Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion is the second game in the Gagharv Trilogy, a trio of JRPGs originally released for PC in Japan. Although it is the second game in the series, it was the first to be brought to North America, after being ported to the PSP in 2005. Legend of Heroes was developed by Falcom, the company most famous for creating the Ys series, and published on the PSP by Bandai.
The story revolves around our hero, Avin, who goes on a quest to find his long-lost sister Eimelle. Eight years have passed since the siblings were torn asunder. Joined by his best friend Mile, Avin sets off to scour the world for his dear sister, and while doing so he encounters many new people and places along the way. This is a relatively tried-and-true RPG formula and Legend of Heroes doesn’t stray much from the path in that regard. What it manages to do well however, is keep you interested in the story by changing your party up frequently. As the story progresses, party members come and go, often to make way for new characters. The characters don’t feel static though. They all have personalities and back stories that really make you care when they leave, as though you are personally losing a friend.
The game also has some funny moments, as RPGs often do. A lot of the charm of this game is in the translation. Some of the spelling errors, or random jumbles of words due to poor translation are humorous in themselves, a throwback to RPGs of the 80s and 90s. Most of the time though, the translation is well done and well-understood.
The combat system in Legend of Heroes is nothing new. Like in the Tales series, or the more recent Dragon Quest games, enemies are seen in the world instead of being encountered randomly, allowing you to fight or avoid them as you please. Once an enemy is encountered, your characters are placed on the field of battle, and you have the standard options; attack, escape, etc. Characters can only move a certain distance per turn, though this rarely makes a difference in combat. In addition to your basic attack, characters can learn skills and spells. All characters start with a skill or two, and may learn more throughout the story. In addition, most but not all characters have spells. Skills cost no SP while spells do, though for the most part skills aren’t very helpful. Spells also have a limited range, and some have an AoE effect around the targeted enemy. One of the new features of the combat system is a wait button, which allows you to position yourself elsewhere on the field of battle. This allows you to avoid certain enemies, or get within range to use one of your spells. Another familiar addition to the combat system is the “Deadly” skill meter which, similar to limit breaks in Final Fantasy, allow you to use a powerful ability when a certain meter fills up. All characters have one, but there is not a lot of variety. They often wind up being more dull than deadly. Thankfully just fighting enemies as you progress through the story is enough to beat the game, so grinding is never required.
Another new thing that Legend of Heroes does is introduce a pet system. A pet follows you through the whole game and if you hit Circle it brings up the pet menu, which lets you feed, praise, or scold the pet. If you keep the pet happy, it will find you items as you go through the game, and in battle it will sometimes boost your defense. If it is angry, it will sometimes drop a large rock on all enemies in battle. Those are the only variations, sadly. This pet system could have been fleshed out a lot more, possibly if they had included more incentive to care about your pet. You can ignore your pet almost entirely, and whether it is happy or angry makes no tangible difference to the game or the way it played.
The game is entertaining enough to make you want to finish the main story. It looks good, plays well, and the characters are entertaining. Legend of Heroes is relatively lengthy, maybe 30 or 40 hours. (The save file doesn’t show time played, a sorely missed feature.) If you are a fan of turn-based RPGs pick this one up, especially as it’s very cheap these days. If you aren’t a fan of RPGs, this isn’t a bad place to start. The gameplay is easy to pick up, and quickly mastered. All in all, Legend of Heroes is not an especially original game, but it is definitely worth playing if you’re looking for fun JRPG experience.