The measure of an RPG is rarely just the battles, the story, or the length of the game. All these things need to be well designed, since the market for RPG's on PS and PS2 was always very competitive. PSP looks to be getting ramped up for a good season of RPG gaming, with PoPoloCrois
being the most obvious comparison to Legend of Heroes
on the basis of style. Other games out now may have more going for them in terms of mechanics, or battle systems, but Legend of Heroes
will be remembered as the first epic PSP RPG.
Epic not just for its length (~50 hours), but for its story, Legend of Heroes draws players into a world that unfolds through character interaction. Each character has a lot to say, and the pacing of the story favors patient readers rather than itchy-fingered battle junkies. There aren't even that many opportunities early in the game to just hang around in a monster-infested area and level up. Building levels is not really the point here, although gaining experience in Legend of Heroes works just like you'd expect. What is focused on a great deal is the relationship between characters, and the sense of place built from exploring towns. Non-Player Characters (NPCs) are usually the domain of more dedicated gamers, who want to make sure and get every piece of speech from every single NPC, including alternate dialogue... There are probably only three types of RPG gamers: those who don't know what an NPC is, those who talk to NPCs when the story demands it, and those who collect NPC dialogue like it was scripture. Legend of Heroes sometimes seems to push you toward talking with every NPC, and not for the purpose of collecting items either. This stress on story and dialogue may not be for everyone, but there's a good battle system underneath that makes it work.
A brother and sister broken apart by strife is how the story starts, and the brother's adventure to find out what happened to his sister is how the story unravels. Unlike some RPG's that just take a stab at hanging some narrative on whatever hack-n-slash framework they had from the beginning, Legend of Heroes really does have a cohesive plot. Cohesive by anime standards, at least... Each character who comes into the party has some motivation and is recognizable, and not always by easy stereotypes. Other nice additions to the game include an option to raise a pet, cultivating its item-collection skill through praise or scolding. Pets can also grant special status during battles.
There is little of note apart from the pet sidekick feature, as far as innovative gameplay. The creators would seem to have gone out looking for a solid RPG with some depth, rather than a flashy, hybrid RPG. The payoff is here, but only for those who are really ready to devote the time.