Legendary Wings (NES) review
"These stages actually seem much simpler than the overhead-perspective ones, though I would not call them easy. You dodge around ledges and push your way forward past the hordes of enemies. Later areas have ceiling crawlers and such, but even the early ones challenge you with monsters the send out projectiles or try and ram into you. Make your way to the end and there's a boss encounter of sorts."
Though you wouldn't see any neon indicators of the fact by looking at my collection of games spanning the various consoles, I'm something of a fan of the shooter genre. And while I like some side-scrolling shooters like Darius Twin, my preference is that things scroll vertically. Perhaps it stems from my introduction to the NES title 1943: The Battle of Midway when I was still quite young. Whatever the case, I like those types of games, so I was recently delighted to find Legendary Wings used at a reasonable price.
When I played the game in the store, I did as well as I think I'll ever do. Though I died quite quickly, I decided it was a high quality game that belonged in my collection. After all, Capcom designed it. There was a time when they were the undisputed kings of that particular genre. So I took it home and I played it some more. And I died. So I turned it off, somewhat disgusted, and let it lie around a few weeks. Then I played it again this morning. And I... died. I died a lot. But I found out in the process that there's more to this game than you might immediately notice.
As you may have already guessed from the above, this is one of those overhead shooters once so common. Like 1943: The Battle of Midway, this is an early Capcom effort. The graphics are very old, though at the time they were quite good. A good example are the enormous heads the serve as entrances to side-scrolling areas. This feels like something a Mega Man team may have developed. The sound is also very reminiscent of such titles, and most especially of another Capcom effort in an unrelated genre, Willow. Besides the music, which fits the game yet doesn't do anything to noticeably enhance the experience, there are the sound effects you would likely expect. Bullets make one sound, another as they strike. Upgrade your bullets enough and get a new sound effect. There's nothing to write home about, here, but it gets the job done and better than many other titles of the period.
I already mentioned side-scrolling areas, and now I'll describe them a bit more. Play enough overhead stuff and you'll find enormous heads situated at the center of the screen. Things are pushing you ahead, but act quickly and you can bomb your way into the statue. It opens its mouth and you fly inside to find yourself in a Gradius-style perspective. These stages actually seem much simpler than the overhead-perspective ones, though I would not call them easy. You dodge around ledges and push your way forward past the hordes of enemies. Later areas have ceiling crawlers and such, but even the early ones challenge you with monsters the send out projectiles or try and ram into you. Make your way to the end and there's a boss encounter of sorts. The first such stage features two giant worms that pop out of holes and fire bubbles at you. Nothing too hard. Didn't even come close to dying.
Once you finish such stages, you're back to the main overhead stuff. It is, in fact, possible to avoid the side-view stuff altogether. And honestly, the only reasons I found to venture into those dungeons are the sake of variety and points. You don't seem to gain any powerups, and are in fact likely to lose them.
The overhead portions, then, are the meat of the game. And they're quite annoying. You have the basic abilities to fire a single shot and to drop bombs. Dodge enough, survive enough, and you can upgrade your firepower. I managed to get the third level up, which I took with me into a dungeon and lost most of the way through. The good news is that a firepower upgrade is like a shield. You get the benefit of being able to take out enemies more easily, and also you can take a hit. Like Mario, though, your character will lose that special firepower when the hit is taken. Then you're down to hoping you find another powerup in time to provide yourself with a shield.
If somehow you make your way to the end of the stage, something I've managed to do only once, there's an encounter with a boss. This fight is of course very difficult, as one hit is likely to down one of your flyers. And although you have three lives at the beginning of the game, they can go by just like that. This seems like an evil game designed for the arcades, built for the sole purpose of sucking quarters like a vaccuum cleaner.
Before I wrap up the review, I should mention one other thing: two people can play this game at once. I've yet to find someone who will play it with me, but I tested it out and this is indead a game for simultaneous play. I can imagine that would make things slightly easier. Still, though, things just seem too rough. If the first level is so blasted difficult, I can only imagine what the rest must be like. I have to say, though, that this is something of a must-own for lovers of the genre and insane challenge.
Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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