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Master of Mayhem Vs. Lakria Legends

Hay, look who got off his ass and done a review after nearly 12 months of nothing. Yes the Master of Mayhem is back to disclose my thoughts on Lakria Legends by KoopaKush, which I’m sure you all so desperately want to hear. And you better appreciate it to. This is taking away valuable time I could be spending on Pokémon Y, raising an Azumail of ludicrous brokenness. So let’s dive in shall we.

The Basics:
Game Type: SNES era, JRPG with Zelda and Metriodvainia elements.
Length: 5-6 hour Demo
Difficulty: Easy
Initial Response: This is one of the most cliché things you’ll ever play, but it’s so gorgeous you won’t care.


Story:
As with every RPG that seems to have been made since Chrono Trigger, you awaken from your bed to find yourself in the shoes of Ren. The most atypical, sword wielding, teenage JRPG hero since Ryu from Breath of Fire (all of them). Ren naturally lives, in there surprisingly well furnish cave, with his single mother after his farther disappeared. There must be some sort of law in these games that decrees that when the oldest child reaches 10 or something one of the parents must abandon their family and disappear into the aether to appease the RPG gods, or else their children forever doomed to become unimportant NPC’s.

Ren also has a younger sister, Leena, who’s gone to the nearby woods. And while their mother doesn’t seem worried, Ren is slightly concerned about his beloved sister wondering alone in the woods inhabited by wildlife that’s only slightly less deadly than 90% of any single thing living in Australia. So he goes to retriever her.

And why is she in those woods? Why to talk to her imaginary friend Fenrion… who turns out to be not so imaginary, and is in fact a massive spirit of nature. Yes as she has recently discovered, Leens is a Spiriter. Some sort of mystical, priestess/summoner person that, with the aid of amulet, allows her to talk to various elemental spirits and manipulate their energy.

This, of course, makes her a prime target the Generic Bad Guy Army, led by Shallow, Scantily-clad, Evil Woman who just happen to be in the area looking for Spiriters so they can kidnap them and take their amulets. Why? Because they work for the Empire and as everyone knows Empires are intently evil and are always concocting planes to destroy the world. You know just like that one time the British Empire kidnapped all those orphans so that Queen Victoria could build a doomsday weapon to destroy France. Remember that?

Anyway, despite besting their leader, and having a giant, glowing green, rabbit/wolf thing nearby, Ren still manages to be knocked unconscious as Leena and her amulet are taken away. You don’t need to a literacy major to tell that Ren’s not going to take this crap lying down and resolves himself to get his sister back, no matter what. Which he completely forgets about immediately upon meeting Serene. A mysterious young woman who, get this, also happens to have a mysterious mystical power. Gasp! But Ren eventually realizes that kidnapped family members are more impotent than trying to make out with some blond. And so Ren, and the girl he met no more than 5 minutes ago, set off to rescue Leena.

Now if all that sounds familiar to you congratulations, you’ve played any RPG made in the last 20 years. Now that’s not to say the story of Lakria Legends is uninteresting, or even bad. It’s just… well it’s been done.

It’s the standard set up; Boy lives simple life, bag guys show and bring turmoil to boys friends and/or family, boy sets out to seek revenge. I feel like I’m reading freaking Eragon, or watching Star Wars. There’s even an Obi-Wan like figure in the form of Shiro, a mysterious elder gentlemen who lives in the astral plane.

The characters are all cardboard cut-outs from the paint-by-numbers edition of fantasy protagonists. Ren is simply JRPG hero #26. And it really does not help when he latter finds out that Ren is the Avatar with the power to master all six elements and bring balance back to the force… Er I mean the Guardian, the one chose by fate to collect all six elemental essences and bring balance back to the force.

Serene is the white magician girl, obvious love interest with a dark and troubled past, and nothing else really. Even the third party member you get, Leon, is just Zelos from Tales of Symphonia with a haircut and dye job.

I know this is sounding harsh, but I’d like to emphasize that none of those things, all standards all the clichés, none of them makes the story bad. In fact the story in Lakria Legends is told well and the world itself is interesting, with lots of background information on the setting tucked away here and there.
The story and characters aren’t bad… just bland. Whether or not you enjoy the story of Lakria Legends is really going to be determined by how much generic you can handle in your diet.


Aesthetics:
There is one thing you can’t deny about Lakria Legends, it’s pretty. Very, very pretty.

