Deep Look: Legend of Legaia- Where RPG and Fighting Game Combat Meet

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Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

Hey Duderati,

Here is the latest Deep Look! Deep Looks are largely gameplay and commentary like a Giantbomb quicklook; however, I try to cover games that have been out for a while and I intend to use the videos to highlight moments and mechanics that I found particularly worthy of highlighting and exploring. Also I aim to keep the videos under 20 minutes.

In this Deep Look, Rothgar and I take a look at the forgotten PS1 gem Legend of Legaia and its underrated combat system. We look at how the game blends fighting game style button combinations and rpg turn based combat. We also look at how the basic combat systems inform how you use each of the game's three characters. In the beginning of the video I mistakenly mentioned that the game was published by Square, but the game was actually published by Sony. Also the game was published by SCEA, not developed by SCEA like Legend of Dragoon.

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#1 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

Would anyone like to see more videos of slightly more obscure or less popular games? I'm not seeing a ton of response on the smaller games I've covered, but I do like to look at less widely known games.

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#2 Posted by Brodehouse (10812 posts) -

Clearly you need to focus on other games that blend fighting game mechanics with RPG mechanics. Also, they should blend both of those with Metal Gear Solid and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And then call it Hybrid Heaven. The game where you perform brainbuster suplexes to genetically engineered mutant monstrosities.

Do Hybrid Heaven next.

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#3 Edited by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@brodehouse: I try to only make videos of games I know well and I'm not sure if I can capture an N64, but I'm intrigued. Is Hybrid Heaven any good? Does it have anything to do with Rhythm Heaven or are these different heavens?

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#4 Edited by Brodehouse (10812 posts) -

@brodehouse: I'm intrigued. Is Hybrid Heaven any good?

I MEAN HOW COULD IT NOT BE GOOD, HERE'S A MAN DELIVERING A BOSTON CRAB TO AN ALIEN

No Caption Provided

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#5 Posted by Hailinel (25785 posts) -

@thatpinguino: Hybrid Heaven is one of the weird, underrated games on the N64. You level up the attack and defense strength of each body part (right arm, torso, head, left leg, etc.) individually, and you learn new attacks as they're performed on you. There are even items you can collect and use for magic-like ranged attacks.

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#6 Posted by Brodehouse (10812 posts) -

@hailinel said:

@thatpinguino: Hybrid Heaven is one of the weird,

Holy hell it's weird.

underrated

NO IT'S RATED PRETTY FAIRLY

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#7 Posted by Hailinel (25785 posts) -

@brodehouse: DISAGREEMENT. CAPITAL LETTERS. But seriously, the game was pretty fun back in the day. The biggest pain for me was when the third-party memory pack decided to fart and lose my save file, forcing me to start over.

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#8 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@hailinel: Well I might have to check out some video on Hybrid Heaven then. I haven't touched an N64 game in a decade thanks to its lack of reverse compatibility, but I would love to learn about other games that have tried to wed fighting game combat and rpg systems.

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#9 Edited by bobafettjm (2310 posts) -

Man, Legend of Legaia was a game I LOVED on the PlayStation. That was a time when I was pretty much buying any JRPG I could find and this one came out of nowhere as one of my favorite on the system.

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#10 Edited by StarvingGamer (11518 posts) -

Oh god I haaaaated this game. Haaaaaaaaaated it.

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#11 Posted by Spoonman671 (5874 posts) -

I love this game.

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#12 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@bobafettjm: I happened to find this when my cousin bought it. Man the early PS1 era really had a ton of games that casual game fans bought that really were not for casual players at all. I miss the old wild west of not knowing what games to buy, since I never would have found this game if my cousin didn't get it from an under-informed relative. I ended up borrowing my copy from a friend and never gave it back.

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#13 Posted by excast (1384 posts) -

Fond memories of playing through this game back in the day. Still one of my favorite combat systems.

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#14 Posted by RenegadeSaint (1640 posts) -

Oh man, this game was rough. I played all the way through it when it was released, but found it extremely unsatisfying.

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#15 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@renegadesaint: The game definitely drags toward the end and it is not easy at all, but the combat and the world were pretty satisfying. I also liked the amount of side content you could find. Like there was a dance contest rhythm game and a fishing mini-game.

