increase the odds they go first?
Legend of Legacy scores a whopping 99.61 on the difficulty spreadsheet. This puts it all the way up at 5th out of 151. It’s rated even harder than Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest! It’s just below games like Adventure of Link and the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES.
While the game was tough I didn’t get far enough to see that level of difficulty. Nevertheless, it points to another difference between Mana and Legacy. You could ignore Mana’s more annoying pieces as the game wasn’t tough enough to make you fully use every part of the battle system. Legacy, meanwhile, clearly expects you to learn everything and use it to its fullest.
Legend of Legacy is a promising game that just made too many wrong choices in its design. If they just got rid of the “spells fail if you don’t have the element’s contract” piece and made leveling measurable instead of random I think those two changes alone would greatly improve the game. The game did some unique things with the elements’ effect on fights and mortal damage as well as having some nice-looking settings and dungeons. I can’t help but wonder if I had played this game when I was younger and had more time if I might have just pushed through it. Nevertheless, I decided to put the game down due to its flaws.