The Legend of Heroes Review

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Graphics: 7.0
Sound : 6.0
Gameplay : 6.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 6.5
Review by Stevie Smith
A Tear of Vermillion’s central story follows Avin, a bold but impatient teenage adventurer who embarks on a journey to find his long lost sister, Eimelle. Avin and Eimelle were separated as young children when their home suffered an attack by evil forces searching for “The daughter of Durga.” Raised and protected in a small village, Avin soon grows restless without his precious Eimelle and sets off with best friend, Mile, to find her.

The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion is a single-player, turn-based, role-playing game offering individual and party evolution, over 100 unique interactive characters, 50+ hours of gameplay, and a traditional storyline that unfolds within an attractive 3D world. Developed by Japanese RPG masters Falcom, who are famous for their work on brands including the Ys, Sorcerian and Brandish series, A Tear of Vermillion is the PSP’s first role-playing foray. So, how does it perform?

Well, ultimately it’s standard and overtly traditional RPG fare from start to finish, which is good…and yet somehow bad. On the good side, it’s a solid-looking title with impressive 3D backdrops, cutely appealing character sprites, and lush anime themes running throughout the design. There are plenty of gameplay hours to be had and many NPCs to interact with, the story is expansive and involving, and everything is as you’d expect it to be in a traditional sense. However, beyond the graphic appeal and extended game time, A Tear of Vermillion is flat and without passion, a by-the-numbers reincarnation of past RPG productions that lacks innovation and originality. For those players unaccustomed to the RPG genre, what’s on offer here will serve as a fairly satisfactory distraction, but the more hardcore RPG element will likely soon lose patience with a game that simply re-treads old paths.

The gameplay is oddly dull, and involves a great deal of laborious text reading and explanatory segues between actual bouts of character control. What’s more, the localization of the scrip provides various moments of shoddy inaccuracy that really shouldn’t be happening in this day and age. Even when Avin’s quest is at your direct control, the story, missions, and plethora of side-quest errands are often inanely childish affairs, which involve backtracking, fetching, and delivering. Turn-based fighting is never taxing, and can even be avoided thanks to telltale on-screen creature icons that indicate possible battles. Fighting itself follows long-established guidelines, including attack, defend, magic casts, item usage, and deadly finishing moves; and while the choices are easily implemented and inspire swiftly executed sprite animations, the actual challenge of fighting is never truly evolved. Most damaging to the overall presentation is the story portrayal, which almost insults the intelligence of its audience through a constantly immature delivery. Videogames need not be flowing in masses of profanity and relentless bloodletting, but a happy medium really should be found, especially when a game’s classification is ‘Teen’.

In terms of presentation, A Tear of Vermillion uses the PSP’s power fabulously where backdrops and isometric environments are concerned, with some locales exuding a loving creation that even Japanese film legend Hiyao Miyazaki would be proud of. However, for all the subtle beauty of the wide-screen format backgrounds, the overlaid character animation is sadly lacking. Sprites seemingly float at a singularly frantic pace across environments, and the PSP’s analog ‘nub’ continually lacks accuracy when trying to interact with specific characters or items. Creature design and fight effects are also somewhat uninspired, which only serves to compound the sensation of being swamped in a narrative bog with only sporadic moments of genuine player appeal. The orchestrated musical score is initially rich and layered, adding some credibility to the actual visuals, but, as with the gameplay monotony and animation disappointments, it soon lapses into the realms of repetition.

For all of the PSP’s lauded portability, A Tear of Vermillion doesn’t comfortably lend itself to mobile gaming. Its lengthy storyline and extensive text-based conversations mean that simply picking up the game for ‘a quick fiddle’ every now and then isn’t really going to endear it to those ‘on-the-go.’ This, of course, begs the question: why issue a 50+ hour RPG to a portable format when players will need to invest most of the required game time at home? Why not simply release it on a console format? Oh, that’s right, because the game’s inadequacies would show through all the more when compared against the wealth of quality already available.

This review seems rather harsh, but it must be stated that The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion isn’t a terrible game. It’s reliably traditional, doesn’t suffer from any major flaws, or fall beneath the weight of overreaching ambition, it’s merely a safe production that remains true to all that has gone before it—but that in itself is the problem. At this point in time, gamers have experienced all that RPG games have to offer in terms of traditional narrative, mechanics, and design. A little innovation wouldn’t go amiss, especially on a new handheld format that is wide open for fresh invention and bold steps. A Tear of Vermillion is yet another example of shameful missed opportunity for the sake of safe expectations and profit margins.