Dig, Dig, Dig
It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I approached Legasista, the latest dungeon-crawling RPG from System Prisma. The company’s Cladun series left many players cold, with their retro charm being buried beneath bland, repetitive gameplay. After adventuring with the cast of Legasista, I’m happy to report that it’s a definite improvement over the company’s previous offerings. With sharp HD graphics, action combat that requires both skills and strategy, and an interesting dungeon to conquer, Legasista is a nice treat for fans of dungeoneering.
The game stars Alto, a young man whose only goal is to save his sister, who has been turned into a crystal by a “curse” from an ancient artifact. Like many Japanese RPG settings, Alto’s world is a low-tech place that houses the ruins of a highly advanced society. Most people fear these ancient ruins, but Alto is desperate. He has come to a massive facility known as the Ivy Tower due to rumors that it houses an ancient weapon that can cure his sister.
Once arriving, Alto becomes entangled with a number of colorful characters, including the ruins’ android supervisor, who insists on being called Ms. Dungeon and cultivates both sentient and non-sentient bean sprouts. Then there’s the ancient weapon, who turns out to be very different from what Alto imagined. There’s a lot of familiar wacky humor here for fans of publisher NIS America, but underneath the insanity is a touching story of two siblings. Alto and his sister may bicker, (not far into the game, he gains the ability to communicate with her spirit in the crystal) but in the end, they’d do anything for each other. It’s a simple and touching story, albeit with occasionally convoluted trappings, that works well to keep the player moving through the Ivy Tower.
Legasista describes itself as a “dungeon-crawler style survival action RPG,” which is certainly apt. The game marries a strategic action combat system with the kind of trap-filled dungeon exploration that will be familiar to roguelike players. Dungeon exploration has three main features: combat, strategic use of traps, and careful use of items.
Combat is a fairly simple action-based system in which the characters can only be equipped with a single kind of weapon at a time, but also have access to a number of spells and abilities to back up their weapon strikes. Up to three characters can be taken into the dungeon at once. Only one character is active at a time, but the active character can make use of other characters’ support abilities, and the characters can be switched between with a simple press of the right analog stick. This keeps dungeon exploration lively, giving the player several types of characters to switch between as well as providing backup should one character fall. There’s a nice variety of enemies to tackle, and choosing a good variety of weapons and spells to spread out amongst the party is crucial to surviving battle.
The Ivy Tower’s dungeons are filled with a variety of traps that do everything from shooting fire arrows to making spikes pop out of the ground to triggering every other trap in the area for an impressive trapmageddon. While the traps are visible to the player and can be avoided, it’s better to make creative use of them in order to dispatch enemies. Arrow traps, for example, behave predictably, so the player can set them up in order to hit a charging monster in the back. An earthquake trap, on the other hand, won’t hurt anything in the air, so the player can set one off, then hold the jump button while the trap does its work on nearby foes.
Useful items such as lanterns, keys, and healing foods are scattered around the dungeon, and are meant to be used strategically in order to survive. In particular, the game has an intricate poison system that the player will want to manage via deciding when a poison symptom is bearable and when it absolutely needs to be removed via a curative item. One-use items like this will only last through a single exploration session, and many degrade from floor to floor, so players are encouraged to use them, just not too liberally.
The Ivy Tower’s main dungeons are hand-designed, and each floor features a particular theme or challenge to solve. These dungeons are relatively short and provide a satisfying bite-sized experience. After completing a certain percentage of the main dungeon area, the player gains the ability to dig for randomly-generated dungeons known as Ran-Gens, which are far longer and much more unpredictable.
In fact, Legasista is essentially two games in one. The Ivy Tower provides focused, carefully designed dungeon floors that emphasize careful planning, exploration, and problem solving. The Ran-Gens are a far more savage beast, throwing hordes of monsters at the player and putting the emphasis on survival. Traditional JRPG fans are likely to prefer the Ivy Tower, while roguelike fans will enjoy the brutal (though not quite as brutal as the average roguelike) world of the Ran-Gens. Although the Ivy Tower becomes increasingly difficult as the player scales its heights, braving the Ran-Gens doesn’t appear necessary in order to complete the main campaign. It’s simply up to gameplay preference.
No matter which kind of gameplay is preferred, Legasista offers a great deal of character customization for the player to dive into. The player can use the pre-set story characters or design custom characters with a number of possible parameters, from class to personality. Even weapons and character appearance can be customized by importing graphics from a PC, though it would have been nice to have more custom sprites to choose from in the game itself. Once a character is chosen or created, the player can choose a “power framework,” which determines the kind of equipment and abilities the character uses, and further customize character classes by spending job points. It’s possible to get very deep into the character system, and doing so is likely necessary in order to tackle the more difficult Ran-Gens. Gamers who just want to explore dungeons and pop monsters on the head can get away with a fairly cursory use of these systems for the main campaign, though. There’s even an “equip strongest item” option for the inventory slots, saving a lot of fiddling around with inventory lists.
As System Prisma’s first HD game, Legasista looks pretty good. The graphics are sharp, distinctive, and extremely colorful. The Ivy Tower is mostly organic, featuring a wide variety of living environments, which is a very nice change from the dank dungeons we usually troop through in this kind of game. Monsters have a lot of personality, and while a certain amount of palette-swapping is used, there’s still a wide variety of beasts to encounter and most palette swaps at least have different abilities from their counterparts.
The game sounds great, too. One area in which System Prisma’s Cladun games shined was the music, and Legasista continues that tradition. Its tunes are lively and memorable, providing a great backdrop for adventure. The original Japanese voice-overs have been left in the game, a practice that is certainly preferable to removing the voice acting altogether for a low-budget English release.
Legasista shows some good growth on the part of the System Prisma team, which has come up with a more interesting active combat system to accompany its dungeon adventures. Although only huge dungeon-crawling fans are likely to be entranced enough to get deep into the Ran-Gen system, Legasista’s main dungeon is fun to play through, especially in small doses. With a story that’s both sweet and silly, a varied dungeon that can be played in short chunks, and a deep customization system available for those who are interested, this is a crawler that’s worth checking out.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Legasista’s graphics are pleasant and colorful. The dungeon tile sets are unusually diverse. 3.5 Control
The action combat in the game is good, though it breaks down a bit when the player is surrounded. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Strong music tracks and Japanese voice-overs fit well with the game’s style. 3.5 Play Value
Simple in concept but with depths that interested players can access. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best