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#16 Posted by bobafettjm (2310 posts) -

@thatpinguino: Totally true. I would buy all kinds of games because of the pictures on the back of the box.

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#17 Edited by Hailinel (25785 posts) -

@hailinel: Well I might have to check out some video on Hybrid Heaven then. I haven't touched an N64 game in a decade thanks to its lack of reverse compatibility, but I would love to learn about other games that have tried to wed fighting game combat and rpg systems.

Here's a pretty good video demonstrating the combat in the game. The only thing it's really lacking are combos. As you get more powerful and your action meter grows, you're able to select multiple attacks to perform in sequence.

Loading Video...

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#18 Posted by MATATAT (1225 posts) -

Legend of Legaia I remember being so by the books story wise but such a great combat system. Xenosaga sorta did a similar thing and the Blitz system in FF VI was pretty similar. Although the other Tales games did similar fighting mechanics ToD 2 had one of the best fighting systems for a JRPG IMO. I always sorta wished an RPG would incorporate a smash bros style battle system and that was sorta the closest it got.

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#19 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@matatat: The story isn't great, the game is too long, and the combat is a bit grind heavy, but the combat innovations are definitely worth preserving. I cover the Blitz system and the Duel system from FF8 in my video. When you say a Smash Bros combat system do you mean a 2D fighting game with ringouts? Or is there some other Smash element you would like to see?

@hailinel: Yeah that game looks closer to an Eternal Sonata or any of the other action game/rpg hybrids, except the attacks are selected from a menu rather than from preset button presses. It looks like a 3D fighting game, but slower. Also what the heck is that monstrosity that the main dude is fighting?

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#20 Posted by Hailinel (25785 posts) -

@matatat: The story isn't great, the game is too long, and the combat is a bit grind heavy, but the combat innovations are definitely worth preserving. I cover the Blitz system and the Duel system from FF8 in my video. When you say a Smash Bros combat system do you mean a 2D fighting game with ringouts? Or is there some other Smash element you would like to see?

@hailinel: Yeah that game looks closer to an Eternal Sonata or any of the other action game/rpg hybrids, except the attacks are selected from a menu rather than from preset button presses. It looks like a 3D fighting game, but slower. Also what the heck is that monstrosity that the main dude is fighting?

As I recall, that's one of the aliens, or a mutant created by them. The plot is all kinds of ridiculous and involves a secret alien facility underneath Manhattan engaging in a plot to secretly take over the U.S. by replacing the President and his staff with impostors.

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#21 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@hailinel: Oddly enough that isn't the most ridiculous JRPG plot that I've ever heard.

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#22 Edited by MATATAT (1225 posts) -

@thatpinguino: Mostly what I meant by Smash Bros is a fast paced somewhat skill based battle system. Actually a good example is something like the recent Abyss Odyssey where weapons have stats, your character has levels, and it relies on a certain amount of skill to overcome foes. But if Abyss Odyssey wasn't a "roguelike" and more of a traditional video game RPG.

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#23 Edited by Zeik (5192 posts) -

Legend of Legaia is one of my favorite RPGs on the PS1, but it does drag itself out a little too long, which ends up hurting the combat. There's always a point (I think someone around the 3rd continent) where the novelty starts to wear off and inputting optimal combos every battle starts to get tiresome and I kind of just do whatever if it's not a boss fight.

I do kind of wonder if it would have stayed more engaging if you actually had to input the commands like a fighting game while you were attacking, kind of like Legend of Dragoon, which also had a combat system I really liked. If you boil it down, Legend of Dragoon's combat was basically just quicktime events, but there was something deeply satisfying about being able to pull off some of those harder attack skills. If they had done that with Legend of Legaia they would probably have had to be pretty lenient with the timing though. If it had actually required fighting game level execution I'm sure it would have turned off my younger self pretty quickly.

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#24 Edited by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@zeik: Yeah the story really doesn't pull its weight to keep you going and they really stretch the back half of the game out. I prefer the Blitz and Duel systems from FF6 and 8 to the quicktime event option because in the FF6 and 8 examples the skills are performed by inputing the right button presses. In Legend of Dragoon you select an attack and then perform the button presses. I prefer the move coming out of the motions rather than selecting a move and then following instructions. I think that adding a skill element to the act of playing rpg combat would be a big move in the right direction if any game were willing to do it.

