Utilizing the commonly used human extinction approach ArcSystemWorks has created, and delivered a budget priced JRPG that is a hybrid of sorts. It combines traditional RPG stat leveling, and skill based character features while using an action RPG gameplay setup as it's base. With a selection of four customizable characters, and a serious amount of mission based objectives you will be tasked with braving the odds against a half-beast species known has the "Decoders" who have set out to exterminate the human race on their own home turf. The plot, while as original as it can get without being entirely cliche, has the heroes of various genders, species, and backgrounds fighting the good fight in solo single player playthroughs, or in conjoined battles with up to three other players via 'ad hoc (Local Multiplayer)' mode.
The characters in question include a bravely young lad known as "Acress Breathheart", a robot wielding lass named "Ashta Little Husky", a luchador style wrestler named "Mask the Shout", and a Decoder bird-man with a vendetta of his own named "Haul Keeling". Each character, while normal by humanity's standards do have their own unique battlefield abilities as well as a separate special ability known as "Artes". With the newly found power that is 'Artes' each character can perform superhero feats of prowess against their otherworldly adversaries. Acress, for example can transform into a visually, and functionally different character which can deal much more damage as well as use skills specific to that sword wielding Artes form. Mask, or "Shout" as he is called in the game can use his powerful Artes punches, and skills to deal a massive amount of melee/area based damage. Ashta, which is the socially withdrawn younger girl of the group grew up as a mechanic's daughter, and therefore can use her Roboton gear, and summoned Robot to attack any enemies before her. On top of that Ashta's skills, like some of the other heroes allows her to not only help herself in battle, but also aid others in the party (via ad hoc). This "aiding" includes healing other players as well as dropping traps, and health boost items for others to use. Lastly the gun toting bird-like Decoder known as "Haul Keeling" has only one method of attack which relies heavily on his guns. His Artes which will help to enhance his gunfire must be leveled up via mission playthroughs like everyone else.
When it comes to plot material you'll find that the story is the same in each character's instance, and plays out in a graphic style that looks a lot like the playable in-game setup. Your chosen character, whatever you choose to name him, or her is ultimately a part of an uprising resistance against the Decoders, and their leader. You are humanity's last hope against the relentless onslaught, and together as a team it is your mission to thwart the Decoder's extinction agenda. Through in-game dialogue, and character interactions you will become familiar with what it is that is required of you. This includes going through a hands-on tutorial that specifically relates to the character you have chosen as well as completing a variety of different missions that are both important to the story, and not. Once you have beaten the tutorial, and learn the character's skills as well as the controls of said character you will then be shown other necessary features needed for navigating the Decoder filled 3D landscapes after which you will be taken to the town square which houses your main points of interest within the game.
These main points of interests include a blacksmith, a sales lady, an ad hoc vendor who will help you setup up your local multiplayer matches, and a bulletin board where you will select which missions (Main, Side, DLC) to take on. You'll even find the headquarters meeting area as well as your characters' room which houses all the info for the game as well as stores gathered materials for later retrieval, and use. Like most JRPGs you will be collecting materials from fallen foes on your many outings including that of weapons, healing items, and blacksmith related materials that can help you to enhance, and upgrade your Artes for better performance, and damage output. As with any JRPG Blacksmith this game's forger of weapons can breakdown, add additional attributes to an Artes, or even upgrade the Artes weapon via a tree-like tier system. The Sales Lady on the other hand serves only to buy, and sell materials/weapons as well as offer up a sort of lottery known as "Scratch" in which you repeatedly press one of three face buttons to reveal anything from a set of rarer materials to absolutely nothing. Scratchers, which are the paying currency for the "Scratch" offerings is gifted to you for each initial successful missions playthrough, and can reward you quite handsomely with weapons, materials, or other items of interest.
When it comes to taking on missions you will find that the town square bulletin board has three different types of missions listed. This includes "Main" missions which will help you to progress the story as well as "Side" missions which serve as a way to earn in-game currency, and materials for Blacksmith crafting. The other mission type that I mentioned before aside from "Main", and "Side" ties-in with DLC purchases, and can afford you extra modes of play as well as special opportunities for special items not included in the core gaming experience. All modes are objective based, and range from escorting a certain character through Decoder filled territories to simple kill all that's in your way objectives. There is a decent variety of mission types to take on, and each rewards you according to the difficulty you have the current mission set on. Each mission can be ramped up to a four star level, or can be left at the standard one star level if you so prefer. The more stars that are added the more difficult the mission will be to complete.
In the way of multiplayer options I'm unfortunately not going to be able to fill you in on those details as I had no one local to play with. I imagine that it plays out in a similar fashion as solo playthrough would, but that it would be more of a team effort with team benefits included. I do know, however that you'd have to speak to the ad hoc vendor before taking on an ad hoc mission in order to be able to set it up. There are "Create A Room', and "Join A Room" matchmaking options in place within the ad hoc menu.
Beyond the mission objectives, and hub happenings you'll find that the characters in "Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy" can be customized in a variety of different ways. For example, as I mentioned earlier each character has a specific set of skills. These skills which can be upgraded using skill points earned from successful mission completions are broken up into character specific categories that each branch off in a tree diagram of sub-skills. Some skills can be leveled up multiple times while others are limited to less. It all depends on which character you choose to play as. When it comes to color options, which are a true character customization features you'll find that each character has non-DLC, and DLC selections for them, and their separate Artes (should their Artes be separate). Each color palette offered stays true to the ArcSystemWorks way of doing things, and carries with it a name. In the case of non-DLC colors the names are creative, but have no background history. Should you purchase the additional character color palettes though you will find that the developer has given nods to both 'Guilty Gear', and 'BlazBlue' characters via these DLC exclusive color swaps. The real cool thing is that each DLC color is named after a character from the previously mentioned fighting games, and carries with it that character's original color palette. There's even a special 'SP" color included in each characters color DLC set that adds a certain level of impressiveness to their appearance in-game.
Along with the color swaps, and skills also comes RPG attribute leveling. Like any true RPG each character in "Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy" has a lengthy list of character based attributes that can be leveled up in order to make them stronger in different ways. Everything from health, attack, and boost to other standard issue RPG attributes are included in the list. Like skill points you will also have to earn specific points for leveling up these stats. Points can be earned as usual through mission completion, and can be applied in your town square bedroom upon return to the town square.
The Verdict ...
This truly is a budget JRPG. I had expected something a little more "Retail" from ArcSystemWorks, but it is what it is, I suppose. As far as quality is concerned this game, from the graphics to the in-game content looked and felt more like something you'd find on a mobile device such as an iPad. It was definitely bare bones in delivery, and as engaging as it was at times the core of the experience was focused mainly around the dull tasks of doing missions, and farming for materials. The story, which you would have thought to be the main interest was decent at best, but was ultimately dumbed down in comparison to that of other JRPG developers' stories. Cutscenes which delivered the tale through onscreen dialogue, and stiff character actions really did not add enough emphasis on the dire predicament that the human resistance was up against. As a package it felt half-hearted. The added fact that multiplayer was ad hoc (Local) only further hurt the potential that this game had. At $14.99 it's not a bad game, but it's not all that great either. It meets it's mark in delivery, and pricing, but falls short of something I'd have associated with ArcSystemWorks. I'm gonna have to say pass on this one if you don't have a close friend who owns it as you will only get partial enjoyment out of it going solo.