Starting in 2009 Warner Brother/DC Comics has released a string of games that finally broke their long record of mediocre and just plain terrible cash grabs. Starting with the truly great Batman: Arkham series from Rocksteady, teaming with Lego (always a wise move), the purchase of NetherRealm Studios bringing in Mortal Kombat back to a fine form and Injustice: God Among Us giving DC it’s first solid fighting game and with TellTale’s episodic Fables adventure The Wolf Among Us. Tragically the end of 2013 saw this streak come to a close with taking their tentpole franchise to a new completely in house development studio for Batman: Arkham Origin and the farmed out Freedom Factory Studio’s Young Justice: Legacy.
Young Justice: Legacy is based on the Cartoon Network series of the same name. Following a band of young sidekicks in the years between their Teen Titans phase and full on membership in The Justice League. As the junior team they get all the jobs that their mentors just don’t feel like handling, in this case rescuing a kidnapped archaeologist and stumbling on to a conspiracy run by a group of supervillains.
Legacy’s story takes it’s time building up despite there never being any real momentum. Fortunately, the voice cast from the series has returned and all give fine performances. This is the best part of Young Justice: Legacy. They are familiar enough with their characters to be able to add a little life to the proceedings. It might even give fans of the series hope that there’s something here worth bothering with… let me burst that bubble right now and tell you plainly and bluntly… there is not. The musical score tries to be stirring and grand in the tradition of music befitting superheroes taking on all forces of evil and emerging triumphant. It doesn’t succeed. By the end of every level you’ll have it muted because you just can’t stand to listen to it yet again.
Young Justice leads our sixteen member band, eleven by the end of the first playthrough, Beast Boy unlocked for the second and four season two characters as downloadable content who should have just been unlockable in game, in a squad of three through fifteen levels of filler. The maps all feel identical, just with changed settings. Not well changed settings either, it’s just flatly reskinned. There’s a handful of hidden areas but these only lead to one more room that feels like just more of the same. Each map only has one encounter that you’ll have to face copy/pasted about seven times. It all feels unfinished also. Every treasure chest I encountered was empty… at least, I think it was empty. I wasn’t informed that I’d found something and there were no visual cues to my having picked something up. None. I guess they’re just decoration that you can interact with for no reason at all. Yeah… that makes sense.
I wish I could inform you that only the levels looked awful. I can not. The characters are painfully outdated looking. Like some refugees from a long forgotten title that were plopped down on modern hardware. They are eyesore stick figures with sorta recognizable costumes being the only way to tell them apart. Like the maps and empty treasure chest, they just make it all seem to be half done.
Combat consists of basic light and strong attacks and character specific super moves. The super moves are actually the best part, it’s the only time characters can actually be distinguished from one another. Superboy pulls up the earth and tosses it at enemies, Nightwing throws batarangs, Artemis has a bow for long range combat, Beast Boy can turn into any animal (don’t turn into a skunk as the load screens endlessly remind you). Outside of those, there’s no difference between the characters. Their medium attacks do little damage and using a high strength character only means you have to smash the button slightly less. The heavy attacks need to charge for any effectiveness. Any character can lift throwable items in the map.
Young Justice: Legacy ultimately commits the worst act a game like this can. It’s boring. Painfully, tediously boring. There’s no reason to experiment with squad members, only the level designated team leader has anything to say. Stacking the deck with members of the Bat family, for example, gives no new dialog when it would be appropriate. There’s no exploration since it’s all running in a straight line. There’s no replay value unless you need to play as Beast Boy. While multiplayer helps a little, you just can’t fix the problems with this game.
I see this as an experience that is designed to be shared with others. Something that the target audience, the show’s child fans, could enjoy with an older sibling or parent. Now if only there was something that was like this but wasn’t terrible… huh.. oh wait… there is. Marvel released a series of squad based, large roster RPGs just like this! They are everything this game isn’t. Fun, well made and replayable. If you were thinking about picking up Young Justice: Legacy take a detour instead to the used games section and instead pick up a copy of X-Men: Legends or Marvel Ultimate Alliance.You, and everyone around you, will be glad you did in both the short and long term.