Game Review – Legend of Heroes: Ao no Kiseki EVOLUTION (PS Vita)

2014-06-12-115523After developing the big flop known as Natural Doctrine, Kadokawa Games joined forces with Chara-Ani to make one more remake for the Legend of Heroes franchise with Ao no Kiseki – Evolution. This is a direct sequel to the last Nihon Falcom title they remade: Zero no Kiseki, which was simply sublime! Therefore, you can anticipate some high expectation for this game from me…

Story & Characters

2014-06-15-225710The story takes place just a few months after the events from Zero no Kiseki. Lloyd Bannings and the other members at the Special Support Section are on separated ways to fix the mess created by the conflicts in the last adventure.2014-07-01-092450They scheduled to rejoin later, but before this happens, Lloyd get reinforcements in the form of two new SSS members: Noel Seeker – A sergeant who helped Lloyd and his friends many times during the first game and has officially become part of the team. But the biggest surprise was the inclusion of Lazy Hemisphere, the mysterious gang leader/host boy who caused many problems around CrossBell, but was a big help during the demoniac cult incident. He was decorated for his services and took the opportunity to ask to join the SSS, since he has a big interest in Lloyd.

2014-07-01-0118082014-07-01-012233In this chapter, the whole plot around the mysterious KeA gets unfold and it also becomes the trigger to the beginning of a World War that is currently taking place during the time of Sen no Kiseki. However, different from the brats who don’t know any better from Class VII, Lloyd and his team are professional Heroes who have full knowledge of what is going on and possess the powers to change things for better.2014-06-19-220331Both the heroes from the previous game as the new allies get a lot of character development. Among them, Lloyd is the one with most character growth, as he finally discovers the truth about his brother assassination, and consequently, stops following his shadow. 2014-06-29-135022This molds Lloyd into an even greater hero than he was and develops him into one of the best protagonists I’ve ever seen!There’s also a big involvement of Ouroboros, the illusive group involved in darkness who have been pulling the strings behind every event in the series in order to put their Phantom Plan in motion. It’s on this chapter where Wiseman gets replaced and their preparations get finally completed.

Gameplay

2014-06-18-104312The battle system used in this series is nearly perfect and always gets compliments for how simple and deep it can get, so the nice people from Nihon Falcom usually don’t try to change too much something that has been working for many years, and since this is a direct sequel, there’s even less new features than usual. The biggest addition is the Burst system, which denies enemy actions to give you a sequence of turns that only stops when your Burst gauge gets empty. Unfortunately, this resource can only be used during certain dungeons.2014-06-26-163001One other welcomed inclusion is a car you get right at the beginning. It works just like an Airship would in a Final Fantasy game, letting you revisit nearly any place from the first game. This gives you a wide area to explore in order to look for special items, abilities, rare monsters, fishing spots and side-quests.2014-06-27-004424It gets even more interesting when you notice every area in the game changes with each event, giving you a reason to pay a new visit to every single place with each new chapter. 2014-06-23-110042In terms of new elements, this game feels a bit like a DLC. A really huge and awesome DLC, but since you can see many “left-overs” from the first chapter being recycled, it gives you a feeling you’re playing just a expansion. You can even load your save file from the previous game to get your levels and items back.

2014-06-20-1059232014-06-17-164827This is actually highly recommended, since it also loads the choices you did during the first adventure, giving you some extra affection points with your favorite SSS member and also changing some dialogs to match your previous decisions.

Graphics

2014-06-30-103831This is a complicated subject. The graphics seen here are pre-rendered 3D models in a SD style, which would obviously lose to the 3D graphics and models rendered in real time from Sen no Kiseki.2014-06-30-131507However, the graphics from Sen were unfinished, bugged, with a (non-intentional) papier-mâché-like texture, clumsy shadow effects, stiff animations and “copy-pasted” material everywhere.2014-06-29-083514In contrast to this, the graphics we get on Ao no Kiseki take this visual style to the limit, with both characters and backgrounds being very detailed and smoothly animated. It’s an obvious result considering the developers are much more used to this graphic style and are still experimenting with Sen no Kiseki.2014-06-27-080207

Sounds

The music from Falcom games is one of the things that gave them their fame. Their tracks are usually fantastic, and it was not different for this game. For me who review a lot of Galges – which mostly got just average BGMs at best – listening to this soundtrack was a breath-taking experience! Many times I got myself jumping around the room with excitement while singing along the song of an important battle event…AND THOSE GOT NO LYRICS! The BGM so good that takes me back to the innocence of being a child who can simply enjoy a game and forget boring things like my composure and self-image!  To be honest, there is a short-end to this. The opening theme – Aoki Negai – sounds a bit weird and is not on par with the tracks you hear during the playthrough, but this music is actually just an arranged version from one of the battle themes: “Concentrate all Firepower”. The people from Kadokawa Games just added vocals and changed it to a slower rhythm, which felt really forced. Well, at least the scenes in the opening are cool, showing events that actually happen during the story climax…except for that scene with Elie and Tio waking up while wearing few clothes. That’s was just for fan-service!2014-06-20-131936The voice acting is so perfect! The characters are able to convey a good variety of feelings, and it’s convincing. Be it during an action filled scene or during a dramatic scene with people crying, IT WORKS! The acting is able to make you care for what is happening on the screen, even if it’s about a giant robot getting destroyed! Japanese voice actors are known to be one of the best in the world, but one can notice those working in this game are on an upper level!

