Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy is, to put it bluntly, something of a hot mess. Made by the fighting game mavens over at Arc System Works, it’s their first foray into the world of modern Action-RPGs. Unfortunately though rather than being full of the insane charm that personifies their other games like Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, Fantasy Hero is an utterly generic and poorly ported slog that is bereft of proper content. While some small gems of good gameplay design can be found here, they’re hidden within a blackened morass of repeated assets, boring characters, and dull uninteresting combat. While I certainly appreciate Arc branching out into other types of games, this attempt feels somewhat lazy and sadly does not satisfy.
Fantasy Hero is flawed both within and without, so why don’t we start with some of the outlying issues and then work our way into the problems at its core. There are two surface issues in particular that really stick out to me: the incredibly lazy port work and the somewhat shady use of DLC. To begin with the quality of the port, the integration of the translated text is slap-dash at best. There’s not enough spacing between words, the font looks fuzzy, and its riddled with errors and odd language that show how quickly banged out and barely edited it was. Probably the laziest thing though is the fact that they didn’t even bother to change around the button configuration for western audiences; instead they opted to keep the O to confirm/X to cancel set up that is common in most Japanese developed games. Normally when these sorts of titles get ported over that is reversed so as to feel more comfortable for western gamers, whereas here they didn’t even bother to put in a button config menu to let you change it yourself; it’s a minor thing I’ll admit, but it’s something that’s deeply culturally ingrained into the way we play games. As for the DLC, my issue is that they’re selling additional save slots, which seems kind of sleazy. The game natively only comes with one, and if you want to make a new character then you’ll need to delete your old one. For an Action-RPG focused on multiple characters, that seems like a huge oversight and it means that experimenting with the different classes is more or less off the table unless you throw down some extra cash.
Speaking of the characters, why we don’t move onto the bland and utterly forgettable story. The premise here is that once upon a time the world was peaceful, and then it wasn’t, thanks to an ill-explained invasion of monsters called “Decoders“; humanity at this point is then forced to hide out in caves and weather the storm. One such settlement luckily manages to happen upon some magic weapons called “Hero Artes” which it then divvies up to its four resident hero characters so they can go fight the Decoders and hopefully take back the world. Not exactly the most stirring of narratives, and the characters that reside within it don’t breed much excitement either. They’re all your standard anime archetypes, slotted into familiar roles, and thrust upon the stage to dance the same merry jig we’ve seen them do plenty of times before. You have the hero-in-training, who is full of naivety and ill-founded confidence; the older mentor figure, who is basically just a grown up version of the hero-in-training; the petite tsundere girl, who has a tragic back story and assumedly reams of disturbing fan-fiction written about her; and the shady lone wolf, who trusts no one and seems untrustworthy but is truly good deep down, also in this case he’s a crow-man. None of them grow in any significant way throughout the relatively short length of their tale, nor do any particularly interesting character traits or revelations come up; every single thing that happens in this game could be picked out of a hat filled with anime tropes. Not a whit of originality can be found in the setting, writing, or dialogue of Fantasy Hero, and while good gameplay could make up for that, such is not the case here.
As I said earlier, this is an Action-RPG; you’ll hack, you’ll slash, and you’ll pick up unending piles of money and loot. As with most games in this genre, all those resources you’re picking up will go towards improving your equipment, though it’s made both more and less interesting here than it is in other games. On the one hand, your equipment is limited to only your weapon, but on the other hand development of that weapon is actually pretty flexible. You’re able to expend items to improve your weapon’s base attack, add on various buffs, and even upgrade it into new forms. It reminds me slightly of the way Dark Cloud handled its weapon system, though not quite as robust. As for the actual combat, it’s all pretty standard stuff. You’ve got light and heavy attacks, a myriad of special abilities, and a decent leveling system to play around with that grants you points to dump into stats and abilities. There is some degree of dodging and weaving that you can do in combat, as well as some basic combos you can string together, but while that stuff actually feels pretty okay, it never really coalesces into anything more meaningful than your standard hacking and slashing. The four different playable characters at least all play pretty differently from one another, each focusing on a different style of attack, but they’re clearly designed to support one another in multiplayer. Normally this would be a good thing, but sadly the game lacks any online capabilities, offering only ad-hoc multiplayer instead. The chances of you finding someone out there in the wild with both a VITA and this game are slim at best, so single player is most likely going to be the way you end up spending the majority of your time. Just you and Fantasy Hero’s dull repetitive environments and enemies until you manage to finish the game, which lasts for a total of nine story missions and fourteen side missions. Personally I put the game down out of tortuous boredom after about five hours, but the level I left off on was called “The Final Mission: Part One” and I had completed all of the side quests offered to me up to that point, so I imagine I didn’t have much farther to go.
As you might guess from that second to last sentence, the presentation here is no winner either and ‘generic and threadbare’ is probably the best way to describe it. The enemy hordes are lousy with palette swaps, there are only about four environments which are used repeatedly throughout the entire game, and even the weapons are limited to only a sparse few models. Not that even those limited assets look interesting anyways, as much like the characters, everything is very archetypal. You’ll wander through brown empty crypts and nondescript forests fighting slimes and rock-men no different from the ones you’ve fought in countless other RPGs. The character design at least has some degree of that trademark Arc System Works overdone charm, but the fact that everything has been rendered in thick lined PSP game looking polygons rather than Arc’s usual gorgeous sprite work causes those designs to lose a little of their lustre. As for the sound design: it’s packed with annoyingly loud sound effects, specifically the enemy cries; painfully high-pitched VO, entirely in Japanese of course; and some good old-fashioned anime butt rock, which despite not being great here is always at least somewhat enjoyable.
There’s not really any situation where I could recommend Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy. The gameplay is serviceable but the poor quality of the overall translation mixed with the generically unpleasant presentation and do-nothing story really serve to the kneecap the entire experience. Even at only $15 (not including the save slot DLC packs, yes packs, as in plural) there’s just not enough quality content here and there are so many niggling issues on top of the game’s innate mediocrity that what little enjoyment could be had is quickly stripped away. As such I am giving Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy a 1.5 out of 5 stars.