SONY PSP REVIEW: THE LEGEND OF HEROES 2: PROPHECY OF THE MOONLIGHT WITCH

LoH2 delivers almost exactly what you'd expect. In short, there are no real surprises but that might not matter to real fans. by Colin Thames

June 23, 2006- Following in the footsteps of the original Legend of Heroes games, I hesitate to call Legend of Heroes II a sequel, in the same way I would call any Chuck Berry song a sequel. Not to put ol’ Chuck down by any means but his songs, like this game, follow a pretty strict format or formula, in an attempt to mine more commercial success. Pandering to your audience can make for some very mediocre product. Not every song in the Berry catalog is a gem, and Legend of Heroes II is more bronze than it is silver or gold.

This fantasy-based game lends itself nicely to the PSP in that it’s designed to be a portable game. It lets you save your progress at any time and pick up from exactly where you left off. It’s also designed to pick-up-play, making it accessible to newcomers to the genre. Moves, weapons, armor, spells and other items are amassed as you progress. You aren’t bombarded with a lot of features at the beginning of the game. It’s also recommended that you break up the gameplay to a few hours at a sitting rather than spending a whole day or weekend on it. It tends to get repetitive otherwise.

As a by-the-numbers RPG, The Legend of Heroes doesn’t necessarily fail to deliver, but it does come up short in the originality department. The anime characters are all teenagers that appear to be emotionally disturbed as they are unable to display much subtlety between states of extreme excitement, disappointment, anger and happiness. Sure I know this isn’t real life, but these characters are just caricatures with few redeeming qualities. I didn’t form much of a bond with the principal characters nor was I able to put myself in their place, despite the overwhelming amount of dialog. Not only is the dialog all text-based, with no voiceovers, but so much of it doesn’t relate to the gameplay that you begin to tune it out after five hours. The problem with that is that you have to pay attention to all of it because you never know when a character is going to drop some information on you. There is a lot of useless dialog that doesn’t do anything but pad the length of the game. There is enough of it among the main characters and their friends but fortunately when it comes to non-playable characters only the ones that have something useful to offer will be indicated with an exclamation mark over their heads.

Jurio and Chris are the two main characters and are a boy and girl respectively. The live in a small town called Ragpick Village. At a certain age the children must embark on a quest to begin their journey in adulthood. By visiting the five shrines in the surrounding land, they will peer into mirrors which are purported to prophesize the future. Through a series of bad omens they discover that the fate of their village is doomed by evil forces. In order to turn the tide, the duo must seek out the mysterious Moolight Witch whom is responsible for these visions. In true RPG fashion, the protagonists’ adventure pits them against monsters, magic and mysterious forces.

There are tons of characters in this game but most of them are red herrings which just end up wasting your time. Party members appear and disappear with great frequency. You’re never stuck with a sap for too long. Most of these characters are one-dimensional. They are good for one or two things. Exploit them in battle and then send them on their way. Battles are turn-based and you can use up to four characters at a time. The great thing about this game is that you can avoid most battles. They are useful for leveling-up and acquiring new equipment, skills and spells, but if you don’t feel like fighting you can just avoid them by locating them on the map and altering your path. Occasionally if you get too close they will give chase but you can usually outrun and outsmart them. Conversely, monsters and other enemies that are not up to your level will run away from you.

When you do manage to get into a fight you will notice that the battles are somewhat streamlined. The magic takes longer to play out due to the animations but the other moves are pretty straightforward and results can be obtained rather quickly. There isn’t much strategy involved expect for positioning your characters as far away from ranged attacks as possible. A meter will charge for your special attack and when discharged it’s usually enough to eliminate any standard enemy. The more that you level-up in terms of powers, weapons and equipment, the better equipped you will be to engage in more interesting fights. The enemies that you encounter will have similar powers and you will have to dig deeper into your bag of tricks in order to crush them.

Assisting party members from time to time will be various cutesy pets that will accompany them on their adventure. They don’t play a big role in the game but they will give you a hand in combat and will fetch some things for you such as health and potions when you need it.

Much like the first game, the overall look of the game is rather generic. It composed of an isometric perspective with dwarfish characters and low-res cartoonish textures that would be more at home in a Super Mario game. The map will indicate the location of enemies but won’t give you any idea where to go. You will have to glean that from the conversations or through trial and error. Whenever you get lost, it’s a good time to shut ‘er down and try again later. Not only does it work but it will save your PSP from being winged at the wall.

The Legend of Heroes II will not disappoint fans of the original that are looking for more of the same. The rest of us can expect to be a little less than impressed.


Features:

  • AI that “Picks Its Battles”. Enemies gauge your strength before attacking, and will “turn tail and run” if they sense you are stronger than they are.
  • Random Battles – Be Gone! See your enemies on the world map before a fight ensues.
  • Use the “Deadly” Meter to Your Advantage. Fill up your meter after a battle, then unleash a devastating blow on particularly tough bosses.
  • Easy to Pick up and Play. Become drawn into the storyline within a few minutes of picking up the game.
  • Deep RPG Designed for a Handheld Platform. Outside of battles or events, save at any point in the game, except for during battles and events.
  • Return of the "Pet" system. Keep a dog, cat, or rabbit as a pet … treat it well, and it will return the favor!
  • Beautiful Environments. Colorful 2D sprites inhabit a rich world with such details as lens flare from the sun, water effects, and beautiful scenery.

By Colin Thames
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
The Legend of Heroes 2: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch (PSP)
3.4
Graphics
Some good 3D environments but the isometric perspective, tiny characters and low-res textures is passe.
4.2
Control
The game starts out easy enough to play and gets more complicated as you progress. It’s gradual, allowing you to grow into it.
2.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There are no voiceovers and the music gets repetitive.
3.5
Play Value
You will not want to go through those conversations ever again, so replay value is a little suspect, but the adventure will be worth it for fans of the original.
3.3
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: Falcom
Pub: Namco Bandai
Release: June 2006
Players: 1
Review by Coiln

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best