Legend of Heroes is one of the greatest series of JRPGs nowadays and it normally divides its story arcs into two games. Sen no Kiseki is the first part of this new tale, and along with it, brings many questions: Will the gameplay be different from previous Legend of Heroes? Will the new heroes be as charismatic as the previous ones? Will this game have good graphics as the first in the series to be full 3D? Will it be an Eroge? The answer for the last one is “Yes”!
At first I was all around at comparing this game to Final Fantasy Type-0, as it had the same basic plot: “A war happens between the forces of good – who uses magic – and the forces of evil – who use machines. To help in the war, a group of elite students is formed in a military school to use a new type of equipment that will be their trump card in the war. Different from the normal students, they use red uniforms and participate in dangerous missions, even though they are just children”.Yes! It is very similar superficially but, by actually playing the game, I lost this impression almost completely when noticing that this game was basically a “Love Simulation” with some battle parts, in other words: A Galge!As mentioned above, this game stars Rean Schwarzer as he is sent to Trista to study at Thors Military Academy. It’s when an accident brings his first meeting with one of his future classmates.
After the opening ceremony, they are brought to an old building in the school grounds, there they meet Sara Valestin who will be their new instructor. Suddenly, Sara decides to open a pitfall to throw them into a dangerous underground section full of monsters, only so she could test her new student’s abilities (she could have asked, right?). They all fall unharmed, except for Rean…
This is where it gets clear that this game atmosphere, plot and characters have a huge difference from its predecessors. Everything in this game is presented as if it was a Galge, starting by its main characters: They are all stereotypes commonly found in most Galges. Rean fits perfectly in the role of a blend hero that don’t draw much attention to himself and just wants to help everybody. There are many other elements like: the class president is a girl wearing glasses (who is also in the top ranks of the whole academy). The student council’s president is a cute girl. The cast of characters have an excessive number of little girls! Much more than on previous games. Even the ones who are not students are just too cute and young.
It doesn’t even make sense! There will be many events where old people will talk with those cute girls about important events from the past like they have participated in it, but they are not older than 25 (Sara’s age), are they time travelers? Why they are in such high ranks? It doesn’t matter how godly talented they are, ranks like general of commander should not be so easy to attain by a 23 years old!
This is one hell of a difference from other games in the franchise. This series attracted many gamers for their charismatic and unique characters, but this game had it all backward, making the heroes as much generic as possible. This is no joke! You can actually use terms from Eroges to classify each of the playable cast: Alisa being obviously a Tsundere (she is even blond and has mini-twin-tails), Eliot is the Shota-innocent friend, Laura is the Tomboy “one-sama”, Machias is the thick-head fool, Jusis is the snob and noble EMO, Emma is the “iinchou”, Fie is the mysterious loli and Gaius is the silent friend with a thin shadow. If I were to talk about the NPCs the list would just go on…
In my opinion, they wasted too much ammunition in this title. Every character in the main party is related to some of the most important people in the world. This include things like one of the most powerful noble houses, the police chief of a very important city, the president of the biggest weapon manufactory in the world, the adopted daughter of the strongest mercenary in history, and much more.
The problem is: Those are the parents of playable characters. The characters you actually take control are not even near from being as important or influential. It’s such a waste! Since the heroes related to those elements are so cliché, the events involving them end up being as predictable as them. The use of clichés in a plot is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has to be packed with at least some originality, or it will just result in a boring game, and “boring” is one of the worst things a game can be.
The visuals are somewhat inconsistent in quality. While the 3D models of most characters are very simple and use the same basic model, monsters and buildings are very well made. Most playable characters animate very badly, they look very robotic and their mouths are just a texture with two frames, the frame for the opened mouth is the same for all student characters, being it a male or female. I would say that they all move like Mokujin, but then I remembered Mokujin had pretty smoothly animations since the PSOne generation, so this would be very unfair.
The voice acting is excellent, but limited. Only a few parts of the main story is voiced, and some events are voiced just partially, with the dub being suddenly cut in the middle of a scene. It is really inconsistent and I just can’t help but feel something lacking. Rean is specially affected by this, since the game wants to look like a Galge, he gets no voice for most events in the school (and that is more than half of the game!).The game pacing is very slow and the events are presented in a very linear form with some repetitive parts. Every chapter start during a certain class, after which Rean has to work helping the student council with many errands (side-quests), and later has all the party visiting a certain dungeon again and again every chapter (each chapter lets you go futher. Enemies change, but the layout, music and gimmicks stay the same).
Skipping some days, Rean’s class trains a bit against a robot in the school grounds and then they are divided in two groups and sent to a new city. Rean always end up in a group where there are two members that are not in good terms, so he helps them become friends. These conflicts are always something silly like: “I hate nobles”, “I hate soldiers”, or “I hate my mother, but I want her to love me”.
Now, with the bad out of the way, it’s time to praise this game for its superb city designs! They are all very distinct from each other and it’s possible that not even a single tile of texture is shared between any location. The cities are all huge and each section comes with many details.
This is a rare type of JRPG in nowadays which actually let you explore and even rewards you for doing so. Like in the previous games, there are many NPCs in each town and they actually speak interesting things every day, giving a certain notion of a daily routine and mini-arc for each of them. It’s very rare to found a unnamed NPC and most have even unique designs! It is really sad that the linear nature of the game never let you free to re-enter cities you have previously being to. This would easily make it one of the best RPGs in this criteria.
The battle system is very similar to the one found in the other Legend of Heroes, meaning that those who are familiar with Lunar or Grandia battle system will feel right at home. The most notable difference is that the team attack system has evolved into a more complete and solid system, rather than the random team attack that activated as one of the bonus during the battle turns.
This lets the player admistrate with who one character will interact during combinations, and doing certain optional events and using the same pair will give a level up to their combination, unlocking new abilities like auto-cure, cover and stronger team attacks.The game makes many Shout outs to Zero no Kiseki, like with the game’s prologue being a dream about one of the last chapters in the game (lacking some details though), the protagonist reaching the main city by train and you first team being equivalents to the party of the S.S.S. (Rean is Lloyd, Eliot is Tio, Gaius is Randy while Machias is Elie).
They are nothing near as good as the Zero troop, but this is just fair since, for this game, you have 11 character to control (4 at the battlefield with 3 on the reserve, while the orders can be changed later). For this reason, there is no character with more than one S-Craft attack. This give a lot of strategy to the game.
The difficult is quite unbalanced, having the player disintegrate enemies with a single attack, but being humiliated by the boss found in the end of the same dungeon. However, there are plenty of ways to become ridiculously strong in this game, and if everything fails, there is always the S-craft attacks to help.
During most of the gameplay, the story development was not too exciting. The Final Chapter didn’t help by having one of the lamest of developments that I’ve seen in a RPG. However, everything was suddenly changed by an unexpected development that shifted the focus and atmosphere of the whole plot.
Of course it made look like a different game all along, but at that point, it was a big surprise. It proved that the writers are not afraid to take that feeling of safety one could have with a family-friend story full of “moe-moe-kyun” and mercilessly destroy it by adding some new elements.
At first, I was praying that this game ended as a stand-alone title, so the next legend of heroes could focus in a whole new group and story. Well…it seems that this is exactly what we will get in the next game, but it will be continuing the events from this game with a somewhat different style of story more directed toward action than a slice-of-life. Now I am really interested in what will happen next! I am just a little sad that my favorite playable character turned out to be evil, but I guess it’s ok, he did became a bad-ass after all!