Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds feels like it was ripped straight out of the late ‘90s, providing one of the most authentic PlayStation One JRPG experiences you could hope to find these days without relying on emulation. Every aspect of the game, from mechanics to presentation, emulates those classic games; it;s perhaps closest in form and function to Final Fantasy VII or VIII (albeit with several more complex systems thrown into the mix). As such, just how much entertainment you derive from the experience is going to have a lot to do with your own sense of nostalgia and whether you feel those classic designs still hold up.
The game kicks off with a simple and more than a little clichéd premise – you take control of amnesiac protagonist Finn, a slave in the city of Tel Harran, forced into fighting in an arena for the cruel townsfolk. After being treated to one of a few scarce FMV sequences, it becomes clear that there’s more to Finn than anyone realizes and discovering his past, hinted at in several flashbacks, is a big part of the story. You’re quickly recruited by a wizened mentor who hints at your importance before you’re left on your own again, dependant on the support of a slowly growing team of companions that cover all the genre stereotypes: the stern female warrior, a gruff warrior with a heart of gold, the playful rogue. I never felt particularly attached to any of them – their personalities far too predictable – but they serve as competent allies and bring with them a myriad of skills that are essential in combat.
Most locations are fairly small by modern standards but densely packed with secret paths, traps, and enemies.
The plot, involved, twisting, and often meandering, will take you to four major cities on the Targan continent, your journey interspersed with all the quests, NPC dialogue and party interactions that you’d expect from a linear JRPG. These interactions are used as exposition dumps to aid the main plot and expand upon the extensive lore, fleshing out your knowledge of this fictional universe. This linear and formulaic approach to progress is made palatable as each city or region feels both visually and culturally diverse, providing fresh flavour to the string of familiar “find this, kill that” quest objectives. You’ll explore the aforementioned slavers fortress, an underground desert city full of smugglers and rogues, a bustling coastal trading town full of merchants, and an enchanted, magical city hidden from the rest of the continent. Between these hubs, you’ll traverse a hostile world map and many small, yet densely packed and dangerous dungeons.
Unfortunately, the impact of the grandiose plot and exotic locations are repeatedly brought down by some forgettable writing. I’m not sure if certain nuances were lost in translation, or if the writers chose to play it safe, but the writing is bland and straightforward, sometimes verging on nonsensical depending on the scenario (your companions bicker a lot, for example, often coming across as childlike). There’s no voice acting so the writing needs to convey both emotions and highlight personality quirks, and Legrand Legacy rarely achieves this. Plenty of classic JRPGs had some terrible translation work but the dialogue was often quirky and memorable, giving companions, allies, and villains unique personalities. All the characters in Legrand Legacy come across as boring, making it a chore to deal with walls of text, and ensured the writing rarely generated any emotional resonance.
If you love classic stat-driven combat and an emphasis on exploiting elemental weaknesses with your skillset, Legrand Legacy has you covered.
If you’re after classic JRPG gameplay, Legrand Legacy does a much better job a recreating that stat-driven, magic-focussed, elemental-weakness targeting gameplay. In battles, typically triggered during cutscenes or from touching the patrolling shades that inhabit the overworld and dungeons, combat plays out in an interesting turn-based/active model. You can pick your attack, magic and skills targets at your leisure before triggering the combat phase in which both you and your opponents’ actions resolve simultaneously. For each character action (you can have up to three in a party), you engage in a short “ACT” sequence, “Action Circle Tempo” - timing your button press to boost the effect of your skill or score an automatic critical hit (it’s most similar to the ring system in Mistwalker’s Lost Odyssey). In addition, boosted attacks can interrupt enemy attacks and spells, preventing your party from taking massive damage. I did notice some inconsistent detection during a few battles that either outright ignored my input or triggered it instantly; annoying but never game-breaking.
Levelling up, done in the post-battle victory sequence, allows you to manually up five attributes for each character – strength, vitality, agility, intelligence, and luck – all of which do exactly as you’d expect, with luck boosting item drop rates and increasing the chance of interrupting an attack. Magic, known as grimoires, does not have a traditional mana system limiting use but spells are easily interrupted, making party formation a priority before going into battle. There’s a long list of skills that each companion learns at a fixed character and attribute levels and, given the strong emphasis on targeting elemental weakness, you’ll want to keep an eye on these and adjust your skillset frequently. Skills, magic, and items are all assigned to your character in menus that’ll feel familiar to anyone who’s played a JRPG in the past. I happily skipped through the tutorials as everything was exactly where I expected it to be.
Combat becomes a fairly rote affair over time but some special moves can still look suitably flashy.
Much like the classic JRPGs of yore, there are plenty of side activities and mini-games to partake in, including some large events that are integral to the storyline. Crafting is self-explanatory, fencing requires precise timing of button presses, fishing mini-games never disappoint. The most interesting diversions are large-scale tactical battles and the ability to restore a deserted town (they called it Dumville?!) to its former glory. Tactical battles have you moving troops around a hex-grid battlefield, choosing to engage other units based on the respective strengths and weakness of each squad. It doesn’t happen often but it’s a fun, although sometimes quite tough, break to the conventional combat system. The town, meanwhile, is restored as you aid and recruit NPCs from other hubs and this opens up new crafting options, shops, and mini-games.
If there’s one aspect of the classic JRPG experience that Legrand Legacy nails perfectly, it’s the presentation. From the somewhat stiff-looking opening FMV cutscene to the 3D models rendered on hand-painted 2D backdrops, the animated character portraits during dialogue to the amazing soundtrack, Legrand Legacy always looks and sounds the part, even when the writing and other rough edges bring the game down. Much like the gameplay structure, the visuals are authentic rather than technically impressive. Neither the backdrops nor the 3D models can stand up to some of the detailed vistas and spectacular summoning moves seen in the classic PS1-era Final Fantasy games but they do a damn good job of coming close at times. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is almost enough to carry everything else through; a perfect match for the digital orchestral scores of ‘90s JRPGs. Even if the game doesn’t catch your fancy, go look up the soundtrack as they must have invested a good chunk of their budget in the music.
Legrand Legacy is a strange proposition: it’s a love letter to JRPGs, produced by a small indie team with AAA ambitions but a small budget, capable of providing over two dozen hours of classic gameplay brought down by some rough edges and bland writing, all priced at what you’d expect for a AA game. If you have a nostalgic love for classic JRPGs and are looking for a fresh but familiar experience, this is worth a look. If you’re looking for a polished, modern JRPG experience, the clear limitations of a small budget will probably put you off.
Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds is out now on PC through GoG or Steam (and works well with either an Xbox One or Dualshock 4 gamepad) but is also listed as coming to the Nintendo Switch this year, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One arriving afterward.
Enjoys games with awesome stories and characters, along with new and interesting hardware. Dislikes day-one patches and driver updates.
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24 January 2018
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