Nihon Falcom is a Japanese developer whose flagship series include Ys, Dragon Slayer, and The Legend of Heroes. While the first installment of the last series for the TurboGrafx-16's CD attachment saw an English release, it would be a little over a decade and a half later before the series would see light outside Japan, with Bandai localizing the fourth game in the series as The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion. The fourth installment, despite its faults, provides an experience largely on par with Falcom's other offerings.
Vermillion features an encounter system similar to that of EarthBound, where enemies are visible on fields and in dungeons and rush the player's party if their levels are low and run away when their levels are high. Battles themselves resemble those in the Lunar series, being turn-based, where the player inputs commands for the player's party and lets them and the enemy beat each other up in a round, with characters and their opponents moving around the battlefield as they fight. Commands include normally attacking, using a limit break known as a Deadly Attack if available, moving around the battlefield, using items, using MP-consuming magic, using free skills, or escaping.
Winning battles nets all characters experience and money, with level ups occurring sporadically. There's nothing much more to say about the battle system, which works decently, with battles moving at a swift pace. The only real flaws are that enemies moving around the battlefield can sometimes throw off the intended effects of range-affecting skills, and the unpredictability of turn order associated with most old-school turn-based RPGs. Ultimately, combat helps the game more than hurts.
Control is mostly solid, with an always-convenient save-anywhere feature, alongside the PlayStation Portable's built-in quicksave/pause, easy menus, non-problematic shopping, and a decent sense of direction on how to advance the main storyline. There are some flaws such as the lack of warp magic to revisit old areas (which only really affects the latter part of the game, what with a huge final dungeon), the absence of automaps, and the inability to get a reminder on where to go next if the player misses some of the dialogue. Otherwise, the game interfaces well with the player.
Vermillion's general narrative could have definitely been better, what with a myriad of fetch quests throughout the game, although there are some decent twists and a reasonably-lengthy ending that leaves the player feeling accomplished. The translation, however, is a tad on the rushed side, with plenty of prominent errors such as inconsistency in the game's title, although the story is still reasonably comprehensible. Overall, the plot isn't bad, but so too could it have been better.
As with other Falcom games, Vermillion features a solid soundtrack that doesn't detract from the game, and the graphics look nice as well, with the only real hiccup being that the character sprites tend to "slant" towards the edges of the PlayStation Portable's screen.
All in all, The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion is a run-of-the-mill RPG that hits most of the right notes while leaving a fair bit of room for improvement. Fans of old-school RPGs like will most likely appreciate the game, while those who think of Japanese RPGs as stale likely will not.
+Decent old-school gameplay.
+Solid music and graphics.
-Too many fetch quests.
-No warp magic.
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 4/10
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Playing Time: No Game Clock