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#25 Posted by Zeik (5192 posts) -

@thatpinguino: I'm pretty sure I said this in the other topic you made about this game, but I'm actually quite fond of Legaia's story. It's not very original, but something about it just feels right. I kind of feel like that's what pushes me through the last leg of the game more than the gameplay, which starts to lose its steam near the end. (Although that last dungeon always felt extremely unnecessary.) I think perhaps the problem is that your characters kind of reach their peak too early and then there's not much left to look forward to. As I recall, by the 3rd continent Noa has access to her miracle art, Vahn or Gala potentially has access to the Kemaro seru, which is arguably the "best" spell in the game, and you have access to the Orb healing spell, and that's pretty much all you really need to beat the game.

For whatever reason, FF6 and FF8's quicktime elements really do nothing for me compared to Legend of Dragoon. Perhaps it's because in FF you're literally just inputting the buttons you see on the screen (at least that's what i remember), while in LoD there's a strong element of timing and skill involved in pulling off some of the tougher attacks. I remember the first time I played LoD it took me hours of practice to get the timing down on the basic attacks, but eventually I specifically went out of my way to pick the characters with the fastest and most timing strict attacks simply because it was endlessly satisfying to pull them off consistently.

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#26 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@zeik: Its not that the game has a bad story so much as the story has like 3 or 4 moments where it feels like it should end, but it just keeps going. As a result the combat and gameplay suffer in the way you described. Elements that are really fun to explore for like a 20 -30 hour game are stretched to about 60 and the later game seru just don't stack up with highly leveled early game seru (though the hidden ra-seru summons are cool if you can get them).

What I like about the FF8 system is that you can perform abilities before the game tells you about them if you know that the abilities already exist. Ideally a game could take that concept and run with it like a Street Fighter, where all of the abilities are always available but knowing how and when to do them is the challenge. Legend of Dragoon had a standard ability aquisition system, but it tacked on QTEs to the attacks themselves right?

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#27 Posted by Zeik (5192 posts) -

It's been awhile since I last played Legend of Dragoon, but I'm pretty sure you learned new abilities by using your old ones a bunch. So not quite the standard level up way, but you certainly couldn't access them all from the start.

But to be honest, that was never the aspect of Legend of Legaia I cared much for. Whenever I play I just print out or write down all the moves I can so I can utilize them as soon as possible, which I don't necessarily think is great game design. While the game technically does provide ways to learn some of the moves in game, I don't think it handles it that well. I honestly think the game would better if you automatically unlocked a list of every move you had available once you had enough agility, and then it was simply up to you to use them properly.

I don't really feel like a full-on fighting game style RPG would work if you had access to everything from the start. One of the main things that really makes the RPG genre work is the idea that you're constantly improving your character and by the end of the game your character is way more awesome than he was at the start. (I think that's why Legaia still works as an RPG.) If you access to all your best stuff at the start it would be very hard to sustain itself for a 30+ hour RPG adventure. Perhaps they could try to capitalize on the fundamental idea behind fighting games of improving yourself as a player instead of improving your character, but at that point is it still an RPG and would it even be any fun considering fighting game AI is usually pretty boring to fight?

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#28 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@zeik: What if it worked like Legaia where you have an artificial limitation stopping you from busting out your best moves from the start? Like the action bar in Legaia doesn't allow you to use all of your arts from the start. You could give players a finite amount of time to input moves so they couldn't bust out a ton of stuff from the start. Also you could still have a strength stat so damage would naturally increase over time independent of what skills you are using.

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#29 Edited by Aetheldod (3914 posts) -

Good vid ... you really explain easily and fast what makes this game good ; the only thing that I remember that drags the game a bit down are the way too long magic spells , even basic ones take a bit too much time to cast , but the combat was really good and Noa was awesome (my fav character). Yeah some developer , even if it is an indi one , should takle this game´s combat system , refine it and give it a spin for a new game.