Most of the resources are taken from commercial games with a few bits from the RTP. The graphics are the high grade SNES stuff you see in a lot of 2003 games. I’m not sure were there from, but I always seem to think they may come from the early Star Ocean and Tales Of games.

The monster sprites are mostly from Final Fantasy games, the remakes for I and II predominantly. Battle backgrounds and animations are good, with a lot of the animations used on the map very effectively. It does all comes together really nicely, the only thing that massively stands out are the Tales battle sprites for the main characters, who are not fooling anyone on who they’re supposed to be.

KoopaKush also likes to use lots of pictures, which he dose use to great effect to show off bosses and give an extra oomph to some maps, as well lots of small little touches like the sounds of footsteps when moving over wooden planks and bridges, and how it rains seemingly at random times and lots of birds and small animals in the wilderness areas. It all of course makes everything look super, sexy, awesome.

The music is from other games too, if it’s not from the RTP. Mostly stuff from Xenogears, Star Ocean 2, The Last Remnant and… Chrono Trigger. No there’s nothing wrong with using soundtrack from other games in your project, we all do it. But, there are some soundtracks (like most of the Final Fantasies) that a developer should probably avoid using if they can. Choro Trigger is one of them. Now I don’t mind so much personally, but there are those who do, and I can see why.

That out of the way the Lakria Legends soundtrack is good. The selected tracks are all appropriate for what’s happening and the sound flows together nicely. Nothing seems out of place or inappropriate. And the whole “This is from Chrono Trigger’ is a giant nit-pick more than anything. The nit in question being picked is the size of a baseball and spits acid, but it’s a nit none the less.

That leaves the mapping which of course is fantastic. The layout to everything is well done, the areas feel large while still being compact. The dungeon design is excellent, being short, but with plenty of things to do in them and secrets to find. And the temples give off a real Legend of Zelda vibe, but in a good way.

All the maps have lots of details in them. Simply put there’s a lot going on in these maps… In fact there might be a little too much. These maps hit you with a lot of visuals all at once, and I’m not going to lie, it can kind of get distracting. Especially in the forest areas where you have dozens of small animals and birds moving around. Although I never found it so distracting that it pulled me out of the game.

I do have to two problems with the mapping though (other than it being better than mine). One: It can be hard do determine the exits and entrances for the outdoor areas. There a lots of open spaces that only prevent you progress because that’s where the screen ends. So even though it totally looks like that three space wide patch of grass at the edge of the map should go somewhere, it doesn’t. Oh except that one or two times when it actually dose because it’s a secret area.

And while these usually is something to indicate which areas do lead to the next map, usually a pathway or dirt road, to travel to the next map you have to walk exactly on the space marked by the path or road.

Two: with so much stuff everywhere it can be hard to tell what’s important and what’s not. Oh hay those rocks are shinny – oh no wait, there just decoration. There’s a sparkle coming off a book don’t know why that is – of wait, it’s a collectable item. A gleam in the water? Is it something important or part of the scenery? The only way you’re going to know is if you walk up and check it. And that’s just for starters.

Where this starts to get really annoying is when the thing you’re supposed to interact with uses the exact same graphics as a random piece of scenery seen earlier in the game. Can that pile of rubble be destroyed? I don’t know because it looks exactly like that non-destroyable rubble in that other cave.

The worst instance I fond of this is in the Forest Dungeon. There’s a room that in classic Legend of Zelda tradition requires you to kill all the monsters within to reveal a chest with a key you desperately need to complete the level. Sounds simple, except that the monsters are disguised as stumps. Stumps that look exactly like every other stump you’ve seen up till now, and in fact in the same area, with nothing to differentiate them. There’s absolutely nothing to indicate these stumps are important, and the way these maps are made, with thousands of inconsequential things everywhere, why should you think they are! The only way you’re going to know is to run into them accidentally to trigger the encounter… and even then you might not realize that’s what caused it because there are also random encounters in the room!


Gameplay:
Let’s start with the battles because that will take no time to cover. Simply put battles in Lakria Legends are easy. Basic enemy tactic consist of, Hit, Hit for slightly more damage, or heal while they sit there and sock up damage. And even if the monster has some sort of status inflicting move, it almost never works on you. Even though KoopaKush says there are multiple ways to win a fight without spamming your most powerful attacks, that is what you’ll end up doing anyway. Because it’s the fastest most effective way of dealing with anything. The good old “Crystal Ice + physical attack” onto one target, will kill pretty much anything. It’s either that of spam the attack command because there’s a chance of randomly performing a double or triple hit, although it’s unreliable. Hell it wasn’t until after the second boss I realized Guarding restored MP because I never used it (nor was it explained to me)… Not that it would have made a huge difference as it only restores about 2 points a pop.

