To celebrate twenty years of this excellent RPG I could talk about how Shiroki Majo did away with the more typical slimes, dragons and other fantasy fare of the first two Legend of Heroes games (although even those have far more to them than you’d think from a first glance) and paved the way for the infinitely elaborate Kiseki series, but I won’t because… well, it’s probably been done before, and better, by other people. The journey Chris and Jurio go on through Tirasweel is a fantastic tale by turns comical and serious, and something I’d recommend almost unreservedly to every JRPG fan if it weren’t for that awful English translation.
So, I thought instead it’d be a nice idea to take a look through all the different reimaginings the game’s had over the years, and have a quick look at what’s changed between them. To do that I’ve filled up my hard drive with screenshots of the intro sequence and the first chapter up to the part where Jurio fights a big boar as that shows off dialogue, field, and battle sequences without me having to dedicate the next month of my life to five different versions of the same game.
It makes sense to start at the beginning, so that’s almost what I’ve done. On the left are screenshots from the PC-98 “Renewal” version of the game, with screenshots from Falcom’s later PC remake on the right. Lots of scenes and images here are directly comparable, although the PC remake has an extended intro with a few interesting scenes not present in any other version of the game.
The next one out was the Saturn version by Hudson, released in February 1998. The intro ditches Falcom’s original art entirely for this flashy (and unique) anime opening sequence mostly made from chopped-up bits of the impressive in-game FMV. It feels far more light hearted than Falcom’s take on the story, and this more “Let’s go on an adventure!” approach touches everything in the game.
The game itself uses an isometric viewpoint with some incredibly detailed and well animated sprites. It’s also heavily reworked – the plot still unfolds as expected, but it’s far more linear and any battle that’s not relevant to the plot has been eliminated entirely. It sounds alarming but it actually works well, especially with an RPG as story focussed as this one is.
Just a few months later GMF released their own take on The Legend of Heroes III, this time for the Playstation. It’s very similar to the original PC-98 game; the main differences are the poor CG intro sequence and the ridiculously large sprites that make finding your way around far more irritating than it should be.
Last but not least is the 2004 PSP port; notable for being the only version to see an English release in the game’s twenty year history. The US version was rightly slammed in reviews for it’s awful translation, unnecessary tinkering with the battle system (which is different again from the Japanese version pictured below), and Bandai not even releasing the trilogy in the right order, I’m sorry to say that it gave The Legend of Heroes a rather poor reputation that it thankfully recovered from with the later English release of Sora no Kiseki (AKA Trails in the Sky). The Japanese version, free from the meddling seen in its US counterpart, is actually a very pretty and well done remake.
In addition to the various ports shown above, the game has also been officially translated into Korean (DOS version) and traditional Chinese (PC remake version), with no particular differences to the originals other than the language.
It’s hard to believe now that not only has The White Witch’s story been around for over two decades at this point but also that even the most recent retelling is now ten years old. We’ve gone a whole decade without an update – surely a game as good as this deserves at the very least a Vita remake, doesn’t it Falcom?
Kimimi’s Final Thought™: If you’re interested in playing the game but now have no idea which version to go for here’s a quick guide -
Most authentic: PC-98 version (buy it from Project E.G.G.) or Falcom’s later PC remake
Most fun: Saturn version – Hudson did an absolutely stellar job, far and away the best Falcom remake they’ve ever done in my opinion.
Best balance of authenticity/quality/accessibility: Japanese PSP version. Beautiful to look at with a few modern conveniences, while being more conservative with its changes than the Saturn version.
I hope that helps!