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#30 Posted by Zeik (5192 posts) -

@thatpinguino: I suppose something like that might theoretically work. In fighting game terms perhaps you would have a stat that affects hit stun and as soon as you drop a combo your turn ends. With low hit-stun you could only do short combos, but eventually you would be able to do longer ones. But that also feels like it could end up being crazy broken, letting you potentially do infinite combos or even just crazy execution combos that most normal people couldn't pull off.

Although now that I think about it, doesn't Project X Zone do something kinda sorta like that? It's turn based but you're free to input commands and try to juggle the enemy as long as possible to do as much damage as you can in one turn, or something. The Tales series always felt like they had some vaguely fighting game elements to the combat as well.

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#31 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@zeik: I don't see letting really skilled players break the game as design problem. I would say its a feature so long as the skills required are hard to learn and execute. Like in FF8 Zell could combo some of his Dual skills so many times in one Dual that he could get off like 20 hits in one go if you were good enough. I think doing crazy combos is one of the central draws of fighting game systems, so neutering that option would be counter-productive. I haven't played Project X Zone or any of the Tales series so I'm not sure about those games, but I would love to play another game with Legaia's systems.

@aetheldod: Thanks! I agree that this game had some really good lessons to teach (and as an aspiring developer I would like to think that I've learned those lessons). The animations towards the end of the game are a little long and some of the early boss fights are brutal if you don't grind, but this game is a gem with a really strong world and really strong core mechanics.

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#32 Posted by Hailinel (25785 posts) -

@hailinel: Oddly enough that isn't the most ridiculous JRPG plot that I've ever heard.

This makes me curious to know what you consider the most ridiculous.

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#33 Posted by Zeik (5192 posts) -

@thatpinguino: I don't know if I necessarily consider crazy obscene combos a central draw of fighting games. There are fighting games like Marvel Vs Capcom that place a heavy emphasis on things like that, and although they can be fun to watch, that's also something I kind of don't like about playing those games. It's really no fun to be caught in those combos and if the other player can't do the same it's usually an extremely lop-sided fight.

But the thing about fighting games is that once you've got two equally skilled people that can both to crazy combos that can one-shot you then it's all about mind-games, which is really what's at the heart of high level tournament play, and is pretty much impossible to adequately replicate with AI. Fighting games can get away with ridiculous skill caps because you're playing against other people. They don't have to cater to a specific skill level because people are expected to search out people of similar skill levels or get better. However, if it's a single player RPG with AI enemies then they have to be programmed with a certain skill level in mind. They certainly can't program them with the highest skill cap in mind, but the lower the expectations the easier it would be to break the game. I know some people like the idea of being so OP that everything is a joke, but I think in general people like the idea of a reasonable challenge. If the game can't keep up with your increasing skill then it gets kind of boring. It's kind of the same reason I generally don't enjoy NG+ in RPGs.

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#34 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@zeik: But the issue of infinite combos is that there is a person on the receiving end of it that has to sit there and helplessly watch while you dismantle them. So long as the combo is sufficiently difficult or unlikely I would not see that as an issue. As far as enemies go, I would say that enemies in an rpg would not have to necessarily fight like a fighting game if the game is turn based. You can still have a giant dragon monster fighting your main characters and just have the player character's inputs be like a fighting game and chain together. I'm not imagining an rpg where the layer controls Ken with a str stat and the AI controls Sagat with spikey hair. I'm imagining a game where every character the player controls acts like Sabin or Zell. Or all of the player characters play like Ken fighting a giant Ice elemental or something. The enemies don't have to necessarily play in the same way as the player-characters.

@hailinel: FF5, 8, 10, and Chrono Cross are all contenders. FF5's main villian is a formerly sacred tree from another world that had so many evil spirits sealed into it that it became a sentient wizard named Ex-Death that was bent on world domination. FF8 has the whole time compression and time-defying mind control plot, not to mention the whole Squall meets himself stuff. FF10's main character and villain are dreams being dreamed by magical statue people and Spira is ruled by dead people with poorly defined immortality. Finally, Chrono Cross has clones, parallel dimensions, super computers, and magical destiny all of which obtusely reference Chrono Trigger in an un-intuitive way. I would say that Hybrid Heaven't plot sounds more dumb and campy than self-serious and out there, but I think the difference between the two is really tone so without knowing how reverently the game treats its own story I can't say for sure. However, piledriving mutants seems like an indicator that the game isn't too self-serious.

