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Review: Legend of Ixtona (Nintendo Switch)

Legend of Ixtona is a KEMCO game. If that doesn’t tell you half of what you need to know, perhaps the screenshots will. It’s a retro JRPG filled with plucky characters of varying races who are on another mission to save another kingdom. This time, the enemy is the hero’s own brother, having killed the king (their father) and seized control.

That leaves our hero, Kyle, to assemble a diverse group of fighters as he seeks to avenge his father and reclaim the kingdom. Of course, these fighters have their own motivations, allowing plenty of room for side missions and goofy dialogue as we work towards the inevitable conclusion.

The main difference between this and most KEMCO JRPGs is the battle system. The turn-based battles in Legend of Ixtona are waged on an isometric grid. The combatants are dropped on a large map, and it’s up to the player to figure out where to move and how to use them. Each unit has special abilities (healing spells, strong defense, powerful ranged attacks), and taking advantage of them is key to winning. The experience you earn in battle will be used to select abilities and level them up, so there’s plenty to manage on and off the battlefield.

JRPG fans know this system, and Legend of Ixtona doesn’t add too much to the proceedings. That’s fine, because KEMCO titles tend to be comfort-food games. However, it’s unfortunate this made-for-mobile game got its Switch release so quickly behind the similar Triangle Strategy, which does everything so much better. This is especially apparent in the battle maps. Too often, the playing field in Legend of Ixtona is just an open map with a few ridges and trees. The landscape can provide bonuses and penalties based on placement, but there’s not much strategy involved beyond that. Winning is more about range, with little else to get in the way. Your characters will never feel trapped, and it’s very easy to avoid danger throughout the fight.

To be fair, a lot of grid-based tactical strategy games suffer from this. Even the recent Fire Emblem games have had problems with boring maps. The problem is exacerbated with KEMCO titles, however, which tend to be fairly easy to begin with. Simple combat and simple level design means there’s little to challenge players throughout, so what do we rely on to keep going?

Research and city building? There’s a bit of that here, but it mainly serves to simply increase your inventory options. We could also look towards the story, or at least the characters. Both are fine, but not much more. I’m not sure what it is about kingdom-saving plots, but they always seem to attract the same group of fighters.

Each character here checks a box you’ve checked numerous times before, but at least this time one of them is a mermaid. That’s a bit different (if not weird to watch her slide on land). It’s just too bad the writers didn’t give these characters much to contribute. They exist solely to push from battle to battle, and that’s just not enough. You do have the option to hire (and customize) mercenaries to join your party, but the novelty of that doesn’t last too long.

So, we’ve got “just fine” characters fighting “just fine” battles on “just fine” maps. That leaves us with the retro graphics, and you can guess where I’m heading here. They’re just fine. I quite like the sprites, and the battle animations are pretty good. The backgrounds, however, are too sparse and blocky. The character art also appears phoned in. It’s not bad, it just seems like the artists were racing to get this work done before moving on to something more fun (a process we call “finishing the radish” here at Pure Nintendo, in case you’re interested in helping us popularize a new phrase).

All this mediocrity leads to a mediocre game, but it’s important to remember that mediocre is not bad. On mobile devices, Legend of Ixtona would be one of the better JRPGs available, especially upon its original release in 2014. It’s still available there, but with IAPs. The Switch version provides DLC, but it’s KEMCO’s usual offerings that double or triple the delivery of experience and CP, depending upon what you buy. It’s a fair system that I’d like to see more games utilize.

So, if you’re looking for a lite JRPG to which you can return between bigger games or your daily obligations, Legend of Ixtona will do that. Just remember there are better options available—from KEMCO and others—that you may want to seek out first.

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