1999’s Legend of Legaia is one of PS1’s forgotten J-RPGs. With only 300,000 units sold (United States) during the genre’s golden era the game was not exactly a flop, but it didn’t sell nearly enough to warrant much mention amongst its contemporaries.
Developed (Partially) by Contrail, Legend of Legaia got lost in 1999’s massive J-RPG shuffle. That year’s game release calendar included games such as Grandia, Star Ocean 2, Final Fantasy VIII, and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.
Contrail, the developer, is of interest here as the company worked with other developers at the time to produce two other key RPGs of the era in Alundra 2, and Wild Arms 2.
Legend of Legaia had an Interesting Battle System
Perhaps, the one aspect of the game that I remember the most, was its unique combat system. Maybe I am wrong in the statement that I am about to make, but I have always seen the years between 1995 and 2006, as the golden era of fighting games.
I am not necessarily a huge fan of that genre, though I have owned every Mortal Kombat entry, Tekken1-5, Virtual Fighter 3-4, and Dead or Alive 2-3. My point is that most of these acquisitions happened during that time period.
I feel that Legend of Legaia’s developers had the increasing popularity of 3-D fighting games in mind when they conceptualized how the game’s battle system would work.
The system was turn-based, but it was as close as turned based fighting got to actual 3-D fighting games in my opinion. Being able to choose between high, low or left, and right strikes depending on the enemy, felt fresh within the context of RPGs, and it provided a level of strategy that was missing in other games.
Added to this, was the strategic use of the AP gauge and the ability to string combos in battle. Legend of Legaia had a truly unique combat system that makes the game a worthy play-through, even today.
The ability systems were focused on using accessories and the absorption of Serus (after a battle) to learn spells, and abilities. It was a simple, yet effective system, and one of the bright spots behind the Legend of Legaia.
A Pedestrian Romp
Apart from the battle visuals, Legaia while being a fully 3-D RPG, looked bland. Super deformed characters populated the simplistic environments. Perhaps, however, most damaging of all to the game’s reputation, at least in my memory was its epic, but tedious storyline.
Vahn, Noa, and Gala’s tale is long, perhaps too long. Their battle to save three kingdoms from the dreaded Mist, and evil Seru beings by reviving trees can extend to the 60-hour mark. Normally, this wouldn’t have been an issue, but the story, and its characters were missing a spark that even smaller, shorter RPGs such as The Granstream Saga possessed.
Like in The Granstream Saga, you can determine Vahn’s fate with two certain young ladies at the end of the game. But, despite the Granstream Saga’s shortcomings in character development, the decision between saving Arcia or Laramee felt much more powerful, and meaningful than Vahn’s predicament with his own love interests.
A Rare but Affordable Find
Legend of Legaia remains an interesting product, even today. Nicely enough, even though the game is rare, it is sold (used) on Amazon at affordable prices (70–120-dollar range). So, it can be easily acquired if the game tickles your fancy.
Legend of Legaia, which scored a 77 meta-rating in its heyday, did spawn a PS2 sequel (Legaia 2: Duel Saga) which was received with a pedestrian 67 Metracritic score, and even lesser sales, thus ending the franchise for good.
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