System: PSP (port), PC (original)
PSP Port: Bandai (blame it all on them)
Year: 2006 (PSP version)
There is something about this game. The English translation is so terrible my elementary school classmates had better grammar, and the gameplay is as barebones as an RPG can get. However, I couldn’t stop playing it and I can even say that I love it. In fact, if I hadn’t played any Falcom games before, I would have been surprised beyond belief at how much I like this game that should have been at the bottom of the to-play list.
A Tear of Vermillion is a part of the Gagharv trilogy in the Legend of Heroes series. The release of the Gagharv trilogy is somewhat confusing. In Japan, A Tear of Vermillion is actually Legend of Heroes IV, making it the second game in the Gagharv Trilogy (first being Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch, which was somehow made the second game in the trilogy in North America). However, A Tear of Vermillion is the first to take place chronologically so I decided to play the series in North American release order.
Well, if you’re primarily looking for an RPG with fun gameplay, look away immediately. The gameplay is truly the weakest part of the game. LoH: A Tear of Vermillion has just about the most boring RPG gameplay I’ve experienced, and from what I’ve played of the next game, it doesn’t get any better. Battles are rather slow, and consist of the basic attack, magic, deadly, and skill options. That’s not a bad selection of moves, except the game is so easy no strategy is required until the final boss. Every battle is the same, even the boss battles. I saw my first game over screen at the final boss’ last stage. You don’t get any satisfaction that you are normally supposed to get from boss fights. You learn spells by leveling up, and they’re nothing to look forward to since everyone learns the same black/white spells at the same level. Battle animations are slow, and I only withstood them because I usually played the game while browsing the net or watching something.
Dungeons are really short and straightforward, with no puzzles and not a lot of path branches. That actually becomes a good thing, since I just wanted to get on with the plot instead of crawling through a maze. The fact that there are no random battles means that you can speed through dungeons since the on-screen enemies are easily avoidable.
The pet system basically gives you free items, and it’s actually a good thing item limit caps at 10 because I don’t want to imagine how easy this game would be with a 99 item cap.
A Tear of Vermillion follows Avin and his childhood friend Mile, as they search for the former’s younger sister, Eimelle. Avin and Eimelle were orphans living at the Cathedral, when it was suddenly attacked and they had to run away. Avin and Eimelle get separated, and the former was brought to the outskirts of a village called Ourt to live. There he befriended Mile, and learned swordsmanship under an old sage. After the old sage dies, he hands Avin a sacred treasure. Avin and Mile set off in search of Eimelle, becoming adventurers and crossing paths with a group that is after their sacred treasure.
The story is a very traditional structure, but since the game originally came out in like 1996 or something that’s to be expected. The highlight of the story was definitely Avin and Mile’s friendship, and also the relationships between the characters the two meet on their journey. Their friendship is one of the best I’ve seen, and I’m not saying that just because I like my FABULOUS FRIENDSHIP stories. Their friendship really shines through, even with the shitty English localization.
I love the characters. I love the way they interact and tie into the story. You don’t gain a permanent party until late into the game. Instead, various people join Avin and Mile in solving incidents, and leave the party when our protagonists move on to another area because they have their own agendas too. You’ll get each temporary party member to join your party at least twice, and they all end up helping your permanent party at the end. They’re also interesting characters for the most part, and not just throwaway temporary party members. It’s characters like the ones in the Legend of Heroes games that make the world feel so alive and vibrant. This game certainly has what I fell in love with in Sora no Kiseki.
Among my favorites (aside from Avin and Mile) are Rutice, the main heroine, Muse, a tomboy princess, and Lucias, a cool swordswoman. I like my moe as much as anyone else who likes eroge, but Falcom always makes me fall for their cool girls. As for the hottest girl, mmmmm…Muse is delicious.
It’s a top-down view with super-deformed 2D sprites, reminiscent of older RPGs. Actually, wait, this is one of those older RPGs, except with a graphical upgrade for the PSP. Anyways, don’t expect anything flashy. This is a game that uses simple graphics that are easy on the eyes. Certain elemental-themed dungeons look pretty nice, but most of the game is rather plain-looking and a lot of the towns look the same.
The character design is really nice. It fits very well with the game’s world and feel. As a bonus, everyone is properly dressed for their job, and there’s no clothing design that is solely for the purpose of fanservice. It might seem a bit retro and not enough cool belts and stuff, but everyone looks practically dressed.
I can’t compare the Bandai PSP port to the Falcom PC tracks because I never played the PC version, but I did like the music in the PSP version. What caught my attention was not the battle music, but the heart-warming tunes. I really liked the stuff that plays during emotional scenes and when you’re walking on the roads. Battle BGM was so-so until certain crucial parts, which switches to a nicer-sounding track.
Despite how terrible the localized script is, I still liked this game a lot. The hilariously bad “name was skillName mastered” skill-learning line really disturbed me on how someone who sucked this much at translating could get paid, but I’m not enough of a grammar Nazi to let the rest of the crap localization ruin my enjoyment. I guess using Translation Aggregator and playing eroge in Japanese has increased my understanding and tolerance for bad English. Falcom is really special, getting me to like a game with such a bad translation and boring gameplay. This game seriously needs more love. Imagine if A Tear of Vermillion got a substantial localization like Trails in the Sky…Oh, my heart can’t handle it!