Legaia 2: Duel Saga puts you in the role of Lang, a recruit in Nohl’s Vigilance Corps, who is tasked with keeping the peace is this small and remote village. On his trip to Hunter’s Woods, Lang runs into several monsters, and has an unpleasant encounter with a powerful fighter. This villain then disappears, but not before stealing the village’s source of water, a sacred stone. Lang is determined to get this stone back, and thus begin his journey into the Legaia world. In his journey Lang meets the rest of his party, and uncovers his past and the plot to destroy the world.
Sound pretty generic, doesn’t it? Well, it seems that all RPGs nowadays have this save-the-world plot, and Legaia 2 cannot be faulted for following this general trend. Legaia 2 keeps matters simple by eliminating the ’save-the-girl’ element in many RPGs, thus focusing itself on the core of the game.
Here’s where Legaia 2 shines. The game plays like any normal RPG, complete with field maps, world map and random encounters. Controls are very responsive, and the animation of your character running, jumping or just interacting with the environment and each other is just great.
If you’re bored with Kingdom Hearts one-button fighting style, then you’ll appreciate Legaia 2’s battle system. Termed the Tactical Arts System (TAS), you execute your moves via the digital pad - up, down, left and right directions. It’s simple really… press down and your character does a low attack, right means he/she attack to the right and so on. But if you find the right combination of directions, your character will execute Arts, which are powerful attacks. There are a few types of Arts for all characters. You start with Normal Arts, which are the bread and butter of your attack. A more powerful version is the Super Arts, which could be learned from pressing the correct directions. But it just doesn’t stop there, as Hyper Arts makes its return to this sequel, boasting even more power and awesome attach move. Unlike the previous two Arts, Hyper Arts cannot be executed by just pressing the buttons. They must be learned, either from storyline event or scrolls littered throughout the game.
For those curious about Miracle Arts, yes they’re also back, but this time as Mystic Arts. These are the most powerful Arts in the game, but in order to execute them, you need to fulfill certain conditions in battle. A new attack to this series is Variable Arts, where two characters combine to unleash a crippling blow to the enemy, much like Chrono Trigger’s dual tech moves.
It’s important to note that all those damaging Arts require a certain amount of AP (Art Point) to execute. Rather than have a ’spirit’ option in the menu like in the original, in Legaia 2 normal arts will replenish the AP meter. As each characters have a set number of art blocks in their attack, you can use your creativity to chain the arts, resulting in more damaging attack combos. This makes for a very satisfying battle experience, akin to chaining materias in Final Fantasy VII.
Also making a comeback are the summons. Known as ’ra-seru’ in the original, this time they’re back as Origins, which become the character’s source of elemental magic. When used in battle, they can attack multiple enemies simultaneously, which is very useful in tight situations. An interesting feature is that they can also be used in the field map. Pressing Square in field map will bring out the character’s particular Origin, who will do a special move. Lang’s Galea can smash crates and obstacles, while Maya’s Rivas can light pedestals or grow veins. This makes for very challenging dungeons, which requires that you utilize each character’s special abilities to solve puzzles and get treasures.
One potential gripe with the game is that battles can be quite hard. This is especially true when you first venture out from Nohl, and after an event half-way through the game. But as in all other RPGs, you’ll spend quite a considerable amount of time leveling up your characters. The battle system makes this process enjoyable, as you can keep experimenting on different combos, rather than just press the X button in other mainstream RPGs.
The sound is also a plus, since this is the first time where you can hear the characters speak. Voice acting is decent here, although the victory phrases at the end of battle have a tendency to lag a little. No biggies. As for music, fans of the original would recognize certain tuned, which is reproduced here at certain locations. The overall impression is decent to great score, but I kinda missed the battle music from the original, which I think is better than this one. Although Legaia 2 lacks a theme song like Final Fantasy X’s Suteki Da Ne or Xenogears’ Small Two Of Pieces, the tunes here are memorable enough to make the sound aspects enjoyable.
Graphics has never been the strong point of the series. If you’re expecting Final Fantasy X-quality graphics and FMVs, you won’t find it here. In field map, the environment in sufficiently detailed, making good work with lighting and textures. The character look doesn’t look great, but the movement is smooth and any extra moves like jumping is animated well.
Just like the original, the graphics becomes more detailed when players are in the battle mode. The characters look amazingly solid, with various facial animations incorporated in the battle scene. The weapons change according to what you equip them with, but sadly the armor stays the same. The lighting effects, flares and explosions all look great, which is sure to bring satisfaction to players. It’s a pity that there aren’t a great variety of monsters in the game, as many are just given new names and new palette. But if you can accept that as in Final Fantasy X, then this shouldn’t cause you much grief.
Legaia 2 is certainly one fun game. Although it could be completed in about 40 hours, those having the patience and extra time can get enjoyment from the game’s many diversions. You can participate in quests from the Hunter’s Guild in Kravia, plant rice in Tanza, gardening in Yuno or enter the casino and battle arena in Porchoon. It’s a pity that they didn’t include fishing as a mini game, as it was my favorite pastime in the original Legaia.
But wait, there’s more. You can also combine accessories, weapons, armors and tools to make better ones. This can be done using the game’s combine option whether at shops or at camp. In the later, you can also chat to advance the plot or see characters reveal something to others, or you can cook dishes. Yes, you heard that right! In Legaia 2 you can cook various recipes, which can be learned from other characters, eating dishes or from cookbooks. Some dish can increase you attack power which in battle, while some build up defense. So, cooking becomes quite an exciting way to gain an advantage in battle. Rest assured that you’ll spend time trying to learn all the recipes, and find materials to combine those equipment and tools.
Legaia 2: Duel Saga manages to introduce fresh concepts and gameplay elements to today’s generic RPG scene. It’s simple storyline, the involving battle system, the fun mini games and useful item combination system makes this one stand out. It’s certainly recommended for fans of the genre that wants to try something new and better.
Former owner and editor in chief of Darkstation.com