If there was ever an RPG that was overlooked because Final Fantasy hogged the spotlight at any given time, why not look back at when Final Fantasy was able to do it without too many problems; the dawn of the PS1. Final Fantasy 7 broke the mold by introducing some 3D graphics into the RPG genre, as well as a fairly compelling storyline and neat turn-based combat. However, there's a game that manages to do a far better job of it, but unfortunately, not enough people are talking about it because FF7 and FF8 overshadowed it. Yeah, this one game managed a more complex battle system and a kickass storyline to boot. This game is, of course, Legend of Legaia, for the PS1.
Legend of Legaia is about these things called Seru that, if fused with a human, can make them superhuman. These superhumans have to venture into the mist and destroy it and whoever created it, as well as seeking out some Genesis trees to help aid in destroying the mist. The basics of the plot seems awesome, but the plot twists are freaking awesome. In hopes of keeping your interest, I'm not spoiling a single one. You just have to play it to find out, though...okay, I'll say this; something tells me that the plot is inspired by a Steven King novel by the name of The Mist. If you've read that, you'll catch my drift. If not, tough luck.
The gameplay consists of inputting commands of what hand you're using (which holds different weapons) and where you're aiming. You eventually get to deliver a long, long string of these sort of moves on the enemy for maximum damage. You can also use some magic and defend to regain a whole lot of power. So far (as it's been years since I've played it lol), I've managed to deal a fair amount of damage for where I am, and you know what I like? The fact that it's unique and stays fresh, yet it's still fun, and a hell of a lot better than putting your tongue on the *bleep*in X turbo button while blindfolded. Pretty nifty I have to say, though when I let my brother have a shot, he found it to be too excessive and after a bit of a lengthy discussion when he handed the controller back to me, we agreed to disagree. It's not too excessive, thought it may feel it to such, but that's what makes this game different to a percentage. If you want excessive, play Final Fantasy X and XII, please.
Face my FIST OF FURY!
Now, you can't just use default combos and hope to win, because the game gets awfully difficult at times, and unforgiving to those not using the special attacks, or "Arts" as the game calls them. These allow you to do godly amounts of damage, though how you find them is kind of interesting - experimentation. By screwing around with different command and button inputs you can find some Arts and kick the living shit out of enemies. It costs some AP, so keep an eye on your AP count before experimenting. Once you've initiated that combo, it'll be documented for future use, should you ever need it again (and you most likely will).
Now, here's something that would've paved the way for the action/RPG titles of the PS2 and beyond: To regain AP, you would have to either hit your opponents with regular bitch combos, take a hit from enemies, or use the Spirit command. Using the Spirit command, you can stall for time while trying to initiate some sort of plan while regaining some AP and boost the length of the action bar for the next attack (this way, you can really put the hurt on your enemies). This really helps when the big bad bosses attempt to put the smackdown on you with their ultimate attacks. You take half the damage, and you can beat them down next turn! Genius! But don't think that the game is about to get any easier, it ain't, but that's not a bad thing now, isn't it...
If you want to add unique to an already grand battle system, just give the Seru a call. They start off as enemies, but when you defeat them with physical attacks, you can add them to your magic arsenal. They help you either defend against enemy assault or destroy enemies quicker, but to use their effects, MP has to be consumed. The awesome thing here is that the Seru can gain levels too. Not just the humans, but the Seru too! They can all grow stronger, thus proving more helpful in battle. Even more genius!
You want it?! Really!? Well then, go smash it with your FISTS OF FURY!
As far as visuals go, eh, they're good. It's basically more experimentation of 3D graphics being used in video games on a CD format, so obviously, the character models will look like they were made of legos. Regardless, the textures are nice and detailed. However, I still don't think there's much excuse for a bland color scheme for the overworld, although the towns and dungeons have awesome colors, so...*bleep* it, it balances it out. But what I mean is that the overworld just...doesn't really scream out INTERESTING or anything. Other 3D titles managed consistent vibrancy! Look at Super Mario 64 for crying out loud! Exactly!
I made this landscape out of legos the other day when I was bored, it looked exactly like this too!
Audio-wise, the soundtrack is catchy and awesome as hell, and the sound effects make sense. I prefer Final Fantasy 7's soundtrack, but Legend of Legaia's kicks ass too. Worth buying the soundtrack (you could Youtube it, plus I still have fond memories of it). Every track makes sense to play where its played, which boosts catchiness and atmosphere, and all in all, an epic soudndtrack.
So all in all, it's a great RPG game that shouldn't have been so overlooked. Let's explain the pros and cons: The good things about the game have to be a unique and grand battle system, challenging difficulty, epic soundtrack and some great textures (for the late 90's). The bad things have to be that there is a bit too much reliance on trial and error with the Arts, and the overworld looks a bit dull.
Overall, I'd give this game a 9/10. A couple of scratches in this underrated gem, but it should be worth anybody's time, especially if you like or love RPGs.