Game Review #373: Legend of the Tetrarchs (Nintendo Switch)
Updated: Jul 24, 2019
Reviewer: Allan J.
Developer: Exe Create Inc.
Category: RPG, Adventure, Simulation, Strategy
Release Date: 6.6.2019
Price (at time of review): $14.99
Buy Legend of the Tetrarchs from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
My Discovery of the RPG
Of all the genres, the JRPG is hands down my favorite. It all started when I was in 6th grade. Up until that point, I had been a Sega Genesis kid, but that year, I changed schools and made a new friend who had a Super Nintendo—and Chrono Trigger. I watched him playing that game for a while, and I fell in love with everything about it. I had never played an RPG before, but I was intrigued, to say the least.
That Christmas, I asked for a Super Nintendo, and since the Nintendo 64 had just been announced for launch, there were some good deals on the SNES that holiday season, and I got one! I got the bundle with Donkey Kong Country, and I also got Rock N Roll Racing and Mortal Kombat 3. These kept me busy for a while, but I still had my eye on Chrono Trigger, so when my buddy got his N64 on launch date, he hooked me up with his old copy for $20, since he had Goldeneye and Killer Instinct Gold to attend to.
I played that game so much. I remember obsessing over it. It was all I could think about all day at school until I could get home and play it again. I may have missed a couple of meals—and some sleep—here and there for a while too. Everything about that game just resonated with me, from the battle system to the character development, the beautiful pixel art to the epic and haunting soundtrack—it was perfect! I wanted to see what else was out there in the wonderful world that is the JRPG, so I hit up the local video rental store, where I bought a few more games, like Breath of Fire II, Illusion of Gaia, and Secret of Evermore. All great games—I had trouble warming up to Breath of Fire II though, because there were only four spaces to input the character names, and I refused to spell “Allan” incorrectly—but after playing the greatest RPG ever made as the first RPG I ever played, there was a very high bar set.
Chrono Trigger remains, even all these years later, my favorite game—not just RPG—ever, so when I play a new RPG or JRPG, I almost feel sorry for its chances with me for true acceptance. That being said, while there is little likelihood of many JRPGs getting a 10/10 score from me, there are still some good ones out there, and I have had the pleasure of reviewing a few of them from KEMCO, who published the game I will be discussing today: Legend of the Tetrarchs.
The Heroes of Legend
Legend of the Tetrarchs tells the story of 4 legendary heroes, the tetrarchs, made deities to protect the world from the darkness flowing from the underworld. 600 years ago, the kingdoms of the surface world and the kingdoms of The Firmament—a world floating above the surface—sealed a great darkness in the underworld, protected by a magical sword that kept the seal closed and absorbed the darkness trying to flow out from it.
Fast-forward to present day, and, as told in the legends, Lloyd, The Tetrarch of Light, has awakened to remove the sword and seal the underworld for good; only, Ishbel, The Tetrarch of Darkness, has other plans, and steals the sword for himself—along with killing off the entire town of Datt, where our non-deity hero, Len, lives. Len is, understandably, upset by this, and he sets off on his personal quest to avenge his lost loved ones and get back the holy sword so that the darkness can be sealed forever. The story is the main driving force for Legend of the Tetrarchs, so I won’t give away any more than that, but let’s jump in and take a look at the rest of this game, and see how it stacks up!
You Wanna Fight About it?
So, the first thing I always want to see in a good RPG is a good battle system. I am partial to turn-based battles myself, and that is what we have here. You are set up at the bottom of the screen, while your enemies face you from the top. There is a turn bar on the right side of the screen that shows you when you and your enemies’ turns will be and in which order.
The battle system is not an active system, so you have as much time as you need to click through your moves list and decide which move you want to execute without having to worry about your enemies spamming you with attacks, but for the easier low-level enemies—or if you just don’t feel like choosing—there is an auto-fight function that can be activated and deactivated at any time during a battle by pressing ZL. You can also speed up and slow down the auto-action. I found that the auto-fight choices the AI made for my battles were about as intuitive as the selections I would make for myself—like using healing spells and buffers when needed, rather than just randomly attacking or healing someone with a full HP bar—so I really took advantage of this feature a lot when I was dungeon crawling and dealing with the random encounters every few feet.
