Dungeon-crawling RPGs are something of kryptonite for me, with tedious dungeons that never end and a usually lackluster story. So you can be sure that I was a little bit hesitant when I first booted up Legasista, but thankfully all of that angst over it was washed away rather quickly. Heavy with customization and charm, Legasista is a breath of fresh air similar to games like 3D Dot Game Heroes.
The game will put you in the role of young Alto, a boy whose sole mission in life is to restore his sister from the crystal-form that she is in now to her human body. To do so, Alto must travel to the Ivy Tower, head deep into the ancient ruins and use an ancient weapon to break her curse. Little does he know that this weapon is not what he thinks, and that is where things go all JRPG on you.
In his journey through the dungeons, Alto meets an extremely strange cast of characters, starting with the keeper of the ruins, Mrs. Dungeon. Add onto that an ancient weapon who has lost her memories, a stone robot, and one of the bustiest girls in the history of JRPGs (seriously, it is insane!). The story has a lot of good humor to it but boils down to a simple tail of siblings doing everything they can for each other. It’s one of those stories that will keep you invested while not ever blowing your socks off.
Legasista is a dungeon-crawling RPG maxed out to the extreme, with a great blend of strategic combat, traps, and exploration. Your goal is to complete a floor of a dungeon and then move onto the next, until you have cleared out the entire dungeon. Most of these floors are fairly small and quick hitting, letting you get in and out without being tied down too long. Each of these dungeons are hand-designed with a theme to each. Solving each of the themes is key to moving on to the next floor or dungeon. After completing a certain percentage of the main dungeons, you will then open up the opportunity to visit ran-gens, which are longer than the regular ones.
Combat is fairly simple at its core, with the ability to equip a single weapon and magic spells to back it up. Up to three characters can be used to form a party but only one at a time can be controlled. The kicker here is that you can switch and use your support characters magic and abilities while not switching to them. However, you can also quickly switch between all three characters at any point in the dungeons with a simple click on the right joystick. This allows the action to flow quickly and players to strategically switch to whichever character is best for each trap or location.
Speaking of traps, you will find plenty of them to deal with in your exploring. Traps such as arrows, spikes, bombs, and poison are visible around every corner, so make sure to keep your head up. The great thing here is that not only can the traps hurt you, but you can also find great ways to trigger them to hurt oncoming enemies, adding a flair of strategy to simple traps. There are a ton of items to also be found and used, such as healing sprouts to keep you alive and lanterns to help brighten your way and clear away some of the fog.
Customization is one of the biggest aspects of Legasista and brings an extremely new feel to the dungeon-crawling genre. Each character can equip a single energy frame, which affects how many health bars and equipment items you can put on. As you level up you unlock new frames to help setup your character as you like. The craziest part is that not only do you have multiple heath bars in the game, but you also have a durability gauge for each equipment piece. After you lose your health bars, your durability bars start to go next. Once depleted, the equipment piece then cannot be used until you head back to town.
Each character also has a set job assigned to them, which can be changed at level 20. These jobs have specific job-related skills assigned to just them. Leveling up also nets you Job Points, which you can in turn use to unlock things like plus 3 manga for all jobs, or increased damage when at 1 health point. If you don’t like any of the preset story characters, the game also offers a character creator that lets you put your own touch on the adventure, even if it is not very deep.
Graphically, Legasista is a great first HD effort by developer System Prisma. Characters are sharp, well done, and literally pop off the screen. The Ivy Tower isn’t half bad either, with a wide variety of living environments that keep things from getting stale. Enemies are also highly polish and have a lot of personality to them, blending in very nicely with their environments. Some characters are copied from level to level but are given different abilities to match the theme of their dungeon.
As with most JRPGs in recent memory, the soundtrack is enjoyable and provides great background to your adventure. Character voices are done entirely in Japanese with English subtitles, which will almost surely scare some people away. It really would have been nice to have an option for English voices but it is in no way a deal breaker.
Legasista is a dungeon that is begging to be explored by anyone who likes to grind it through trap-filled levels. System Prisms does a great job of adding a new spice to the formula with highly customizable energy frames and multiple health/durability bars. Each floor of the dungeon is pushed along with a simple yet fun story filled with a cast of interesting characters. Even without delving into the Ran-Gens, you are guaranteed +15 hours of grinding and equipment collecting. It certainly won’t be for everyone but this is a real gem for PS3 owners hankering for a good old dungeon crawler.