There's a lot to be said for aping successful game franchises when creating a new app - and Gameloft are the undisputed masters of doing exactly that. Eternal Legacy takes a long and loving look at the JRPG genre and attempts to emulate the fine balance of exposition and grind on an iPhone.
Unfortunately, in this case, the target game appears to be Final Fantasy XIII.
Eternal Legacy subscribes to the standard Japanese RPG formula. Your team of androgynous, spiky-haired protagonists are hot on the trail of stolen magical crystals (it's always crystals), embarking on a lengthy quest throughout a generic fantasy world. Full voice acting and some nifty cut-scenes help to bulk out the cliched canon, and whilst the presentation is decidedly hammy, it's still laudable to secure voice talent for a pocket money app.
As I said above, however, the divisive Final Fantasy XIII provides the inspiration behind the progression and story. The quest pushes your party though linear arena after linear arena, meaning that exploration and freeform questing is at a bare minimum. Enemies can be engaged or avoided at leisure, but by and large, the experience hinges on the combat over deep and meaningful character progression.
Once engaged, Eternal Legacy uses solid fighting mechanics based on Final Fantasy's Active Time Battle System. For those who don't know, it's essentially a mix of turn-based and real time combat that allows players to queue up attacks and skills that are triggered once a constantly-filling time bar reaches its peak.
Specific enemies to be targeted by tapping directly on their character model (as opposed to the decidedly bitty icons), and powerful abilities can be charged up by taking or dealing damage. Party AI allows you to set default behaviours for your support characters.
This is fine as far as it goes (and is more than enough for the first third of the game), but the combat system becomes restrictive in harder fights. Attacks can't be changed or delayed once committed, meaning it's difficult to react to being poisoned or taking big hits. What's more, the companion AI frequently refuses to break out the more powerful healing skills in a pinch… and be warned, individually controlling the whole party feels like playing an entire Mozart symphony on Virtuoso Piano. Don't bother.
Niggles aside, Eternal Legacy's ultimate undoing is that it suffers from a major lack of imagination and ambition. Characters and art design are lifted straight out of console RPGs (including a pixel-perfect representation of Final Fantasy X's Wakka, who's still a bareknuckle brawler). The story runs through every genre trope in the book, leading to an inescapable feeling of over-familiarity and eventual boredom. Gameloft are capable of so much more than this - and just a little willingness to think outside the box would have worked wonders.
Put simply, you've played this game a thousand times already.
- Capable visuals
- Solid battle system (up to a point)
- Weighty campaign
- Hackneyed source material and storyline
- Hyper-linear progression
- Crushing failure to innovate
Summary: Eternal Legacy provides a lengthy distraction that copies its source material too closely to be truly interesting. Worth a look if you're craving formulaic JRPG action on the move.
Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.2 or later.
Price: £3.99 - App Store