From a steady stream of Shin Megami Tensei titles to an ever-growing assortment of Etrian Odyssey outings, it's safe to say that Atlus has shown the 3DS a massive amount of JRPG love over the past few years. The company's lineup at E3 last month continued that happy trend, but what was especially exciting was that both of the big RPGs on offer - Stella Glow and The Legend of Legacy - were new IPs rather than entries in existing series. We took a look at both of these upcoming adventures and came away very impressed - between musical magic, storybook aesthetics and classic comfort gaming, RPG fans have a lot to look forward to from Atlus this year.
Only recently released in Japan, and only slightly less recently announced for localization, Stella Glow is an SRPG swan song for Luminous Arc developer Imageepoch. It's a swan song in more ways than one, in fact - the story and gameplay are both built around the theme of music as a central conceit.
The main character Alto, for instance, has his life changed forever when he hears a melody lilting in from the forest; since music hasn't been heard in his hometown for thousands of years, he heads out to investigate, and what he finds sets off a chain of events that starts him on a quest to save the world. To do that, Alto and his allies will take advantage of 'Song Magic', the main form of sorcery in Stella Glow, where characters derive their powers from different original vocal tracks. These songs are such an important part of the game that the original Japanese language recordings will be left intact, even while the dialogue voiceovers are recast in English. The two songs we heard were wonderful - as well as powerful! - and the musical metaphors that run through both story and gameplay gave Stella Glow a fun feel that instantly drew us in.
After Alto's adventure got started we were able to check out some of the combat, and the SRPG battles reminded us quite a bit of Fire Emblem: Awakening - right down to the red and blue overlay. Grid-based movement and attacking felt comfortably familiar, and skirmishes played out similarly to Nintendo's flagship strategy series as well, with the camera swooping in low to catch conflicts between units in a beautiful 3D view. We saw glimpses of interesting strategy too, even very early on, with positioning playing a big role; enemies can't counter if you attack from behind, for instance, and will deal less damage with counter attacks if you face them from the sides as opposed to head-on.
We only got to spend a short time with Stella Glow, but what we saw had us eager to take up the baton and see the rest of the score. The bright, colourful art style and character designs - in both their chibi 3D models and crisp 2D portraits - were instantly appealing, and the music was lovely - the ethereal vocal tracks complemented the orchestral field and battle soundtrack (composed by Chrono Trigger's Yasunori Mitsuda) beautifully. We still have plenty to learn ahead of a Holiday release in North America, but Stella Glow is already looking like an SRPG worth singing about.
Legend of Legacy
Following our session with Stella Glow, we switched gears to take a look at Legend of Legacy, a brand new JRPG with a sizable cast of characters and an all-star cast of legendary developers, who count Chrono Trigger and the SaGa series among their many credits.
Legend of Legacy takes place on the island of Avalon, a recently rediscovered holy land with plenty of secrets to unearth. You'll form your party from a group of seven different adventurers - including a frog prince! - and each character has a different reason for exploring the island. In gameplay terms, that translates into traversing a joyously traditional overworld, engaging enemies in turn-based combat, and watching the story unfold through in-engine cutscenes.
As soon as we picked up the 3DS to play, Legend of Legacy reminded us instantly - and very favourably - of Bravely Default; not because it apes that game's style, but because it felt both fresh and familiar in a similar way. The chunky character models seemed to strike a similarly stylized midpoint between 90's and modern design, the pure, unadulterated fantasy setting gave us flashbacks to both Final Fantasy IX and the Flying Fairy, and Avalon's fields and forests recalled the glory days of 32-bit JRPG world maps just as well as Luxendarc. It was also absolutely gorgeous to look at, with a breathtaking pop-up book effect that sees scenery hoisted up piece by piece as you walk within range; it looked incredible with the 3D effect on, and easily stands alongside Bravely Default's dynamically zooming town views as one of the most stunning stereoscopic set-pieces we've witnessed on the 3DS.
After we'd wandered around for several minutes admiring the storybook style we jumped into some battles. In the grand EarthBound-inspired, user-friendly tradition, enemies were visible on the field and could be avoided or approached at will. Combat took the form of a relatively traditional turn-based system, with a distinct focus on formations; there were several different alignments to pick from in the demo, each with what felt like significant tactical consequences. We went with a 'Pegasus' formation for our first few fights, for instance, which saw our up-front central character buckled down and soaking up all incoming damage while our other two party members chanced sneak-attacks from the flanks. That strategy worked well, but when we tried to switch up our tactics without switching formations we suffered the consequences - making sure your orders fit your formation looks to be a big part of the battle system, and that added a satisfying layer of strategy even in our early encounters.
We loved what we played of Legend of Legacy, and happily we won't have to wait too much longer to explore the rest of Avalon - it's slated for a Fall release in North America. We're excited to see how the story unfolds, and how combat and exploration progress throughout the adventure, but we certainly have high hopes - from our brief time with the game, Legend of Legacy looks set to carry on the 3DS' classic JRPG kick with style.
Be sure to check out our other hands on features from E3:
- Digging Up Details on Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories
- Getting Into The Spirit With Yo-Kai Watch
- Plugging In To Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash
- Logging More Flight Time With Star Fox Zero
- Celebrating a Gaming Icon With Super Mario Maker
- Our Impressions of the Full [email protected] Line-Up
- Getting Into the Fold With Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam
- Linking Up in The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
- Holding Court with Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
- Our Maiden Flight In Star Fox Zero Prompts Mixed Emotions
- Kicking Off With Metroid Prime: Blast Ball