Okay, the PSP may not be exactly synonymous with RPG, but Legend of Heroes III is swimming against the current and giving us hardcore PSP RPGers something to play - for that we applaud it. The adventure begins when our heroes, two happy-go-lucky kids named Forte and Una, their dog Jan and grandfather McBain, leave their tiny village with a magic map in search of magical Resonance Stones, hoping to also become real troubadours along the way. Heroes may get all the fame, but traveling musicians apparently get plenty of action as well, and they live longer.
For quite awhile, you'll be searching out Resonance Stones based on nothing more than the notion that McBain thinks it's a good idea. Between stone hunts, you'll take on extra quests that range from competently entertaining to frustratingly silly. Making sure the desert rats have enough food after rampaging your way through a desert filled with a virtual zoo of newly endangered beasties just isn't compelling.
Eventually some serious evil makes its bull-headedly evil presence known, and collecting all the stones becomes more purposeful than just a hobby - although it takes awhile to get to this point.
We couldn't help but think that if the English translation weren't so awkward, the story would have come through a little bit more. Most dialogue is at least competent, but it isn't unusual to hear something that'll make you smirk. The "Sworder Sword: Master it and you're a full-fledged sworder"- anyway you slice it, "sworder" just isn't a real word.
During your journey there are going to be some fearsome foes, or at least some perturbed critters that need to be skewered. Even towards the end of the game, enemies like the death boar or metal crab are common, and - let's be honest - it's really just a crab with an extra adjective. Fighting the crabs (at level 30) and other baddies ends up being a mixed bag. Fortunately, there aren't random encounters so with quick reflexes they can be avoided
Charge Attacks can be unleashed after the Charge Gauge has been filled (most combat actions raise it some degree), instantly interrupting who/whatever would have been attacking by giving them a big, fulfilling whack on the head or other applicable appendage. The ability to save charges for just the right time is one of the most enjoyable parts of battle.
The Ensemble Magic system falls short. Casting two spells on the same target produces a single, more powerful spell, but it's more effective to cast one of the spells that simply hits all enemies. They cost more magic but MP is never a big deal, especially after you pick up one of two pets early in the game. They'll follow you around and, if you keep them fed, they seem to find low-power potions every ten or fifteen seconds.
These fuzzy little potion finders also help out with the battle system. They eat absolutely anything, from your old armor to potions to special attacks to your marbles. In return, the pet finds - or possibly coughs up - occasional combat bonuses that depend on the quality of the equipment consumed. If you want to just ignore your pet, that's fine too, it'll ignore you right back. We tried to starve our pet and explode it with food - neither worked.
Legend of Heroes III never quite separates itself from previous entries in the series, and traditional though it may be, this isn't Final Fantasy. The world, while beautiful, isn't any different then the past two games. And the music, although it very badly wants to be important, won't be anything you find yourself humming after putting down the PSP to practice sword techniques. LoH III wants to be a great game but can't quite get the details right. The dialogue is goofy, combat isn't snazzy and it's a slow starter. Faults aside, if really want to play an RPG, and absolutely have to use your PSP, LoH III doesn't do anything unforgivable either.