Key art for Legend of Legacy HD Remaster

Review: The Legend of Legacy HD Remastered (Nintendo Switch)

Classic in every way, good and bad.

9 mins read

Legend of Legacy is one of the many 3DS titles that deserved to be preserved for hardware that wasn’t dated to a single console. Thankfully, now it has been. This was always a lovely-looking and well-designed, classically-styled JRPG. Now it has not only been preserved across multiple platforms, but it has been given its best possible version, because now the aesthetic vision is giving a chance to really shine.

Related reading: Our review of the Nintendo 3DS original release.

I was almost shocked by just how good this game looks in HD, on much bigger and higher resolution screens than the 3DS allowed. From the hand-painted approach to backgrounds, to the adorable character models, and general use of colour, this game looks gorgeous on a big screen and the Switch’s OLED alike. Technically, it’s relatively simple, with a focus on art direction rather than realism or detail, but there’s a fine line between artfully minimalist and just plain simple, and Legend of Legacy firmly falls on the former. This is a gorgeous game that you would take for a native Switch title by a small Japanese team, if someone didn’t tell you otherwise.

As lovely as it looks, you do need to really, really like the nuances of turn-based JRPG combat to enjoy what Legend of Legacy offers. There’s very little in terms of explicit storytelling. After choosing your preferred character, you’re given a brief cut scene where they meet their two starting allies and, for almost entirely arbitrary reasons, they all decide to team up to explore the deadly wilds.

A screenshot from Legend of Legacy HD Remaster Review

From that point, the game very quickly settles into a rhythm: You’ll fight something, take ten steps, fight something, take ten steps, and then fight the next something. The combat isn’t randomised, per se – enemies pop up into the area and can be avoided, but since that’s about all there is to do, and you need to grind something hardcore to be able to tackle the scaling bosses, you’re going to fight everything you come across along the way anyway.

The game isn’t hardcore old-school about this, as your characters recover between battles, unless they get knocked out at some point, in which case there’s a permanent penalty until you have a chance to get back to town and rest. You can also escape battle and, as an added bonus, this teleports you right back to a map’s entrance so you can escape and recover easily. However, Legend of Legacy is clearly designed for the nostalgic, and is clearly not going to appeal to anyone that didn’t like the early Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games.

Indeed, perhaps the best way to think of Legend of Legacy’s combat system is as of a modernisation of Final Fantasy 2’s combat system (and then, later, the SaGa series, but Final Fantasy 2 is forever the pioneer here). Characters can be arranged into a front row and back row, allowing your tough tank-like characters to play the role of a meatshield, while the ones at the back play sniper and magic user. As they use weapons and abilities they improve their levels in those abilities. As they take damage and use physical actions their maximum HP and strength increase, respectively. However, unlike in Final Fantasy 2, I was less certain about just how much I needed to do an activity to level it up. For example, there were times it felt like ages between health increases for a character, and then suddenly they’ll “level up” in back-to-back battles. Ultimately it’s not something that hampers progress – as long as you simply fight everything you’ll progress enough to keep pace. But it’s difficult to be tactical about character levelling when there isn’t much transparency into the process, and that is disappointing.

A screenshot from Legend of Legacy HD Remaster

In combat itself there is good variety, with plenty of equipment and loot to find and tailor your characters with. Longer term you’ll also start to unlock other characters to mix into your party, though once you do find a party of three that you like, overall, then there’s little incentive to change combinations other than the novelty of it. By design, each individual character is customisable enough through the equipment system and the abilities that they gain from that, that there’s no particular challenge in the game that requires a specific combination to bypass.

There are two main goals in Legend of Legacy: Firstly, explore areas to find whatever the end goal is and defeat the boss monster that is protecting it. That’s how you’ll unlock additional areas to explore and progress the narrative, such as it is in the game. The second goal is to explore enough of each level of each area to complete it 100%. This naturally involves a lot of combat (again, the point of the game anyway), but as arduous as it is to get that last couple of per cent cleared at times, it’s important, because selling those maps back in town is the main way to get money. Enemies don’t drop much cash, but selling those 100% maps is a big payday.

Unfortunately, you can only sell each map once. Interestingly, that did actually make me more conservative with how I spent my money, knowing just how hard it would be to raise enough cash for the really great loot made me more circumspect about which bits of it I would buy. By no means do you have to be stingy, but I do like the way that the economy of Legend of Legacy is balanced just slightly to give the sense that funds are essentially unlimited.

Legend of Legacy HD Remaster screenshot

Eventually you do learn more about the island of Avalon at the centre of everything. It’s drip-fed via bits of lore, though it lacks the depth, intrigue and interest of the likes of Dark Souls and Elden Ring. You could say that it is unfair to compare this to those games, but if you’re going to gun for this storytelling style, then you’ve got to put some more effort into getting it right than the team has here. Giving context to the adventuring is possible with a thin narrative – look at how effectively Etrian Odyssey does it – but Legacy of Legacy’s greatest weakness is that it leaves you wanting more, and not in a good way (at all).

Played in short bursts, Legend of Legacy is a stunning-looking JRPG for the genre’s nostalgic. The clean, functional turn-based combat, combined with straightforward objectives and smooth flow through the adventure make this one best played in short bursts so the lack of narrative can’t drag on the all the other positives in the experience. Play it on those terms, however, and its charms will never fade.

Buy this game on Amazon (Using this link will support DDNet, as we earn a small commission from each sale)

Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

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