I was browsing a group on facebook today when someone posted a pic of a game character I rather like. The character’s name is Senel Coolidge, and he’s from the game named in the title of this post. I like it when Tales games get mentioned, but I have a distinct opinion of this one. My comment sparked a comment war, and so, I figured, it’s game review time!
Tales of Legendia was originally released on February 7, 2006 in the United States. I can’t remember when I originally played it, but it was many years after that release date. As a Tales series game, I was excited to pick it up! I love the Tales series (see my Tales of Xillia review here: https://kurahikari.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/tales-of-xillia/). However, this game was markedly different from the others in many ways.
First, this game had a very peculiar art style. I had become accustomed by this time to games such as Tales of Symphonia (its direct predecessor) and Tales of the Abyss (released a few years later). Its characters exemplified the chibi art style – tiny bodies, oversized heads, and large hands and feet. Its battles were on a 2D plane, as opposed to Symphonia’s 2D on a 3D plane format. There are many more differences, but those are the few that stuck me as odd.
However, this is a game review, so let me address three main points: Story, Gameplay, and Art Design.
As far as stories go, this is a pretty standard game. Brother and sister are on a raft, they get shipwrecked, a future party member finds them. After a while messing around in the hub city of the game, your sister, Shirley, gets kidnapped. Okay, fine, you go rescue her. In true Tales fashion, your journey to save Shirley ends up revealing secrets about your continent and nearly killing everyone. Awesome – that is, if most of the character development wasn’t hidden after the game’s end.
In Symphonia, your characters were not simply present for the events of the game. As you explored the world, you learned that key members of your party weren’t as you seemed. There were betrayals, unexpected saves, and overall you came away learning something about your characters that let them feel real. Legendia has none of that in the main story. The only characters that get development in the main story are Senel, our lead, and Jay, the mysterious and genius knife-knut. Everyone else feels like part of the scenery for all the personality they have. By the end of the game, once I saved our quaint little island, I was quite fed up with this game overall. I didn’t play through the character stories – which, by the way, is the only part of the game that you get Shirley as your party member. This is justified for plot reasons (kidnapped?), but it was still odd. Even Symphonia gave you control of characters that you would eventually lose for plot reasons. Abyss handled this situation (with Ion) by making the eternally-kidnapped character an NPC party member. It worked much better – but, as Legendia came first, it can be forgiven for not having hindsight.
The gameplay in this title felt like a step backwards for the series. Coming after Symphonia, I expected something grand. I know that this series started off with combat on a 2D field, but evolution had already occurred. Rather than falling back on a gameplay style that was already outdated, the game should have pushed boundaries. We shouldn’t have had to wait until Abyss to get a truly 3D tales experience. Even for being a 2D game, Legendia felt stale. The attacks and spells in this game lacked the flash that other games had. Some of the weapons felt distinctly odd, if not inspired. In what other game would you find bubble straws, quills (pen quills, that is), and urns?
Outside of battle was just as stale. Again, Symphonia had come ahead of this title. There is no excuse for random encounters that had no warning. As you walked around the field, the comforting sight of monsters was absent. The empty game world would grab you out of your innocent wanderings and thrust you into combat. Instead of a whole world, you were left with only a continent – and it showed. Everything felt cramped and needlessly complicated. The quick-travel system was non-intuitive, as well, making travel even more of a nightmare.
The art style was as un-Tales-like as chocolate and white chocolate. As mentioned, the character designs were odd. In addition to the chibi-style, the colors were completely different. Tales games normally used a pale, near-pastel pallet. Legendia had colors that were dark, and bold. The lack of texturing on the models made everyone look like plastic dolls wandering about – again, with Symphonia as a predecessor, this was jarring. It looked like a project that someone did for their college course, not a professionally-made game.
Overall, Tales of Legendia is the red-headed stepchild of the Tales series. It lives on alongside Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World in Tales series infamy. It had plenty of potential, but it was squandered. Its few high points are not enough to save it.