The Legend Of Heroes: A Tear Of Vermillion Review / Preview for the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP)

The Legend Of Heroes: A Tear Of Vermillion Review / Preview for the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP)

It will take you a loooong time to finish but is it worth it? by Colin Thames

December 10, 2005 – The Legend of Heroes: A Tear Of Vermillion is a huge Japanese RPG loaded with colorful characters, interesting locations and rewarding battles. It follows the traditional RPG path but adds a few interesting twists that manages to keep you in familiar territory without experiencing too much déjà vu.

As a young child, Avin was separated from his sister during a raid on his homeland. Raised an orphan during his childhood, Avin decides it’s now time for him to venture forth in search of his long, lost sister.

The quest is similar to every old-school RPG but this adventure is designed to keep you playing for months on end. There is some filler in terms of extraneous side-missions and getting lost while searching for the next of a series of linear missions. Some translation problems rear their ugly syntax and keep you from figuring out what’s going on and where it is that you’re supposed to be going. The storyline is very convoluted as it jumps all over the place throwing all kinds of back history and names at you. It’s all text-based and makes for a lot of reading – sometimes a lot of confused reading.

There are more than 100 characters in the game and most of them are incidental. There’s no way you’re going to keep track of all of these characters and there’s no incentive to replay the game so you won’t be able to familiarize yourself with them through osmosis. There is a core party of 14 characters that you’ll become acquainted with and these are the important ones.

The Legend of Heroes is one very long game but it would probably clock in at under 30 hours if the fat were trimmed. Sometimes the fat is the best part of the steak but everyone has different tastes. Some may enjoy this exploring process, especially those that have a lot of time on their hands while other, like myself, simply find it annoying considering that the game is so linear in nature that any display of freedom is purely artificial.

Combat is turn-based. Using different characters’ attributes combined with weapons and magic you issue your orders on your turn and watch the battles play out. Enemies aren’t always within reach and at times you’ll be forced to forfeit a turn just to get within attacking range. Avin favors swords and his pal Mile uses a boomerang. Magical spells are also a welcome force and come in two varieties: black and white magic. White magic is used for healing and black is used for attacking. You will want to make sure that your party members are kept as healthy as possible for combat later in the game.

Powers can be augmented by using a meter that is filled during battles. Different characters have different special attacks that you can unleash with the meter. In some later battles you can have four party members take part at once. The individual special attacks may differ but each character is basically as powerful as the next. If the enemy is sufficiently weakened, any special attack is likely to finish him off. If all four party members are in full health their one, combined attack could be enough to kill the enemy.

A pet system allows you to have a cat, dog or rabbit as a pet. Feed it and nurture it and it will perform some tasks for you by finding various potions and health. You can also use them in battle. They act like modifiers when you summon them into battle. Their effects are rather pronounced if you know how to use them properly. The pets can help you with healing potions in battle and supply you with some rare bits of magic. You can also make them angry so that they will throw stones at your enemy and whittle away at some of their hit points.

Unlike some traditional RPGs, you can avoid random battles. You’ll often see groups of monsters in the distance. The ones that try to avoid you will be of the weaker variety while the aggressive ones will attempt to engage you in battle. It’s a good idea to avoid the more powerful monsters until you level-up but you’re not going to be able to do that if you continue to avoid battles. You are going to have to face some monsters in an effort to earn experience points. These points are used to automatically level-up each character to fulfil their destiny. In other words, you don’t have any control over how they turn out.

Sprite-based characters are colorful and easy to see but they don’t resemble their anime counterparts which appear in static portraits when engaging in dialog with other characters. The chubby, compressed sprites look more like homunculus avatars that stand-in for the main characters. With so many characters there isn’t enough time to get to know them all to any degree of depth so most are just one-dimensional. They are charming but their personalities are rather cliché.

The environments, especially the villages, look like model towns from a miniature train display. They aren’t very realistic nor are they quaint. They just do the job. For the most part, the production values are lacking throughout the game. You really have to dig deep to reveal the charm of this game but if you’re willing to invest a chunk of your immediate future into it you will definitely want to get to the end to find out what happened to your sister and your best friend. It’s captivating in an addictive way. With a save-anywhere feature, this is a portable-friendly game.

By Colin Thames
CCC Freelance Writer

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