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Review: Legasista

A dungeoneering romp that’s sure to surprise. There’s a joke here about Eggo waffles and sisters.

Legasista follows its Playstation Portable siblings, Cladun and Cladun x2, as the next evolutionary step on the technologically superior Playstation 3. This is typically where I’d devise some clever or colorful introduction, but how about we just get to the yolk of things this time, eh?

Upon completing the tutorial dungeon—which was painfully lengthy and interspersed with story dialogue—I found myself approached by an idea that I knew what to expect from the remainder of Legasista. Call me clairvoyant. It is, in its most rudimentary form, a 2D dungeon crawler. And while I suppose it could be left at that particularly nebulous appraisal, it would scarcely do the game justice.

The protagonist, Alto Straiter, has a salient sister complex which happens to be the driving force behind the entire affair: a quest to restore your crystal-imprisoned sibling’s original form. I was not too fond of him, as he seemed a bit of a dunce, so I ended up traipsing with Melize as my vanguard unit. She’s the weapon of yore needed to cure Alto’s sister; only she has forgotten how to do so. Go figure.

You’re allowed three characters at a time in a dungeon, so I did end up with Alto in my backpack. Wherein he rotted until the time came that he could be replaced. There is a benefit of bringing characters along besides slaking loneliness. You’ll find hauling a well-versed party will mean you’re better equipped to tackle a variety of challenges by cycling through warriors, rogues and sorcerers to address manifold situations. The support spells carried by benched members are also indispensable; I often found myself spamming the L1 button for heals.

Melize is a war mage—figure that one out yourself—so I always had something to fall back on. Unfortunately, that did not mean dashing through the refreshingly bright-colored dungeons while impaling enemies on my many-fanged guisarme or scorching dozens with white-hot bolts of lightning. Several things prevented that.

Chief among them was the controls. Higgledy piggledy is an adjective I would use; hateful is another. There is a pause, a stop, a stutter which renders fluid combat impossible. Given that you must weave around opponents’ attacks to strike either the flank or rear while they are also chasing your tail, skirmishes often end up a sort of waltz or clucking mating ritual. I’m all for mating rituals that require aft assaults, but it grows tedious quickly. Dark Nuts everywhere. Literally at times.

Controls notwithstanding, Legasista has a way of making me gnaw my lip while poking pipits in the back and finding it nothing short of enjoyable. Enjoyable is a far cry from engrossing, mind you, but they share two vowels and a consonant.

Dungeon delving is rewarding and possessed of an addictive, just-once-more quality that hearkens to the days of Gauntlet. Given that there are randomly generated dungeons, portmanteau’d as Ran-geons and spanning up to 100 floors, an endless potential can be found for the voracious spelunker. And oh, there is a definite challenge for those seeking suffering. An onslaught of traps and tricky beasts even turn up in the relatively mellow story levels.

There’s also a buoyant aesthetic here, one that leaks from the downright effervescent portraits and dialogue into the surroundings. Dungeon crawlers have a predilection toward the grimdark, and I for one would rather experience the genre’s inherent repetition with a pleasing palette. Legasista exudes color, and does so with a diversity of designs: fetid swamp to treasure-laden grotto to the craw of a dragon. While ultimately an assortment of large square blocks, they still somehow persist in feeling as though you’re in a new area.

If there’s anything to be said about Legasista, it’s the depth of customization. Weapons, armor and accessories can be forged and re-forged into artifacts of mighty power. Using titles, you can enhance equipment as you see fit, even dismantling items to obtain their titles for use elsewhere; it truly is robust.

Once you reach level 20, you’re able to switch classes while retaining the bonuses you gained in the previous class. Since the bonuses themselves are customizable, the number of potential combinations is [I’m not a mathematician, you guys].

Further, there’s an accessible yet powerful character creation tool that facilitates sprite assembly either from scratch or by tinkering with the templates provided. You’re even given the power to create sprites in your image with imported files or try your hand at putting pixels together into something out of SNES-era titles or kindergarten scribbles.

Altogether, Legasista isn’t your run-of-the-mill, t-shirt and khakis dungeon crawler and should be courted accordingly. There’s real depth within: trinkets enough to tantalize that Diablo loot-hankering, a wealth of customization options, and it’s all bound in a parcel of verve and iridescence.

Platforms: Playstation 3 (Playstation Network)
Developer: System Prism, Nippon Ichi Software, NIS America
Genre: Action Role-Playing
Time: Varies greatly; 8+ hours.
Gripes: Controls can be maddening.
Get it for the: Brilliant aesthetic, customization and super-marvy good times.

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