If there's one thing that the PlayStation Vita seems to be in abundance of, it's JRPGs. Not all of these are great, of course, but some of the more popular ones will keep you occupied for hundreds of hours or more – particularly the sensational Persona 4 Golden. Sadly, time is a rude mistress that waits for no one, so if you're looking for some flavour without the hefty time sink, look no further than Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy. This game has finally made its debut outside of Japan, and provides some traditional JRPG action, with all of the bright spots and blemishes to boot.
Starting as one of four characters – each with their own special abilities like transformation, brute force, and more – you embark on an adventure to save the world from the evil Decoders. Y'see, 12 years prior to this escapade, mankind was not doing so hot, but things got even worse when strange creatures appeared out of the sky and forced humans to go into hiding. Despite this depressing premise, you're tasked with using your abilities to not only survive the battle – but also to fight back. To be honest, it's a pretty plain plot, with very little in the way of exposition or back story to keep it interesting, but it serves its purpose adequately enough.
It's the gameplay, then, that you'll be coming to this package for. Everything that you do in the game starts with a community board in your depressing little hub town that also features two vendors: one for consumables and the other for weapons upgrades. The aforementioned notice plaque has all of the missions that you'll find in the game – both campaign and side-quests. This means that, sadly, there's not an open world to explore, but there's plenty of variety in the locations that you'll be whisked away to which more than makes up for this.
The real entertainment stems from the somewhat repetitive but more than serviceable skirmishes that you'll be engaging in. There are only two attack buttons – light and heavy – but specials can be assigned to various face buttons in conjunction with a shoulder button. This is a smooth, MMO-esque solution, and it ensures that the action remains slick throughout, save for a few odd camera quirks. You can adapt the difficulty of missions on the fly, and making things harder for yourself will result in better rewards. These goodies include experience points and gear, which when combined with the title's various skill trees, gives you quite a lot of room to craft the type of warrior that you'd like.
Meanwhile, enemies vary from goo-like creatures to witches with potent attacks. Sadly, there's very little strategy required in combat seeing as there's no back and forth without a block button. Instead, you'll find yourself jumping and running around, trying to land your own attacks. It's fun, and developing your character is entertaining, but the lack of meaningful depth does lead to repetition over time. It also results in some cheap deaths towards the end, as you regularly get knocked down and wrecked without a viable escape option. To be honest, this would be less irritating if it wasn't for the blatant lack of checkpoints throughout the campaign; it's simply infuriating getting killed by the boss at the end of a long mission, only to get whisked back to the start with only a frown to show for your efforts.
At least the art style has been designed to lighten your mood. The chibi-like character models are bolded so that they stand out and never get lost in the action, and are surprisingly well detailed considering the package's modest development budget. Impressively, there's also full Japanese voice acting, but it hasn't been dubbed in English. This wouldn't normally be a problem, but the font that the developer's employed for subtitles and general text can be difficult read.
Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy can be a bit repetitive and includes a lacklustre story, but its short running time means that it never truly overstays its welcome. With a small price tag of $14.99, this is fine for what you get, and while it's certainly lacking in some areas, there are worse ways to while away the hours than with this.