Conclusion

2014-06-26-235619Words are not enough to describe how satisfied I am for playing this game! It fulfilled all of my expectations, and then some more! It is seriously one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played, and I play A LOT of those! It has all the excellency from Zero no Kiseki Evolution, but without all those freezing glitches. It also got rid of those damn long loading times from Sen no Kiseki and gave a satisfying conclusion to a complex and interesting story, while leaving many cliffhangers to be explored with future games on the franchise, which is great news for fans of Lloyd and his merry mates, since he will still participate in new adventures and was recently confirmed to make an appearance in the newest Sen no Kiseki 2!2014-07-01-092429I believe this will be my favorite game for this year, but we are still only halfway through it and there are many interesting titles to be released this year, so I would love to see if some other game is capable to dethrone my heroes!

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5 responses to “Game Review – Legend of Heroes: Ao no Kiseki EVOLUTION (PS Vita)

  1. -Glad that you liked the game. In the psp era this game was my top one too even when people were talking about Type 0, Crisis Core or P3P I think they all missed something and is this game. Obviously for people who play in english as we are not even close to get Zero 😛 the whole serie is uterly fantastic.
    -Your comparative with Sen…well is a little abusing of the poor game although not near as good as Ao no Kiseki I still liked Sen a lot but if it’s something I think Sen II should be compared with Ao no Kiseki since the second games tend to be more conclusive and overall better. I want to believe that Falcom learned of their mistakes when doing the next game.

    PD: Is it me or Tio is your favourite? (sarcasm) but in my case I loved Rixia and Noel 😀

    • Oh yes! I really love this series! Even Sen 1, which I mostly complained because of how much I was expecting from it, but it’s still good!
      I also wanted to play this series so much during the PSP era, but since my japanese was not as good at the time and this was a new series for me, I was not confident I would be able to understand its system and plot. But now that my Japanese got better and the game is (almost) full voiced on the VITA, it was my big chance!
      I compare it a lot with Sen 1 because it was the only other Legend of Heroes game I have made a review for. But to be honest, I consider Zero to be WAY BETTER than Sen 1. I guess it’s because how Sen 1 feels so much like a LoveSim, and I didn’t want to play that! I wanted to play a RPG! Fortunately, Falcom has said this will not be a problem in the next game, so I am looking forward to it! Also: Lloyd and Rixia will be there, so all the more reason for me to have more hopes for it!
      Yes! I also love Rixia and Noel! But they get so little screen-time! On the other hand, Zero is all about Tio, even the opening song is about her! So she had a whole game to get my vote!

  2. I just chose the sexy ones keke but the only female in the team I disliked was Elie. Sorry if you liked her too but I cannot stand her. Sadly they didn’t let me switch her…in fact I cannot switch the four main characters I know they are important….b…but!

    >I guess it’s because how Sen 1 feels so much like a LoveSim.
    I was against the school setting but not love sim. Dating girls was fun and I think Falcom was giving a glimpse of this since Zero/Ao but I just felt the whole Sen cast or at least the main ones are very troope characters with no development at all and a top of that going to school and do exercises while restricting the exploration made me mad. The latest hours were amazing though. I kinda want to fight the white Aion using Rean’s mech now hehe.

    • Although I must admit Elie is also not among my favorites, I actually love the whole cast from Zero to Ao! Even villains! I love to hate them! They work so well to the plot! Everyone is just so great! It’s not for nothing this is one of my favorite series!
      Being a LoveSim is all about the school setting nowadays. You can date girls in many other type of games, but only DateSims get you into a school setting (and in Japan, while they are at it) for very bull-shit reasons.
      I totally agree with you about how Sen’s heroes are all big walking LoveSim tropes, especially the blonde-twintail-tsundere-rich-girl, who has the worst “I am mature now” speech EVER!
      I was also pissed with the limited exploration and the obligatory school schedule. But those last hours with the freaking giant robots were GREAT! That was the game I wanted to play since the beginning! And I hope this is what we get with the second chapter!
      Playing Ao Evolution was so fantastic for me, (especially because of the shitty games I had to play right before it) but I want to believe Sen 2 can be even better!

  3. The villains and antagonist are great. I love them so much and this is important, you have enemies with motives, enemies that you can relate due to their circunstances other who have other plans and other who enjoy killing. All of them work so great in the storyline I really cannot hate them as the story needed them for example if the troll guy produce disgust in the player while obviously you relate with the characters situation the devs are doing a great job tauting you. I just love that narrative-wise.

    >especially the blonde-twintail-tsundere-rich-girl, who has the worst “I am mature now” speech EVER!
    I think she is the most popular girl in the characters poll from Sen. Damn Japan haha

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