A promising Pre-Alpha.
With the recent and incredibly successful release of Final Fantasy XV it’s very easy to get swept up by the JRPG trends of the year in which we currently live. A lot of JRPGs today are more free-flowing today, with loads of ways to let players make sure that all of their characters fit exactly into every little niche that they so desire. I’m not condemning that – generally I love that kind of thing – but I also know that things weren’t always that way. Older JRPGs were a bit more (or entirely so, depending on how far back you want to go) focused on getting from Point A to Point B – but they had, and in my opinion still have, the capacity to be just as fun as the games we play now. A lot of us have started to forget what traditional RPGs are like (I’m not immune to this either, unfortunately), but there are still those of us out there dedicated to keeping the art of the classic JRPG alive. I recently had the chance to sit down and get some hands-on experience with the Pre-Alpha version of Legrand Legacy – An upcoming RPG by indie developer Semisoft. Ready to see what a classic RPG looks like in the year 2016?
The Legrand Legacy demo began with a gruesome albeit nicely-done cutscene of protagonist Finn being forced into an arena to face off against its champion. Being in the earliest of developmental stages there wasn’t a ton of backstory (which is 100% acceptable), but from what I’ve gathered Finn essentially woke up one day as a slave in the middle of a desert city with no prior recollection of who he was, or how he got there.
Out-sized and overpowered, Finn was just about to be struck down by the mighty champion of the arena when a mysterious power activated from within him – allowing him to momentarily gain an unimaginable amount of strength, striking down his adversary in one blow (without killing him, I might add). That victory should have been a satisfying one, but it wasn’t. People were, you know, kind of betting against Finn, and when they lost that money they decided to take their anger out on him. Fortunately, thanks to the timely intervention of an old man named Geddo, Finn’s life was saved. Shortly after that he was on his way through the desert with his new savior – completely unaware of what fate had in store for him.
Legrand Legacy’s demo consisted of Tel Harran (a city), Rahas Desert and a conjoined temple, complete with combat and story elements, and let me tell you right now that Semisoft hit the nail on the head when they said that this was an homage to classic JRPGs – it’s obvious before you even really start to play it. The story progression flows in a very traditional way that is easy to understand, with characters being introduced at times that, while convenient to the plot, never feel overly-forced. There were several noticeable tropes, such as the amnesiac protagonist and the wise old man, but they didn’t feel overbearing. Rather, they felt very comfortable; I enjoyed getting to know more about the characters as I played. It gets kind of frustrating when games feel the need to throw in tons of backstory and 10 different plot twists right off the back. Progressing through the story felt more akin to meeting up with an old friend, familiar and happy (which is ironic, considering the game’s story). While I did like the story I had a bit of a problem with the writing. Errors involving grammar and sentence structure were somewhat common throughout the demo, which was a bit off-putting. Being in a Pre-Alpha state I didn’t worry too much about it – I’m sure that things will get cleaned up as development progresses – but I still felt as though it was worth mentioning – having a final product riddled with grammatical issues is definitely something to avoid.
Exploration within Legrand Legacy, at least from what I’ve experienced so far, was fluid and extraordinarily iconic. While the overworld and battle sequences were fully rendered in 3D, exploration within each area consisted of 3D models moving freely on hand-drawn 2/2.5D planes. That might sound kind of weird, but I can guarantee that most of you have experienced it. Have you ever played a PlayStation-era Final Fantasy game such as VII, VIII, or IX? It felt exactly like that. With 3D graphics being as advanced that they are the whole “hand-drawn background” thing isn’t really something that you see any more, but it’s still just as appealing as it’s ever been.
Also falling in line with that classic JRPG vibe is Legrand of Legacy’s combat. Running into an enemy on the map (represented by floating balls of darkness) triggers a battle. Combat is turn-based, with players and enemies picking their moves and executing them in order based on which attacks were used – basic attacks would always hit first, and so on. While most combat mechanics are very traditional, Legrand Legacy does do its part to make itself stand out a bit. Whenever a character attacks or is being attacked a prompt shows up, issuing the player to hit the displayed directional button with the correct timing. The action’s effectiveness would then vary based on how accurate the player was. The addition of QTEs in a traditional JRPG was surprising at first, but ended up being fun. Executing the QTE perfectly is pretty difficult, but it made sense; critting every turn would make things way to easy. You’ve got to have your players work for that kind of perfection! …Or increase their characters’ Luck stat!
I’ve quite liked what I’ve seen of Legrand Legacy so far. With traditional JRPGs becoming somewhat rare, it’s nice to have a game pop up every once in a while that gets players back to their JRPG roots. I know that there’s still work to be done on the game but, if the Pre-Alpha is anything to go by, I think that Legrand Legacy is going to turn out very nicely.