"Oh HELL no! Don't let the mist get me! "
How can you take a game seriously when the evil of the land is... mist? Legend of Legaia is a generic RPG with prettied up graphics and gimmicky fight scenes. There's just something uninspired about this game. Compare Wild Arms to Final Fantasy 7, and you'll understand what Legaia is all about.
The story isn't very well paced, pushing craploads of historical information at you in the very beginning. While you're trying to take in all that, you're given a character that you never get to care much about, and no inspiration to make you want to find out what will happen to him. There's just no depth. To begin the game, a girl's dad dies and she starts crying, and (sadistic as it might sound) it's executed almost comically. The deepest character is Noa, the heroine. That doesn't really say much because Noa is basically the idiot of your party, flapping her arms, saying whatever dumb thing comes to her mind. Its' supposed to be cute, but eventually gets to be very annoying.
Basically, the story takes you from Genesis tree to Genesis tree, raising them so that the evil mist will be driven away from the land. There are magical beasts in the land that used to be good, but now are bad, just because of this oh-so-evil mist. But, you have the power of one of these beasts which has not been corrupted, and you must use it to vanquish all mist from the land. Yes, this really is the plot.
The graphics are above average, but not anything to write home about. The mist, that clever tricky mist, has also been used as a device during battles to fill up the edges. That probably was just shortcut to make the backgrounds less work. The music is from the vault of generic MIDI, probably the same vault of mediocricy where most of this game was dug up.
When in battle, the characters look stylistically cool, but throughout the rest of the world, they look blocky and downright silly. In many Animes (Japanese animation), when a character is in a funny or embarrassing situation, he reverts to a shorter, more comical style called "super deformed" or SD. The SD style throughout most of Final Fantasy 7 was accepted as a limitation of the Playstation. After Parasite Eve (which used the Resident Evil style of larger characters), those short stubby characters seem behind the times. To still make use of them gives the game a dated feel.
The way the big wigs at Sony are trying to sell you on this game is with a combo system, or as they put it, a "Tactical Arts System." Before you fight, you give the character a series of directional commands, like the much better game Xenogears. But really, it all comes down to this: A RPG can't be built around a battle system. It has to be built around a story... and a story has to be built around its characters. At first, the combo system seems really original, allowing you to try and figure out combinations that will give you heightened attacks. But once you know what those special attacks are, the game is reduced to forcing you to push four buttons rather than just one to execute a command. Frankly, it's annoying as hell having to keep pushing those buttons.
Without the time based attack system of the FF games, there is no sense of urgency to the battles. Take all day to choose that combo -- it doesn't matter! It's just a dressed up common selection system that tries to pass itself off as the next big thing. In the upcoming Final Fantasy 8, Zell's desperation attack has you actively enter combinations against a time limit to increase the strength of your attack. Though this is only a minor feature of FF8, the design of actively entering in attacks could have made Legaia much more interesting and fun.
The bar is continually being raised in game design, and bringing out last year's game today won't sell. If you're dying for a RPG, I suggest you keep waiting until fall, unless you have that time to burn and you're into substandard story lines. Legaia is simply way, way too average to be revolutionary. I'll stick to burning my time playing FF8 and wishing I knew how to read more Japanese.