|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Falcom||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan.23, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
The Legend of Heroes III: Song of the Ocean is a game that fittingly focuses on two main themes: the ocean and music. Even though the subject matter is far and away from what you'd expect it to be, The Legend of Heroes III: Song of the Ocean cannot be judged on title alone.
Although The Legend of Heroes III: Song of the Ocean is technically the third entry in the Legend of Heroes series, it is actually a standalone RPG. It takes place in the same world as before, but this time in a different region: the Wetluna region. As the name implies, the Wetluna nation is surrounded by the ocean, and you can expect to see a lot of the big blue sea in this game.
The game begins by introducing you to the three main characters: Forte, a young musician who dreams of playing professionally in a recital; Una, the girl who has a humongous crush on Forte; and McBain, Forte's (much) older friend who is quite the accomplished musician. There's also the dog, Jan, who is actually part of your fighting crew, but he's a dog so there's really no character development there. The real story begins when McBain receives a letter (conveniently) from one of his friends telling him about how the ancient Water Tribe peoples used to use special musical scores for power. However, these musical scores are hidden all across the land of Wetluna, and can only be found via one magic map. Which is lost. Which McBain stumbles upon a few moments later...
Yes it's all very hokey and convenient and the whole thing feels downright cheesy. But then again, most Disney movies are like that, and those are revered as classics. I don't really find too much fault with the story. Sure, it's no Final Fantasy XII, but it's not altogether shabby either. A group of friends discovers a quest and goes for it. And after the quest is done, you do feel a little closer to the characters. Some bonding goes on, and it's all very fluffy, but tastefully done.
However, one thing that really did bother me was the extremely linear gameplay. You're allowed to make almost no decisions for yourself; the game follows the storyline so extremely to the letter that it even prevents you from exploring certain parts of the landscape fully until you've accomplished tasks in other portions. There is no genuine way to play the game in different ways, and no real way to make the gameplay experience unique. This may be a good thing if this is your first or second RPG and you're just getting used to the genre, or if you're in the mood for a relaxing and non-challenging game. But if you're an experienced gamer looking for a challenge, beware! The extreme linear gameplay of The Legend of Heroes III will turn you off almost immediately.
Controls are very simplistic and are true to RPG form. Move around with the control stick and talk to people and perform actions with the X button. The battle system in the game is standard RPG fare, and doesn't really have any notable facets. All the old favorites like "attack" and "spells" are here in convenient menu form, all you have to do is make your choice and choose a target. As you progress, you'll be able to use your collected musical scores to perform various healing and special attack moves.
There's also a pet system in place that tries to give the player incentive to spend time with a little furry pal who may or may not come in handy during a fight. However this feature falls flat. The pets seem to have no personality, and no matter how much (or how little) time you spend with your pet, they'll come in and help you when they want to. It doesn't matter whether you spend 12 hours or 12 minutes with them, their behavior doesn't really change. All that changes is the extra hours you've logged for no real reason.
The visuals in the game, however, are above par. The characters are excellently animated, and cutscenes look very good on the PSP. The ocean also is very beautiful in the game, and takes on its own life through expert animation. The environment is beautifully crafted, and each area you visit is new and unique. Different textures and patterns make up a very diverse landscape that is a pleasure to look at. The game also makes interesting use of sunlight and shade to illuminate different settings.
Now, of course, since the game is all about the power of music, you'd expect the sound to be spectacular. Well, it's not quite there, but it does get close. Two of your main characters are serious musicians, and they both learn more than a handful of songs during the course of the game. Some are "good", and some are "alright", and a select few are "very good." But I wouldn't call any of these really amazing.
Since it's debut on the PSP in 2005, The Legend of Heroes franchise has had a history of being mostly under-whelming. Don't get me wrong; whenever you pick up a Legend of Heroes title, you get what you pay for: it's most definitely a solid RPG. But it's generally the case that the buck stops there. No truly innovative storyline, and no real decision-making capabilities. Although the newest addition to the franchise continues this trend of an under-whelming RPG, I don't really think that it's all bad.
I would compare The Legend of Heroes III: Song of the Ocean to french fries. They're pretty bad for you and don't really contribute to your overall well-being. But sometimes they satisfy that little voice inside you that just wants the taste of good cheap fried potatoes. I would recommend this game to those who would like a nice easygoing game, or who don't really mind not being challenged. I myself enjoy a casual, east to play game every once in a while. But if you're looking for a hard-hitting, cutting-edge RPG that will have you fighting bosses and strategizing until the early morning hours, then I suggest you look elsewhere.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer