Legend of Heroes III: Song of the Ocean Review

RPGs come in all forms and flavors — from high action adventures to the more traditional ones which rely heavily on plot development, and of course, everything in between. Legend of Heroes III: Song of the Ocean for the PSP is classified in the old-school traditional category, and is the third in the trilogy of the LoH series. Fortunately for newcomers to the franchise, the third title is a stand alone and will not require any previous knowledge of the Legend of Heroes universe. So how does an old-school style RPG stand up against the newer crop of titles in today’s RPG gaming arena? We’ll take a journey into a land where singing troubadours and musicians reign supreme to see if Legend of Heroes: Song of the Ocean hits the right notes, or needs more rehearsal time.

The game takes place in the world named Weltluna where seven nations were once occupied by an advanced civilization long ago in the past, which left behind only clues and remnants as to their former power and greatness. Among their established powers was the ability to perform great magic through the use of musical compositions and tunes. One such composition — comprised of 24 melodies — encompassed unfathomable power.

They disappeared, and their song vanished for ages until a musician named Leone discovered the lost verses. He gauged the music to be too dangerous for anyone to use and separated all 24 melodies onto stones, hidden throughout the world. A lost book and map, which defines where the stones are all located, is the focus of the plot.

For a roleplaying game, LoH3 has an amazing amount of dialogue; for some it may be almost too much. But this perspective relies on whether or not you’re opposed to lots of reading and plot development rather than fast and intense action in your RPGs. Think of LoH3 as a nice, long novel rather than a fast game. If you make this distinction early on, you’ll enjoy the experience a lot more.

The game remains on a steady pace technologically and plot-wise as you get to know the characters, understand the game mechanics, and get more involved with the unveiling of the storyline. But be forewarned: this will take a huge commitment of your time as the plot unfolds through many layers, and will not be hurried along. If you are in a rush to play through an RPG in the fastest possible time, Legend of Heroes III is definitely not the game you want.

As far as gameplay is concerned, the old-school aspects of this title are evident with its relatively simple menu navigation, the leveling up of characters though experience points and fighting encounters, casting of magic spells, and of course, the battle system. In LoH3, you can have a maximum of six characters in your party, with four in active mode at any particular time to do battle and interact with the environment. One nice feature about character selection is that even the characters that aren’t participating in the battles (those who are basically idle) also get credit for experience points earned at the end of skirmishes.

All the members in your party getting credit for experience points for battles in the game whether they are active or not takes a great deal of drudgery out of advancing your characters — a small, but very significant element that all RPGers will appreciate. (I wish other RPG developers would take this feature into account. It saves a great amount of time and makes it a no-brainer in level up activities.)

Another interesting element of the game allows you to warp to other locations in order to fight boss monsters. The areas can be found throughout Weltluna in the form of tuning forks. Once these devices are activated, you enter a location where you can select certain battles you wish to fight in. This serves as a good way to acquire some quick experience points to level up your characters.

The battle system allows you to engage your team in any one of several standard fighting actions — attack, wait, use item, use magic, use skill, use finishing move or run. How close you are to your opponents determines the effectiveness of your attacks. If enemies are outside of the sphere of attack, your team members will advance forward and stand still until the next command. So you have to gauge where your teammates are positioned in addition to keeping track of their vital statistics such as HP and MP.

A gauge fills up as more battles are fought, and once you accumulate enough power you can unleash a powerful attack that can render an enormous amount of damage. Once the finishing move is used, the gauge empties and you have to rebuild energy in order to use the finishing move again. Each member of your party has specific finishing moves and special skills which are used during battle. Special skills can involve stealing items from enemies, enhancing the defensive or offensive powers of a particular member, healing others or a number of other special skills.

The story of the game unfolds in "overtures," and each overture is the equivalent to a chapter in the game. Some of the mini-missions that you are required to participate in don’t necessarily move the story along as much, as they’re more of a way to see how the characters interact and relate with each other. Along with the main storyline of trying to reclaim all of the lost stones in the "Lost Melody," there are literally hundreds of side missions and objectives to complete. There’s also all sorts of caves, dungeons and terrain to cover, and you’ll swear that your feet are aching after a long session with this game.

The main characters — Forte, Una, McBain and Jan (the dog) — offer lots of cute and interesting dialogue throughout their travels, and this makes them very likable. Later in the game, other characters are added. Each member of your party has specific moves, powers and weapons, and you choose which four members out of the six available are active in your party. This will depend on the storyline and circumstances of the gameplay.

If walking is your passion, you’ll find a load of walking in LoH3. Everything you have to do, with the exception of traveling on ships, will have you walking untold hundreds, if not thousands of virtual miles on foot. You’ll often find yourself going back and forth in villages and cities in order to accomplish tasks and goals, and this may take its toll on individuals who don’t like this type of story advancement. It is incremental in nature, and you’ll either love it or hate it.

This doesn’t mean that the story is boring, but it can really wear you down if you’re not used to this sort of RPG. The characters are all amiable and you may find that what drives you on to the next levels in gameplay is trying to find out more about how the characters relate to each other. I found this part of the game pretty charming and it took away some of the downsides related to the slow unfolding of the script. In one game session, I didn’t even realize that I had played until 2AM because I was so involved with finding out more about the plot and characters. LoH3 can easily cause time to fly by if you’re not paying attention to the clock.

The game’s subtitle is Song of the Ocean, and the whole game is centered upon a culture that is focused on music and performance. If you are a musician or have a great deal of interest in music, you’ll appreciate the immense amount of musical scores that were written for this game. Each and every aspect of LoH3 is surrounded by catchy tunes, good orchestrations, a dosage of synthesizer pieces and melodies that accompany practically every scene in the game. Some of the music is reminiscent of the old Final Fantasy games and is very well done.

Graphics for LoH3 are in classic 2D and are colorful and pleasant to the eye. The characters are all of the "bobble head" variety and have brightly colored hair ranging the entire span of the rainbow, and then some. There are some graphical problems such as black pixels and black horizontal or vertical lines coming into some of the scenes, but nothing so bad as to take away from the experience of playing. There are some nice flare effects throughout the game, and it adds a nice touch to all the background art.

Legend of Heroes 3: Song of the Ocean is an old-school styled game that puts together all the traditional elements of RPG gameplay in one convenient package. While there are no true innovations in the game, it can still please RPG fans that have either never played this linear type of roleplaying game, or those who want to try and tackle a long (50+ hrs) RPG which offers a steady plot, likable characters and fairly good gameplay.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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