There is, as with the other titles I have reviewed from KEMCO, some DLC available for purchase. You can purchase Double Damage DLC, Double Experience DLC, and No Encounters DLC. I opted to get the first two, but not the No Encounters DLC, as that would really defeat the purpose of playing a JRPG for me; but to each their own, I suppose. I almost wish I didn’t get the DLC—almost—because it did make the game a little too easy for most battles, but there were still a couple of close calls nonetheless, so I have no regrets.
Even without the DLC, this game really seems intent on making the battles fairly casual. There are no items to be used during battle—no potions, ethers, tents, cabins, antidotes, etc.—and your health refills after each battle, so you can focus on each individual battle as its own experience, rather than it being a war of attrition every time you try to explore a dungeon. I can definitely appreciate that, though there is still something to be said about a game requiring a certain amount of strategy and planning for the long haul.
No Need for Potions Here!
In place of items to be used in battle, instead we have treasures, which are basically permanent buffers for your entire party. Simply possessing the treasure will automatically add it’s buff to you, be it a 1% critical hit rate increase, extra HP for the party, extra resistance to fire damage or certain monster-types, and so on. You also have what are called carminas, which are sort of like treasures, but instead of affecting the entire party, they are equipped to individual party members. Unlike treasures, where you just collect as many as you can find and they all work at once, each party member has a limited number of slots to equip different carminas—the number of available slots does increase as your character levels up, though—so you have to pick the ones you feel will benefit each character and compliment their different abilities the best.
You have your weapons that you can equip, and like most RPGs, new weapons can be discovered in treasure chests or purchased at shops throughout the worlds you visit, but you can also strengthen your weapons and equipment to upgrade them past their base stats. You can do this with weapons, armor, and rings up to a +5 version of your original equipment. Now, I have played other RPGs with this feature, but with Legend of the Tetrarchs, there is a good balance of power with the upgrades. Asdivine Hearts II comes to mind, where the stats for the upgraded equipment were so dramatic that any new weapons or armor that showed up throughout the game were so under-powered that you just stuck with the original weapon you had from near the start of the game. Legend of the Tetrarchs keeps it in check though, and occasionally throws in a higher-powered new piece of equipment that you can swap out.
Lost in Translation?
I mentioned that the story is really the true driving force of Legend of the Tetrarchs, and it is a good story. My main problem though was that the hand-holding all throughout the game is just a bit too much. I suppose if you are someone who is new to the genre, this would be a good starting point for you, but the game literally tells you EXACTLY what you need to do next—every single time—and even goes as far as to highlight the part that is telling you what to do, in orange letters, just so you don’t even have to ponder what they meant or may have been hinting at.
The other thing, and this may just be a translation issue, is that the script, at times, lacks finesse, and tends to repeat itself a few different ways between different scenes with different characters. It was slightly annoying, but still didn’t take away from enjoying the underlying plot, which is still an engaging story!
Audio & Video
This is another retro-style 16-bit throwback game, which seems to be more and more popular these days. I personally have no problem with it, as SNES was my absolute jam as a kid. They did the era justice with this one too. The designs of the stages and world maps are thoughtful and well-executed, and of course, as with a lot of KEMCO titles I have played, we have the modern anime-style character dialogue illustrations in the foreground, which show beautifully-designed characters—I kind of wish there was a remaster of Chrono Trigger that did this, just so I can see all my OG peeps in full resolution, but I am also afraid to try and fix something that ain’t broken!
The soundtrack is good, if not slightly repetitive. The overworld theme regularly gets stuck in my head when I am done playing, as does the battle theme—neither of which have ever changed throughout the game for me. There is a theme song in The Firmament that sounds rather heavily-influenced by a theme song from another game with a floating kingdom above a technologically-less-advanced society of surface-dwellers—which doesn’t sound like any other game I might have been gushing about this whole time, right? Yeah… it’s “Schala’s Theme”—only not quite as good. A good attempt though!
Legend of the Tetrarchs is a fun and engaging game. It has a slight hint of “budget game” feeling to it, but you definitely get way more than your money’s worth here. The story is original, and the characters are well-written and interesting. If you are a fan of JRPGs, but don’t really get too hardcore with them, then this is a great title for you; and if you are new to the genre, this is a great game with which to get your feet wet. Go check it out!
Buy Legend of the Tetrarchs from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by KEMCO