The Boss are better, but only just. Occasionally they might do something where, if you attack them they get enraged and there attack power goes up, or there defense falls due to their arrogance. But most of the time you’ll just be, you guessed it, spamming your most powerful attacks. And you will have to do this because the bosses all fall under the “More HP than God” sub-category of bosses.

Thinking about it, it might be good all stranded fights are easy, since there Random Encounters that can show up with alarming frequency. Which gets really annoying with all the backtracking the game throws at you. But you can run away from everything easily so it’s not that big a deal. There are some set encounters outside of bosses, but there mostly for the aforementioned “kill everything in the room, reveal a chest” puzzle.

Speaking of puzzles Lakria Legends has its fair share. The temple levels are basically one giant puzzle and there is one dungeon which is nothing but a series of puzzles with no monsters, which is a nice change of pace. Said puzzles are simple though, usually along the lines of “Find and activate all of X” “Find the hidden switch” “Hit all the switches in a time limit” and such. But in this game, it works and I’d rather have simple puzzles than no puzzles.

Not that makes the puzzles easy. They are, but it might take you a while to find that out. Most of them subscribe to the “click on everything, see what happens” school of puzzle solving, and you really get any hints, subtle or otherwise, on how to solve them. And even when you do the obvious hints still leave questions and the subtle hints you can’t tell are there because they blend into the background with the dozens of other objects on the screen.

But what about the gameplay features I do like? Well you can jump small gaps or up and down ledges by pressing the action key, which is a chance to show of some interesting level design. You can also run by holding down Shift, although I don’t know why running isn’t the default speed to begin with.

There are also plenty of side quests to do, questgivers conveniently having a pink ! icon above their heads so you don’t miss anything. Although most of these missions are small fetch quests, they do give you EXP as well as an item so there’s really no reason not to do them.

And then we have the Side Party members. In theory it sounds awesome, special characters you come across join you on your adventures and lend you there special talents. In actuality though they just manifest themselves as items that you can use in specific spots to find hidden areas. The characters only getting a few lines of establishing dialog when you first meet them, and being complete non-entities to the main plot. Still an intriguing idea though.

There are even achievements to unlock that you can view at any time with the 1 key. It’s mostly pointless - all the achievements really do is give you an EXP boost – but hay, who doesn’t like collecting trophies?


Final Verdict:
Ever since games were able to produce sprites that were more than a few square on top of each other, there has been a question. Can good graphics trump story and gameplay? Lakria Legends certainly seems to think so.

Despite my gripes about the easy combat and there being perhaps too much stuff Lakria Legends is a good game. You can tell a lot of effort has been put into it. I did play the demo to the end, and I did find the game somewhat interesting and enjoyable. But will find the game enjoyable? Well that really will depend on whether you don’t mind playing a simple, generic story. Or if you think the graphics make up for it.

If you do, you’ll probably like Lakria Legends, and find it well made enjoyable experience. And if you don’t you probably won’t, it’s as simple as that. You’ll find the whole thing tedious and cliché and no amount of pretty colours is going to help that.

Posts

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Hey thanks for your time on this review, much appreciated! Glad to see that there were things you liked and things you didn't, makes me see what I could probably focus on.

I suppose the demo really doesn't do the game much justice, because the next two areas and dungeons from there introduce a lot new aspects to the game regarding the story, mechanics, and several other little features. I'm not sure if I should introduce a new patch to those areas or something, but who knows I might.

Some things mind you, I intended to be a little generic, not the story, but a few little things here and there. Mainly because I felt like this game should feel and sort of relate to a SNES we all know and love, but feel different, funny I know lol :p Anyways, glad to see how your outtake on this game was, and hopefully you'll give the full game a go when it's released :)

By the way, my team on Pokemon X is pretty good ;p
masterofmayhem
I can defiantly see where you’re coming from
3105
You're welcome. You can't really fault the being of any game for being cliche. It's only by establishing those cliches that you can eventually subvert them later on. And even then a cliche story can still be good if it's told well. So I wouldn't worry to much about it.
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