"Iíll give it credit for one thing: this gameís release was a radical departure from all the other RPGs of its day."
Iíll give it credit for one thing: this gameís release was a radical departure from all the other RPGs of its day. Mixing the standard swords and sorcery with machine guns and nuclear missiles, youíll even explore the post-apocalyptic ruins of a modern city in a universe where humans, mutants, and several varieties of monsters apparently live in harmony without trying to eat each other. Four distinct worlds are connected via a seemingly endless tower thatís said to ultimately lead to paradise, inspiring your party of four to risk its dizzying heights. Unfortunately for them, Final Fantasy Legend is no paradise by any stretch of the imagination; itís actually a one-way ticket straight to the bowels of hell.
Itís not merely that Legend is incredibly difficult Ė it may be the most frustrating console-style RPG ever made. No matter where you are in the game, youíll have to deal with a horrific random encounter rate featuring large groups of monsters that can wipe out your entire party in a matter of moments. Even if you emerge from one of these battles triumphant youíll find that there arenít any experience points to be won. Humans have to buy all their HP and stat increases via expensive items in shops, while mutantsí abilities just seem to randomly increase after certain battles. If youíre lucky. Itís not uncommon for a mutant character to remain stagnant no matter what you do, causing them to lag far behind the rest of your group, and even if one of them ever randomly learns a powerful attack, it can be suddenly replaced with something horrible just like that. You literally have to save the game after every single random encounter, as youíre always one battle away from becoming totally screwed.
Making matters even worse is the fact that all your weapons and spells have a limited number of uses before they disappear. You canít recharge or repair them either; once a weapon is gone youíll have to buy a completely new one. Like most old school RPGs, your survival requires countless hours of level building and all sorts of expensive equipment, but now your human characters donít get any stronger if you donít spend all your money on those stat upgrades Ė and wear out all that expensive equipment in the process, leaving you screwed once again.
You might be free to choose any combination of humans, mutants, and monsters when you form your party, but the results will either be hideously expensive or virtually impossible. Monster characters are the most interesting but comparatively useless; they can occasionally eat the flesh of a defeated enemy, transforming into a different creature altogether depending on its current form and the enemy being devoured. However besides promoting godless cannibalism, this process gives you very little control over their development. You might become something more powerful, but itís just as likely that youíll end up with something weaker, and since monsters canít use any equipment these stats will remain fixed until you transform again.
More importantly, a monster can only attack with its natural abilities, and since these also have a limited number of uses itís very possible that youíll run out of attacks in the middle of nowhere. In such a case your entire party will be left unable to fight and forced to attempt fleeing, possibly getting slaughtered in the process. Unlike weapons, mutant and monster abilities can be recharged by staying at an inn, but for that matter inns are a scam all their own. Their cost is equal to the number of hit points that everyone needs restored, so if you donít have enough gold to heal everyone at once youíll all be left battered and bloody in the street.
Considering the nightmare of building up and then maintaining your characters, itís just heaping on insult to injury when you realize that theyíre ultimately disposable. A dead party member can only be revived at a town, which isnít unusual in and of itself Ė but he can only be restored exactly three times. After that youíll need to either buy a ridiculously expensive item to give him one extra life or recruit a brand new replacement from the local guild.
And as if the mechanics werenít torturous enough on their own, some of the quests seem designed to drive you insane. At one point you have to locate a tiny island that can be used to sail across the sea despite the fact that it looks like all the other ones dotting the map, so you just have to step on every single one until you find the one that can move. Later on youíll have to scour the aforementioned nuclear wasteland in search of an invisible city while being constantly attacked by that worldís final boss. Of course, just getting to that point would suggest that youíre the sort who enjoys senseless pain, so you probably wonít care anyway.
Like Final Fantasy II before it, Legend isnít simply a bad game Ė itís fundamentally broken. At least Square was apparently trying to liven up the RPG genre with something fresh and innovative. Needless to say, they failed.
Staff review by Sho (August 01, 2007)
Sho enjoys classic video games, black comedy, and poking people until they explode -- figuratively or otherwise. He also writes a bit.
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