Had enough of charming stylized anime characters with spikey hair, awesomely huge cup sizes, and creepily cute mascots? Of course you haven’t! We know this, and so does NIS America. The upcoming PSN exclusive survival action RPG Legasista is certainly looking to offer much more than these developer trademarks however. Best known for their charmingly successful Disgaea series, the Atelier line of RPGs, and above all else the invention of Prinnys (alright, maybe not above all else but those little explosive penguins are awesome); the anime-centric developers are looking to set their upcoming summer title apart with several aspects which can all be gathered under one umbrella term: Challenge.
Now I’m not saying that NISA’s usual titles are glorified walks in the parks, but they are typically fashioned as fun-loving story-driven titles. Legasista is looking a lot like that first date you need to bring a nice big bouquet of flowers for, and chances are she still probably won’t put out. We’ll keep trying and trying because she’s just so damn pretty and fascinating; but the key to that chastity belt lies deep within the Ivy Tower. Worry not, I’ll explain in just a moment. Needless to say when gamers hear the terms “dungeon crawler” and “survival” used in the same sentence, we expect our asses to get kicked around a little. Not to mention when the gameplay itself invokes the ambiance of a classic 8 or 16-bit era title with pixelated avatars and 2D combat you’ve got a whole other legion of fans to appease. The excessive usage of the word “random” by developers to describe much of the gameplay aspect of Legasista leads me to believe there is endless potential for this title to offer us a fulfilling adventure; the real question is will that happen? Let’s see if what gamers can come to expect leads you all to the same conclusion.
Legasista takes place in a world where science, magic and mythology reign supreme and the entire point behind the dungeon crawling action here is so the main character can cure his younger sister of her crystalline form brought upon by a curse. The hope is that the magic found in what has become known as the “Ivy Tower” will have the capability to achieve this. What makes this Ivy Tower so special you ask? Well it seems that the multiple floors you will explore on your mission with your party of misfits will not only be randomly generated each visit, but the very encounters and loot found inside will also be subject to constant randomization. While a repeat enemy might show up during a different visit, they may have different skills or stats, and the same goes for equipment. Devs assure that no two pieces of equipment will ever be the same, even if they share the same name. Ultimately, stats and abilities will shift along with potential procs and MP consumption where applicable. This pretty much means there’s no do overs should you find yourself pummeled to death; you’ve probably lost that awesome rare piece of gear you found for good and better hope for something of equal interest during your second go around. Additionally, there will be plenty of opportunities to lose your weapon or armor due to breaking if you aren’t careful in keeping an eye on its durability. Oh and we aren’t talking if it breaks then just fix it up and it’ll be shiny and new again; if it breaks then it’s gone for good. Yeah, they’re being like that.
Aside from the tower dungeons there will also be random dungeons, presumably to buff your party up and get decked out with some awesome gear so you don’t become some boss’…um…female dog later on. Another interesting element that should be mentioned is that fighting enemies is largely optional (albeit also probably fairly difficult, think getting through Deus Ex: Human Revolution without setting off any alarms difficult) and the actual goal should be reaching the gates found within each dungeon which will activate several different effects. Depending on which gate is reached it may dictate the kind of loot you receive from that point on, shuffle the enemy difficulty, and most importantly let you leave the area. Again, there is a great focus on ensuring the feeling that travelling through each dungeon floor will be the first and last time you’ll experience that exact design.
There will be plenty of strategy involved in how you approach the numerous enemies and traps waiting to annihilate you at every turn as well. You’ll control one character at a time yet be allowed to have three active party members whom you can switch between at will to best handle whatever foe or situation may call for a particular class expertise whether it the brute force of steel or the elegant touch of magic. Your remaining friends will take on a support role and can provide stat increases or other indirect roles. The characters you do not choose to ride with your main posse aren’t immune to danger however, as there will be traps littered around that may have detrimental effects to all of your heroes and heroines regardless of who can or can’t defend themselves. Tactics in combat as it pertains to magic will also play a varied and important role; fire will be primarily used for attacking whereas other skills like Ice can stunt a foe’s HP recovery rate and Lightning can be used as a light source and repairing broken machinery.
Though old school in many areas of its build, Legasista will also offer a fairly detailed editing system. Not only will gamers be able to design their own characters from the ground up with an art tool, but even the pixelated avatars will be under the complete control of the player. Those who lack either the talent of patience for such a structure will also be able to choose from sample templates or even import other NIS characters such as Leharle, Etna, and even a Prinny. My only concern here is how significant your own creations will truly be; I cannot help but recall my days playing White Knight Chronicles and thinking how my character was merely a life-support system for an extra weapon in battle. That may be less egregious in a genre that isn’t as story-centric, but very few things annoy me quite like a tacked on character in an RPG whose omission would change nothing. Comprehensive creation tools are always fun in gaming but if there is one thing that was made painfully obvious by the most recent SoulCalibur titles it’s there is little point in putting the creative effort in if there isn’t enough reason to utilize the finish products in gameplay.
Now I’m not going to sit here and expect Legasista to bring the pain like hack and slashers of yesteryear, or even like a Demon Souls for that matter, but there it’s undeniable that there is much more being added to the design cauldron here than cute animated smiles and lovable beansprouts. Value hunters will no doubt find a gem here, at least those who own a PlayStation 3. Come the 21st of August, we’ll find out if Nippon Ichi Software successfully snuck their way into the recesses of the PSN’s most impressive and most challenging games.