So let's get the obvious out of the way first. Eternal Legacy is a Gameloft game, and being a Gameloft game, it borrows heavily (and I do mean heavily) from another popular title. In this case, the title in question is Final Fantasy XIII. Now that the unpleasant realities have been dispensed with, you should know that, while the similarities are definitely there, Eternal Legacy does a decent job of establishing itself in its own right -- and of being fun. Besides, how soon do you expect to find Final Fantasy XIII on the iPad or iPhone?
If you've been craving a full featured, free-roaming Japanese-style role playing game on the iOS platform, Eternal Legacy will likely hit the sweet spot for you. The story is typical anime/Final Fantasy inspired melodrama, complete with an angst-ridden pretty-boy with spiky hair (and a sword best suited for hacking down trees), a mashed up sci-fi/fantasy setting, and a heavy handed "get in touch with your environment" message that sledgehammers its way through the narrative. The main character, Astrian, is on a search for his lost father and, on the way, he finds himself battling a tyrannical government, alongside a host of ever-changing party members.
The free-roaming exploration aspect of the game is what really endeared it to me. I've seen what game companies can do on the iOS platform, and have been getting a little worn down by games that keep users locked to a solitary path meant to move things along in bite-sized chunks. Sometimes I just want to sit down and play for a little while, and Eternal Legacy provides for that. There are several quests and much information to be had by talking with as many NPCs (non-player characters) as possible, as well as treasure and gear hidden in remote corners -- you even get a big blue lizard to ride, and can get your own ship. The game itself is quite beautiful and detailed, and is a pleasure to explore, and while there will be the occasional ambush, you generally have to get near enough to a baddie to end up in a fight.
The turn-based fighting system has some major positives and negatives to it. The ability to control only the main character, leaving the AI to handle your three companions, is a good thing, overall. It keeps things flowing along quickly and allows you to queue up three actions at a time for your character. The computer does a very good job of handling the rest of the party, which solves one of my main issues with games that choose this kind of battle system. In fact, in some instances, the computer is almost too good, especially with the healing. You might think that you can never have too much healing, but if you can't die, there's very little challenge in a game like this.
You do have a bit of party control, via modes. With modes, you can preset each party member to act in a certain way, like as a berserker or with the aforementioned healing. You can also turn party AI off and control each character directly. This is fantastic for players like me that sometimes prefer to strategize every move. The problem here is that the combat system was not designed for this sort of play, and so you still can't see the same depth of control for party members that you do for the main character.
The above points can make battle a bit boring after a while for more involved gamers, even when fighting something large, tough, and cool-looking. However, the regular shifting of party members throughout the game adds some variety and flavour to the proceedings. If Eternal Legacy were to undergo an update that, say, allowed you to see queued moves for all characters, and added a bit of balancing for more of a challenge, I doubt I would have any complaints at all.
As you level up and explore Eternal Legacy, you will discover new skills, as well as Fragments that allow you to upgrade your weapons for additional damage and other neat stuff. This is pretty typical to JRPGs, since Final Fantasy VII and Wild Arms (where it was practically the entire point), but it adds a level of customization to the game that is always appreciated.
Graphics in Eternal Legacy are fantastic on the iPhone and iPod Touch, but are only good on the iPad. The game's resolution just doesn't quite seem to meet up with the iPads resolution, leaving a few obvious polygons poking about. Audio... audio is pretty good, aside from the voice over. I generally think that fully voice-acted characters in games is a good thing -- but only when done well. In this case, the overabundance of cheese is very nearly lethal. You really have to power through it -- but if you can't, there is always the option to turn it off.
Eternal Legacy, for all that it is an obvious rip on Final Fantasy XIII, is a good game, and not a bad buy at $5.99 for the iPhone/iPod Touch, and $6.99 for the iPad. As is ever my complaint with Gameloft, they are padding their pockets by charging you to purchase on both platforms, even though the game is essentially the same. Perhaps I am spoiled by universal apps and games, but as an owner of both pieces of hardware, I find it immensely annoying. In any case, if you like Japanese-style RPGs, and like a pretty game with a fair amount (8-12 hours) of free-roaming gameplay, you will very likely enjoy this game.