From the title alone, you might figure that The Legend of Heroes is a game of epic battles and mighty warriors, though in fact, the young main characters of this story don't become true heroes until many hours into this traditional role-playing game. Developed by well-known Japanese RPG maker Falcom, Legend of Heroes doesn't stray far from either the gameplay or storytelling conventions of other similar games. It's got some problems, ranging from dialogue that sometimes gets completely lost in translation from the original Japanese to an occasionally confusing structure that may leave you wondering what you're supposed to do next. But Legend of Heroes is such a long game, offering dozens of hours of gameplay, and it pays so much attention to its characters, that fans of other Japanese RPGs are going to enjoy having a game of this scale on the go for the PSP.
Headstrong-but-good-natured main character? Check. Timid-but-levelheaded best friend? Check. Long-lost family member? Check.
Early in life, Avin gets separated from his sister, Eimelle, in a surprise attack. Now on the verge of manhood, the orphaned Avin decides he's ready to venture out into the world in search of his only remaining family member. He's joined by a friendly, levelheaded kid named Mile who seems to just want Avin as his friend, and together, the two of them get swept up in an adventure that turns out to be much bigger than a mere rescue mission: A major conflict turns out to be brewing in the world of El Phildin as the followers of its gods of light and darkness prepare to clash. As for Avin and Mile, they'll meet many different companions along the way, and will fight all kinds of different monsters and other villains while gaining experience points, finding better equipment, and learning new skills.
The game is presented from a top-down perspective and its story unfolds using lots of onscreen dialogue, together with some well-drawn portraits of the main characters doing the talking. The story is rather plodding at times, throwing lots of names and occasional history lessons at you, and sending the main characters off on tangential quests fairly often. But over time, all the attention paid to character development becomes endearing, and if nothing else it helps make Legend of Heroes a nice, long game (the back of the box generously promises "over 50 hours" of gameplay). The story takes plenty of predictable twists and turns, but it does have its share of surprises, and it'll keep you going if you can tolerate having to read a lot of dialogue that isn't always particularly good.
You can easily avoid most wandering monsters as you're trying to get from one destination to the next.
The game's top-down perspective doesn't change even when you run into monsters and engage in battle, though the battle screen is a little different than it is when you're just running around in the field--you'll see all four of your party members instead of just the leader. The turn-based combat system is roughly similar to what you'd find in any typical RPG, because you'll get to make your characters attack, cast spells, or use items as they trade hits with their enemies. The overhead perspective does make positioning a bit of a consideration, since you'll need to physically approach far-away enemies to hit them with close-range attacks, and this might cost you an extra turn. Each character also has some unique skills and powerful "deadly" moves, which can be used after you charge up a power meter by using regular attacks or spells. But most of the characters are roughly interchangeable in battle. Avin's your swordsman, who's got some magic for support, while Mile's got a boomerang and healing spells. Other characters specialize in close combat or magic, and success in battle involves keeping everybody healed while blasting your enemies with attacks and magic. The fighting is rather easy for a while, but later in the game, things get a lot tougher. You'll end up having all four party members go into each main battle with their deadly attacks charged up so you can quickly whittle down your opponents, if not defeat them outright.