Legaia 2: Duel Saga

Mystics are humans, typically treated like outcasts, who can summon spirits within them known as Origins. Among these Mystics is Lang, adopted by the militia leader of the village of Nohl, who becomes involved in a series of events stemming from the capture of his town’s relic, the Sacred Azure Stone, a crystal supplying his town with endless water, and joins with several allies to save the world. Legaia 2: Duel Saga, is the first and only sequel to Legend of Legaia, which, while with some improvements over its predecessor, unfortunately proves to be mediocre overall.

Legaia 2 continues its predecessor’s approach to battles, featuring the Tactical Arts System, where each of up to three participating characters in combat has a fixed number of Art Blocks (increased occasionally by leveling) into which the player can input four directions for chains of attack. Certain combinations of directions can unlock Arts, which are more powerful than standard attacks and come in different varieties. The two main kinds are Normal Arts and Super Arts, the former building a character’s AP (with a maximum of a hundred per character), and the latter consuming AP, with each character able to chain them together in Art Blocks.

Characters can also learn Hyper Arts from certain items, which tend to be fairly powerful, always consume a certain amount of AP, and can’t be chained with other kinds of Arts. Using certain Hyper Arts builds experience for them, with a hundred experience points unlocking a more powerful Art. More powerful, however, are Variable Arts, which require two characters and a lot of AP. In addition to Arts, all but one character has an Origin that acquires experience alongside its character after battle and can occasionally learn MP-consuming magic spells, which too tend to be fairly powerful.

Each character can also equip an innate offensive and defensive skill from their accessories, providing effects such as stealing items when attacking or building AP when defending (which in this installment just reduces damage when used). Accessories usually start with one innate skill (many of which a character doesn’t need to equip) yet can gain experience from battle that gradually gives them more skills. The player, furthermore, can combine accessories into new ones that typically have larger skill sets, and combine weapons and armor with certain materials for more powerful equipment.

The battle system has some nice ideas, yet suffers from many of the same flaws as the first installment. For one, battles still contain the same general degree of sluggishness, given the lengthy execution of commands by both the player’s party and the enemies alongside long animations. That relying upon Arts can make battles drag on forever will often force the player to rely upon magic to end battles more quickly (which it can in many instances). As with before, moreover, discovering new Arts is very difficult without a guide, and using A.I. commands doesn’t allow the player to manually input commands for certain characters while allowing others to attack automatically in hopes of discovering new Arts (and even then, the A.I. does a lousy job here, and characters will sometimes waste powerful skills on weak enemies). Overall, combat has some things going for it, but many things going against it as well.

Interaction is more or less the same way, with some high and low points. The menu system isn’t too bad, though the sequel lacks the “equip best” function of its predecessor, with the “Weight” system (where each piece of equipment consumes part of a character’s “Weight”), adding a slight burden when maintaining characters. Dungeons also occasionally require the player to switch between characters to use their Origins’ different abilities to advance, which isn’t a bad thing, though given both the length of battles and wide spacing of save points of times, the player can easily lose a lot of progress after getting killed in a battle. All in all, interaction could’ve been better, but could have certainly been much worse.

Legaia 2 retains enough features from its predecessors to feel like a sequel, such as the Arts system, but has some new features such as different kinds of Arts, accessory combining, a different setting, and so forth, to make it feel fresh.

The story is far more mature than that of the first Legaia, centering around a rogue Mystic who wishes to create a new world by destroying the current one. Some of the heroes and villains have interesting links and backstory, although the story doesn’t really scratch new territory in the genre, and some of the characters are a bit stereotypical, for instance, the old mentor, the young sorceress, the hulking giant, and so forth. Generally, the plot isn’t anything to write home about, although it isn’t bad, either.

Hitoshi Sakimoto and Yasunori Mitsuda, alongside Michiru Oshima, composer of the original Legaia, provide the soundtrack, which has some nice pieces, such as a few town themes, although the weaker and more ambivalent tracks, such as the normal battle theme, show up far more often. Voice acting also exists, albeit solely in battle (with occasional cutscenes in boss fights), whose quality is mostly below average, with poor lip-syncing, as well. Overall, the talent of the composers is largely wasted, and there are plenty of other games with better voicework.

The graphics help give the second Legaia a greater sense of maturity than the first, with taller, more proportionate characters, more realistic-looking enemies, and so forth. This doesn’t mean the visuals are superb, however, as many of the NPC models seem rushed, texturing is bland in many areas, hair sometimes seeps through characters’ clothing, and so forth. All in all, Legaia 2 doesn’t have the best visuals on the PS2 nor does it have the worst.

Finally, the second installment is mercifully shorter than its predecessor, taking from twenty to thirty hours to complete, with a greater sense of linearity and therefore, fewer sidequests to boost playing time. In summation, Legaia 2, like its predecessor, is mostly a mass of wasted potential, from its battle system to its music and other aspects. Granted, it’s a step up above its predecessor and does have a few things going for it, although that’s really not saying a whole lot.

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