Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: ARC System Works
Developer: ARC System Works
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Ad Hoc

I waited a long time to play Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy (or, if you want to go by the properly stylized title, Fantasy Hero ~unsigned legacy~). It came out in part of the world back in early December, but didn’t make it to Canada (which is where I live) until a few months later. Consequently, even if the reviews were pretty middling, the simple fact it was impossible to play made gave it a certain allure.

Turns out that the game being sorta-forbidden was the best part of it. It’s not so much that Fantasy Hero is bad, necessarily…actually, wait: yes it is. It’s like a cross between Diablo and Monster Hunter, only if neither of those games were particularly good at what they did.

Fantasy Hero 3

Take the Monster Hunter half of the equation. I’m not saying that MH is perfect, by any means; as far as I’m concerned, on the Vita it’s been surpassed by Toukiden and Soul Sacrifice. But it did set a certain standard for combat in monster-hunting games, and it’s a standard that Fantasy Hero just doesn’t meet. The combat here is all herky-jerky and disjointed; you’re expected to attack foes by mashing combos together (your standard square-triangle, so nothing out of the ordinary), except once you start one there’s no way out of it, so you just keep flailing away, even if your target has moved.

Not that making contact is that much better for you, of course. Every time you hit a monster, you pause for a brief moment before moving on to the one standing next to it. While that’s undoubtedly realistic — at least to the extent such a thing can be realistic — it’s still pretty annoying, particularly since it means the monsters outside of your reach get those extra moments to shoot things at you.

Fantasy Hero 1

That, in turn, sucks because the monsters are all hyper-aggressive, even on the easiest challenges. Even if you’ve moved from one area to the next, they still chase after you — and needless to say, if you’re still in their section of the map, they can be relentless in their attacks. Those extra moments during which they can attack may not sound like much, but they usually end up being the difference between passing a level and dying.

And believe me, death in Fantasy Hero is a heckuva lot more frustrating than it is in your typical game. Here, you see, there are no checkpoints; no matter where you’ve died in a level, you don’t just get sent back to the beginning, you get booted back to the main map, where you have to re-select your mission on the town bulletin board and then make your way back to the mission entrance. Doing that once may not sound too bad, but do it time after time after time — which you will have to do, since this game gets punishingly difficult very, very quickly — and you’ll quickly come to loathe it.

Come to think of it, there’s a lot you have to do time after time after time in Fantasy Hero. The missions may try and sound different — this one’s an escort mission! This one you’re going back and finding something that the person you escorted dropped! This one you have to, uh, find something else! — but in the end, they all play almost exactly the same: just unending hacking and slashing. And I do mean unending — this game doesn’t allow you to pause, which means you’d better become adept at deploying medecines on the fly, or else you die from being mauled by that monster you didn’t kill back at the first section of the map. (I mean, technically you can press start and be taken to a menu, but nothing around you stops moving, which means you’re defenseless until you back out of the menu.)

Fantasy Hero 2

Which is why the game fails on living up to the Diablo half of its influences, too. I understand that a big part of the appeal of that game (and games like it) is the grinding, fighting your way through dungeon after dungeon to pick up loot. But at least there you have a sense of improvement, of there being a reason for all the grinding. Here…well, there’s just not.

It would help, I’m sure, if there was a story. And truthfully, there may well be one. But the text is so little, the cutscenes so long, and the translations so idiosyncratic, it’s really hard to tell what that story might be. It may all make sense if you can understand Japanese (since this game features Japanese speech with teensy English subtitles), but as it is, it’s all pretty nonsensical.

So let’s add it up: a story that’s virtually impossible to follow, grind-heavy gameplay that consistently leads nowhere, and frustrating combat. I’m not saying that it would’ve been better off in Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy never got localized — more games are always welcome, no matter how bad they may be — but at the same time, I’m not not saying that either.

Grade: C-