Here we are again. I didn’t think I’d be here reviewing another KEMCO game again so soon, but I always found it hard to say no to JRPGs. Especially when they contain gloriously retro pixel graphics. The Legend of the Tetrarch caught my eye, but everyone knows that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and that beauty is only skin deep. Or basically, any clichéd Facebook quote explaining why there are more to things than just looks. So is Legend of the Tetrarchs worth a deeper look? Come on man, you know I can’t answer that in the opening paragraph so let’s get started!
After a heated battle against the ruler of Hades, the four Tetrarchs used a holy sword forged by the Deity of Creation to seal up the cracks left on the battlefield (now known as The Scar) and absorb the darkness pouring out to the surface world from Hades. The Tetrarchs are a group of four Celestians imbued with power and immortality from the four deities; Light, Darkness, Life, and Death. The deities had to pass along their power, as their own was failing, with the hopes that the Tetrarchs would keep watch over the Surface and maintain peace. The game properly begins 600 years later as the Tetrarch of Light Lloyd returns to The Scar so he can destroy the sword and properly seal the gateway to Hades. Problem is, the sword is overflowing with the power of darkness and time is running out to destroy it. Betrayal is imminent as the Tetrarch of Darkness Ishbel appears and takes the sword for himself, setting in motion a series of tragic events that I won’t spoil here but damn, that opening hour gets dark fast.
Though Lloyd seems like he may be the main character in the beginning, that honor goes to Len. A spear-wielding boy clad in red and hailing from the nearby village of Datt, Len is who you’ll be controlling for most of the game. There are some parts where you’ll take control of Lloyd but for the most part, you’ll be seeing things from Len’s perspective. You’ll end up getting a nice and varied cast of party members, but you can only battle with four at a time. Sometimes the story will also force specific members into your party at certain moments. Len, Wien, and Chloe have some good character growth moments, but for the most part, the characters are static. The lore and world-building, on the other hand, are well-fleshed out. Especially so when compared to other titles from the KEMCO library.
The battle system is more or less a turn-based system with a dash of ATB thrown in. You choose your party’s actions and then they act in order of highest agility first, as displayed by a sidebar filled with character and enemy icons. SP is gained every turn and you begin the battle with a certain amount. SP is needed for all your character’s special attacks and abilities. One unique thing that adds an extra layer of strategy to the battle system is the Carmina mechanic. Carmina is essentially a kind of passive perk that can vastly improve your performance if managed well. Each character has a unique and permanent Carmina that cannot be changed. Some characters can have more than one (Chloe, for example). In addition, each character starts with one free slot in which they can equip Carmina that can be found by interacting with obelisk-like objects in the world or gained as rewards by completing quests. By leveling up to a certain point later in the game, each character can unlock a second slot for even more customization and enhance their unique Carmina.
There are no traditional side quests, so to speak. The in-game quest menu gives you a list of milestones to achieve, such as defeating the allotted amount of monsters or reaching a certain point in the story. Completing them nets you gold, new Carmina, and Treasures. Treasures are another interesting mechanic. You can find them in a variety of ways, but mostly by beating monsters, completing quests, and finding them in chests. They offer you passive enhancements and a variety of boons just by keeping them in your inventory. Individually they don’t offer much but keep collecting them and it really adds up.
If you’re like me and you love managing a party’s gear, then you’ll be happy to know that Legend of the Tetrarchs takes a somewhat traditional weapon/armor/accessory approach. You can purchase equipment in shops, get them from chests, and find them as loot drops after battle. Any piece of gear you find can be enhanced up to level 5 by spending gold in the Strengthen menu. Aside from improving the main and secondary special stats, the level increase also grants the piece of equipment yet another bonus stat, depending on the gear. Strengthening is essential to the increasingly difficult battle further on in the game. There is no need for items or inventory management though because your party is fully restored after each battle. I kind of like this style, but only because it allows them to increase the difficulty of each encounter since they don’t need to take into account the player’s inventory stock or how far away they are from an inn/healing point.
As I mentioned before, Hit-Point nailed the retro pixel look, and the game runs smoothly without any hitches or framerate issues while moving around the screen: a common problem I have had with Exe Create titles. One thing that could use some improvement is the enemy variety. It seems nicely varied at first but as you progress you’ll run into quite a few re-colored variants. The soundtrack is also leagues above the average KEMCO fare, in my opinion. There is a nice variety to it and I didn’t mind listening to it for the game’s roughly 20-hour runtime. Legend of the Tetrarchs looks good, sounds good, has a great story with some interesting characters, and fun turn-based combat. What more could you ask for? This is one game from KEMCO you should not pass up.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Store page can be found here.
Final Score: 8.5/10
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