Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds by Semisoft has been on my radar since I first saw it announced around 2016. Marketing itself as a love-letter to the Golden Age JRPGs, the game made a dynamic entry to the indie scene with its excellent hand-drawn graphics and charming character art. I was cautiously captivated by it.
Whenever I see the words “Golden Age JRPG” being used to advertise any modern RPG these days, I become instinctively cautious. While there has been some genuinely excellent games that have successfully made me relive this golden era, most of nostalgic trips are extremely artificial. They feel like they were created by robots devoid of passion and soul, following a checklist of old-school JRPG elements: a turn-based battle system, a young and amnesic protagonist, a plot about saving the world and so on. They fulfill this criteria mechanically, without ever weaving all the elements into a great experience.
Unfortunately, I was right about being cautious. Legrand Legacy turns out to be one of these forced nostalgia trips. It's not a bad game by any means, as it indeed has all the elements that could define it into a great old-school JRPG. Yet it fumbles at bringing them meaningfully together, failing to deliver a refined piece of work.
The player takes a role of young slave gladiator Finn, who happens to be amnesiac. The game begins with a cinematic gladiator fight where the protagonist accidentally unleashes his inner power to take out his opponent. This amazing feat impresses a fatherly old sage, who decides to buy Finn out of his slavery to take him on a dangerous journey.
Right from the beginning, the plot feels like in any generic JRPG, and the slow pacing just makes it worse. Even after the first three hours or so, Legrand Legacy does nothing but throw cliched plot-devices at you, such as the hero journeying into a dangerous desert, getting into trouble, only to be saved by a strong female lead who drags the hero into the save-the-world business. Eventually, there's a more interesting storyline about ongoing wars and the dying world of Legrand, but you’ll have to slog through hours of generic gameplay to get there.
Legrand Legacy doesn't make a stellar job at the storytelling either. Instead of letting you naturally absorb the lore as you play, the game relentlessly bludgeons you with expositions via lengthy walls of text during cutscenes or NPC dialogues. It's extremely frustrating that whenever some in-game jargon comes up in conversations (highlighted in red), whoever is currently talking needlessly turn on their inner Wikipedia, and proceeds to jarringly explain the jargon, resulting in huge blocks of text. This happens far too often, especially in the early hours of the game, messing up the pacing.
In terms of gameplay, Legrand Legacy has a traditional turn-based battle system, with a few tweaks to add some originality. However, the implementation is wonky at best and never reaches its full potential. The game has something like the Judgment Ring system of Shadow Hearts games on PS2, where you need to press the X button at the right moment to score a critical hit as an indicator circles around the ring. Failure to do so will result in a miss.
In Shadow Hearts, each and every attack had unique ring patterns. In the beginning, you could miss a lot of hits. As you played on, you slowly learned the patterns and could pull off critical hits almost without any fails. It was ultimately a rewarding experience. In Legrand Legacy, however, there are no patterns for the ring at all. It's all random with no correlation between your attacks and the ring. As such, there's no learning involved. Unless you have superhuman reflexes, you won't be to scoring critical hits consistently. To make things worse, the enemy can interrupt your attacks even if you don't miss the ring-based QTE. That's the final antithesis of what could have been a fun and rewarding experience. What was the point of implementing a reflex-based system when the enemy can still stop your attacks through dumb luck?
While the pacing, exposition and the battle system are all middling at best, Legrand Legacy excels in visual, music and overall presentation. The hand-drawn art assets look truly stunning. Each and every locale is unique and charming, making you feel like playing some PlayStation One JRPG, like The Legend of Dragoon or Final Fantasy VIII with their beautiful hand-drawn backdrops. Also, the original soundtrack is not only beautiful but also prominent enough to give the game a unique identity. This audiovisual quality is a true achievement for a small indie game studio working off a limited budget.
In the end, Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds may scratch your itch for that nostalgic JRPG experience, but only if you're really desperate for such. Otherwise, prepare to mentally harden yourself to withstand many frustrations as you drag your way through the game. It's a shame that despite the stunning art and music, Legrand Legacy ended up being a very average JRPG, greatly flawed by its questionable choices in the game design and pacing.
Lv-99 simple sheep