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#35 Edited by Damodar (2174 posts) -

I have a fair bit of affection for Legend Of Legaia, but at the same time, I kind of feel like I shouldn't. The input system is novel, but if you don't just cheat and look up all the moves, you basically just have to trial and error inputs to discover new stuff. Then once you find it, you just sort of figure out what is the optimal series of inputs that nests the most moves and does the most damage and then you just do that until you level up enough to fit more inputs into the bar when charged etc. At that point, what you're doing isn't really any different from just choosing attacks from a menu and thing that differentiates the game sort of starts to feel a bit pointless. On the other hand, blocky Noa flapping her arms is kind of adorable.

All that sounds super negative, but as I said, I do actually quite like the game.

All that being said, we all know the REAL place where RPG and Fighting Game combat meet is a little known indie gem by the name Shenmue. I guess my affection for that game is similar to my affection for Legaia, I realise it's deeply flawed, but I also find a lot of what it does to be really fascinating. But say what you will about that game, the fact that the combat was basically just Virtua Fighter is so cool.

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#37 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@damodar: I mean most rpgs don't even require you to change strategies at all. Most of the time you just input the same sequence of attacks for 90% of the regular enemies and then switch things up for bosses. I mean in most of the rpgs I've played I just find the correct pattern of attacks and go with that. Legend of Legaia at least forced you to vary up the arts while also managing AP. Also some of the arts had status effects like Noa's tough love, though that might be the only example. I have not played Shenmue; however, isn't that game's combat just one more disparate game type blended into its hodge-podge of systems?

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#38 Posted by Slag (8157 posts) -

@thatpinguino:

Thanks for this man, this game does look neat. I love JRPGs that add some skill component to the combat, helps keeps me engaged with the trash mob fights.

I doubt I'll ever play this one, but hopefully somebody else reuses this mechanic in another title.

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#39 Edited by Hailinel (25785 posts) -

@hailinel: FF5, 8, 10, and Chrono Cross are all contenders. FF5's main villian is a formerly sacred tree from another world that had so many evil spirits sealed into it that it became a sentient wizard named Ex-Death that was bent on world domination. FF8 has the whole time compression and time-defying mind control plot, not to mention the whole Squall meets himself stuff. FF10's main character and villain are dreams being dreamed by magical statue people and Spira is ruled by dead people with poorly defined immortality. Finally, Chrono Cross has clones, parallel dimensions, super computers, and magical destiny all of which obtusely reference Chrono Trigger in an un-intuitive way. I would say that Hybrid Heaven't plot sounds more dumb and campy than self-serious and out there, but I think the difference between the two is really tone so without knowing how reverently the game treats its own story I can't say for sure. However, piledriving mutants seems like an indicator that the game isn't too self-serious.

Hybrid Heaven takes its story seriously enough that it's not a comedy by any means, but it has plenty of elements and moments that are campy and goofy. One of the main villains, Mr. Diaz, is, well, just look at him:

No Caption Provided

And I'd definitely agree that FFV and Chrono Cross are contenders in my mind for most ridiculous, as well. FFV for Exdeath (because really?), and Chrono Cross, again largely for the same reasons you state. I am much more readily able to accept the plot of Final Fantasy X, as well as Final Fantasy VIII (though the latter's amnesia conceit is a cop-out).

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#40 Posted by thatpinguino (2847 posts) -

@hailinel: FFX always got me because the Fayth and how they are created are such weird concepts and the whole "secret society of dead maesters" just seemed like a logical gap. I mean the downside of being unsent is that you are supposed to become a fiend, but almost all of the maesters are dead and completely in control of themselves. Effectively they are just immortal. Same with Auron (how can he fall in battle when he is already dead?)

@slag: Yeah I wish they would re-release this game on PSN. My copy is scratched and it can bug out about halfway through. Unfortunately the new copies go for more than a hundred bucks and the used copies are like 30-40, so it isn't especially cheap to try out.

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