Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Ian. He loved all things Nintendo: Mario, Link, and Mega Man (who was technically a Capcom hero but he appeared on the SNES so who’s splitting hairs?) all ate up his gaming time at home. One day, Ian’s mother took him to her boyfriend’s house – that boyfriend would later become Ian’s stepdad. But this isn’t a love story about Ian’s mother. This is the story of Ian’s love for a game that wasn’t made by Nintendo.
You see, that boyfriend had a magical game console called the Playstation. This amazing device could play video games stored on compact discs – that’s CD in today’s parlance. The Playstation had lots of strange games that Ian had never played before. Games about dragons, games about rapping dogs, even games about bandicoots (whatever those are). But there was one special CD among that glorious collection that was more special than all the others – the demo disk for a game called Legend of Legaia.
The game told the story of a teenager named Vahn who lived in the remote village of Rim Elm. This village – and all the lands surrounding it – were shrouded in a terrifying Mist. What’s so awful about mist, you ask? The Mist itself posed no danger to humans, but it had a sinister effect on their partners, the Seru. When exposed to the Mist, the Seru went mad and started attacking their human allies. This made it dangerous to venture outside of the walls of Rim Elm, as those walls were the only thing keeping the Mist – and the Seru – at bay.
Vahn was a hunter like his father before him, training to someday leave the village in order to hunt meat for the town. But just before his coming of age, something terrible happened – a strange wizard brought a terrible creature to the village. This massive and powerful Seru was able to smash the walls of Rim Elm and allow the mist inside. Vahn had to team up with a cave girl named Noa and a monk named Gala in order to fight the Seru. While fighting, a voice called to them – it was the Genesis Tree in the center of town.
Within the Genesis Tree were special Seru called Ra-Seru. They were immune to the power of the Mist and, when bonded to the three heroes, made them immensely more powerful and enabled them to use magic. Using the power of the Ra-Seru, the heroes managed to gather the townspeople around the Genesis Tree and revive it with their prayers. Brought back from the brink, the tree shed a sacred light that drove the Mist and the Seru away.
With the Ra-Seru by their side, the three heroes now knew the secret to saving the world from the Mist: they needed to travel the lands and resurrect each fallen Genesis Tree. Doing so would drive out the Mist and return the world to normal. They set off on their epic quest – and the demo disk ended.
As you can imagine, my tiny self was distraught. The story seemed so epic! So incredible! I needed to know the rest, but with only the beginning of the game to experience, I had to settle for reliving the demo over and over again. And by golly I did. I practiced all the wicked flips and spiral kicks, I learned the magic of the Seru, and I saved Rim Elm’s Genesis Tree so many times that finally the old demo disk stopped working entirely. It was then that my parents knew they needed to get me the full version of Legend of Legaia, and our relationship began.
Turns out that as a kid, I wasn’t particularly well equipped to journey through the world of Legaia. The game was somewhat text heavy, relied a lot on talking to NPCs for guidance, and could be difficult if you didn’t have a good understanding of how the combat mechanisms worked outside of just punching stuff. These aren’t reasons why the game was bad – they’re reasons why I couldn’t beat it when I was eight years old. I made some progress, took out some bosses, but ultimately I didn’t get all the way through the game.
Fast forward to my young adulthood. I picked up Legend of Legaia again after many years of distance from the game, determined this time to finish it in its entirety. After many years of growing and gaming I had a much better grasp of Legend of Legaia. I understood how to use spirit effectively in battle, I grasped why it might be better to have certain spells on specific characters, and I knew that the only way to learn where to go without resorting to a guide on the internet was to talk to the game’s NPCs. With my new skills, beating the game seemed like it would be simple. But soon, tragedy struck.
I think I managed to get a tiny bit further than I had in my original playthrough of the game as a kid. I hadn’t experienced much new content at all. One day I went to crack open the CD case, only to discover that the case was already cracked. Horrified, I opened the box to discover what I already feared – the disc, too, had been damaged by whatever fickle force of nature decided to shatter the case containing it. Whether it was the stray foot of a walking human or the wicked Seru reaching out to stop me from saving the world, I’ll never know. But the game disc was snapped in half and there was no fixing that. I’d have to get a new copy.
It was a long time before I purchased a fresh copy of the game. Breakups are hard. And when the time finally came that I decided to order the game again, it had been so long that I needed to start over. Still, I loved Legend of Legaia and it didn’t bother me in the least to play through those early stages again. It helped me to find my groove and rediscover all the things I loved about it. This time, I made it much farther than I had ever made it in the game before. I was beginning to learn that there were dark and terrible secrets behind the Mist, and the Ra-Seru were even more mysterious than I ever suspected. Many forces worked against me beside the evil sorcerer and the monster at his beck and call. And the time came when I finally met my match.
There is a boss in the game which immediately follows another boss fight – one of my least favorite things to see in a video game. Consecutive boss fights are frustrating for a lot of reasons – the first fight typically exhausts your resources so that you start the second battle with a huge disadvantage. They take forever and there’s rarely an opportunity to save, so if you lose the second battle (you know, the one where you’re nice and vulnerable after barely surviving the first one) you have to start all over again and sit through a million cut scenes just to get back to where you were defeated and try again. Legend of Legaia took this a step further – the second boss fight was timed, and failing to defeat the monster quickly enough resulted in a game over.
After trying a couple of times, saving as much energy as I could for the second fight in order to unleash my most powerful moves, I realized I didn’t quite know how to handle the situation and decided to look up a guide. It turns out that even when using some of your best attacks, this battle is nearly impossible to win without a specific spell in your arsenal. That spell is the monster’s weakness, and of course somehow over the course of the game I had managed to not get that spell. Now I had to backtrack to an old area, fight the monster that gave you the spell on repeat until I finally learned it, and then cast that spell over and over again in order to level it up to the potency of my other magical abilities.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. It was about time for me to head back to college, where I wouldn’t be able to play the game for basically an entire semester. I tried the best I could with what little time I had left to get the spell I needed, but poor luck prevented me from learning it and poorer timing prevented me from being able to try any more. For the third time, the ending of Legend of Legaia escaped my grasp.
These days, I don’t even have the opportunity to play anymore. The PS3 my wife and I share is one of the newer editions that is not backward compatible. My copy of Legend of Legaia is likely somewhere at my mother’s house – knowing my luck it could even be broken again. And while this game seems to have a sort of cult following in dark corners of the internet, I don’t think it had the kind of popularity where we’ll ever get it ported or remade. The chances of me discovering the finale of the game organically is pretty low at this point, so Legend of Legaia has become the game that got away.
That’s my story, adventurers! Today’s post was inspired by Retro Redress as part of my ongoing Charming and Open event. They answered a question from me as well, so be sure to check out their blog to see their dream game announcement for 2018. I’ve got two more of these posts lined up before the new year, so if you enjoyed today’s content then be sure to come back next week for even more question-answering goodness. And if you have a game that got away, be sure to tell us all about it in the comments down below!