aka in Japan as Eiyuu Densetsu Gagharv Trilogy IV: Akai Shizuku.
Remember the good old days of classic RPGs where the hero was always good, the villain always wore a cape and your biggest achievement was getting enough experience to reach level 99, not beating a mini game to get the ultra secret weapon? Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion throws a more traditional RPG in the hands of PSP owners. You start out watching a half an hour long scene where Avin and his sister, Emille, are under attack by a rival religious group. The two are about ready to escape together when Emille’s pet jumps out of the caravan. Avin bravely jumps out to rescue it only to find himself trapped between armored guards. Emille’s caravan takes off and the two are separated. Avin grows up in Ourt with his friend from Mile away from the political turmoil and his sister.
After watching the opening, the character introductions and running around the same village for about 1.5 hours you’ll finally get to battle. The first mission has a grown up Avin, who’s now a rugged warrior, and Mile search for a beast who’s terrorizing the village’s cabbage stock. Once you defeat the beast you’re off to Philidan Kingdom. Your next heroic task is collecting donations for the local chapel. The pacing for Legend of the Heroes is one of the greatest distractions in the game. You’ll have to endure utterly ennui tasks like finding a wild boar. How is any of this going to get Avin towards his goal of finding his sister? Your guess is as good as mine, but thankfully only the first eight hours are this boring.
What Legend of Heroes does do right, at least in the eyes of RPG purists, is have plenty of areas to explore. All of the areas are presented in a ¾ top down view, seen in plenty of other RPGs like the Breath of Fire series. While you’re in an enemy infested area you can choose to fight or not. Monsters are clearly visible on screen and conveniently weaker monsters will run away from you. Just like in any RPG you don’t want to constantly evade fights, if you do you will be out leveled by your foes quickly. Combat is basic menu fighting with the strange addition of range. You start out by selecting basic commands like attack, magic or a skill. Once you input everything one round of combat plays out, but your party doesn’t stand still. Instead they move into range to attack a foe. Avin is a close range fighter so he’ll move right next to an enemy while Mile likes to hide in the back row with his boomerang. The problem with the range system is that you can’t direct where each character moves after selecting attack. They may walk behind an enemy or run up front, you just don’t know. Although, this is rarely a problem since your movement range is so wide that you can hit almost anything on screen. This will leave some gamers scratching their heads wondering why movement is even included in Legend of Heroes. When you dish out damage or take it the power meter on the bottom of the screen fills up. When it’s full you can let loose a “deadly” attack, a finishing technique that can deal a lot of damage. Deadly attacks are best saved for boss fights, with three or four in a row you can best most bosses.
There is one other element in combat, your unpredictable pet. When you start a battle you can get lucky and watch as your pet rabbit drops a huge rock from the sky. Since these are random elements you can’t count on your pet to swoop in and save the day. But you increase the chances of a power pet strike by feeding it good food and praising it. The pet system is no replacement for a skill system as seen in other RPGs. Legend of Heroes sticks with the age old system of gain a level get a new spell or skill. You do get some choices of what skills to learn such as should you learn a more powerful attack for Mile or a stealing skill, but you can’t change any classes. Characters are preset from the get go, without many options.
Sticking with the traditional RPG elements the game opts for classic sprite graphics. Battle and field graphics have super deformed people walking around. However, when you get up close and personal during cut scenes you can see the good looking concept art. The world is fully detailed with lots of different scenery and each obligatory dungeon. While you’re wandering in towns everything gets a little jagged.
Being the first US RPG doesn’t automatically mean it’s the best RPG out there. Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion does have a rich world to explore and an interesting cast. But with out an original story to tie the entire game together or great gameplay Legend of Heroes isn’t legendary at all.
Eiyuu Densetsu Gagharv Trilogy IV was released in November for a US audience under the title The Legend of Heroes.
+ Pros: No random enemy encounters and a cheerful cast.
– Cons: A painfully slow and boring start, plus a story full of RPG clichés
Overall: First doesn’t always equate to best, Legend of Heroes is a generic RPG that fills the void in the PSP category.
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