Nihon Falcom has always been known for its intricate storylines and deep character relationships in their respective RPGs. I remember playing Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion back when it was released and noticed just how deep each character’s relation to each other was, and even the ending sequence to the game was something deep and profound, something not many RPGs have today. The focus on friendship is omnipresent throughout each of the Legend of Heroes games, and A Song of the Ocean is no different.
Better known as the finale in the series, The Legend of Heroes III: A Song of the Ocean details the adventure of Forte and Una, two best friends who have a deep love for music. One day, Forte’s grandfather McBain, a well known troubadour, receives a book with missing phrases from the Water Melody, a piece of music from the ancient Water Tribe said to have the power to save the world from forthcoming destruction. When they read the lost phrases, the three of them come across a map that contains the location of 24 magic stones, stones that contain the verses of the Lost Melody that a legendary musician had to scatter throughout the world of Weltuna to prevent them from getting in the wrong hands; so the trio decides to go on an adventure that goes from establishing themselves as successful musicians to saving the world from ruin and destruction.
One of the most lovely visual aspects of the three Legend of Heroes games are the nice, rich, and detailed environments of the game; and in the case of Song of the Ocean, the same can be said. All the environments in Song of the Ocean are richly detailed sprites that manage to give off a shining exuberance, a nice nod to the 16bit RPGs of yesterday. Song of the Ocean even has a few animed cutscenes that are, too, very nice and luscious to see. Another great aspect of Song of the Ocean is the music, which throughout the entire course of the game, and perhaps the entire trio of games, remains to be as harmonious and melodic as music can ever be in an RPG.
Even the parts where Forte, Una, and McBain have to play their music are very soothing, something the series’ music has always been known to do. Also, the character models that appear when dialogues happen between main characters are good enough to see, something that’s always nice and helps provide a better visual of just how the characters are feeling. Even if the entire game has no voice overs, which by the way isn’t necessary in any game of today mainly RPGs but is a nice plus, the dialogue itself is good enough to read and provides the same emotional impact as voice overs do.
The battle sytem in Song of the Ocean is the same as those found in the previous two installments with one exceptions; the ability to change characters during battle. In the original two installments of the games, characters learned new spells and skills by gaining the levels, the traditional way of learning new things in many RPGs. In Song of the Ocean, though, that changes. Though characters can still learn spells from gaining levels, characters won’t be able to use those magic spells unless they have a magic stone equipped, stones found throughout the course of the game. This can be good or bad depending on your stance of such qualifications, but it does manage to add some sort of excitement to using spells. Battles take place in the same original manner with characters and monsters scattered throughout the battlefield and giving commands to your party members.
As with the previous titles, party members can only perform melee attacks within their range of attack; the same can be said with magic, magic can only be casted on monsters or enemies depending on the range. Prior to that, enemies can be seen on the map and can be encountered; as with the original games, again, monsters will either rush towards you, remain neutral, or run away from you as indicated by an icon above the monsters on the field. In battle, monsters now have elemental weaknesses that can be exploited just by using a spell whose elemental attribute is opposite to the monster you’re fighting; and the monster’s elemental attribute is always obvious when looking at their design. Also, magic spells can be combined to perform Ensemble Magic, an attribute that strengthens the use of a particular spell combination spell in battle.
Even with some new perks and things retained from the previous two installments, Song of the Ocean still suffers from the same problems the other two games faced; those problems being slow-paced battles and useless battles. Finishing moves are a bit harder to execute now since there’s no option on the battle menu that allows it; but such nuances in Song of the Ocean won’t deter your interest in it, assuming of course you aren’t easily fed up with going through text-based dialogue and immersing yourself in their connotative and denotative meaning. Legend of Heroes as a series is the pinnacle of RPG story telling with rich character depth and storyline depth, so those looking for something a bit more literary and rich may find what they’re looking for in Legend of Heroes III, or any of the previous PSP Legend of Heroes games. Though the game does suffer a bit from grammatical errors and syntax structure, such minimal issues don’t affect how the story unfolds.