phanboy4's Legend of Legaia (PlayStation) review

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A genuinely solid combat system can't make up for truly awful dialogue and characters.

I had been looking forward to Legaia - I had been going back through PS1 games I missed back in the day to see what games managed to stand the test of time, and it had been recommended to me by several people as an overlooked gem.

First, the good stuff.

The combat system *is* quite good - it manages that excellent JRPG balancing act of keeping you engaged minute to minute during combat without being fiddly or tiresome, the "guard to charge" mechanic is inspired, and I actually love how magic works - some enemies are "magical" and on defeating them you have a chance to learn their magic. There's a tiny, mutated bit of Street Fighter and a tiny, mutated bit of Pokemon here, and somehow it all gels into a cohesive whole.

The game is also relatively tough (but never unfair), which I appreciated - with one notable exception (a rather stupidly-designed section of the game), grinding isn't required to keep moving forward, if you master the game's systems and play smart.

The initial overall plot outline is relatively interesting, especially at first, at least for a game that commits hard and early to the trope of "dude who comes of age, and leaves his village and his sweet and extremely dull childhood girlfriend behind to Go Do Interesting Things".

Where things break down are the dialogue and character writing. Not a single character through the entire game ever says anything that even remotely resembles something that a human would say in that circumstance. And not in a charming, "kid's TV show" kind of way - I mean in a really terrible, "these characters are so shallow they make me want to peel my own face off and stop playing" kind of way.

Even for a 90s/2000s-era JRPG, the dialogue and characters are exceptionally bad - and if you know this era of JRPG you know how easy it is to clear that bar. I'm not just saying it's dull, or cheesy, or simplistic, like many JRPGs of this era - I'm saying it goes way, way beyond that.

The only reason I progressed in this game was because of the combat system and inertia - the characters and writing were so bad even that wasn't enough to keep me interested, and I ended up forcing myself to finish it, after realizing 10 hours in that there would be no interesting dialogue or character development to speak of.

This one has not aged well, and is not a classic - even the many, many mediocre JRPGs from this era do a better job of character writing and dialogue, and the solid combat system isn't enough to redeem it - if you loved it as a child that's great, and there's nothing wrong with that, but there's just not enough here to justify the time wasted for anyone without nostalgia for this specific game.

If you're looking to revisit a "classic JRPG" on the PS1, this isn't it.

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