Legion (Turbografx-CD) review
"Legion's not cool at all. It sucks. And the depth of the developer's blunders amounts to a lot more than the vague cop-out synopsis, "it has good ideas but just isn't fun". Legion takes reasonable ideas and makes them look dumb."
Legion is a horizontal shooter, one of my favorite genres. The bosses are large and animate smoothly, without slowdown or flicker. There's tons of dodge-and-blast action. When you lose a life, you continue where you died. Two-player simultaneous action is supported. The game is epic, spanning the journey to the enemy's base — and back again. And the experience is capped off with some unique CD audio.
I bet Legion sounds pretty cool so far. Well, guess what — it's not cool at all. It sucks. And the depth of the developer's blunders amounts to a lot more than the vague cop-out synopsis, "it has good ideas but just isn't fun". Legion takes reasonable ideas and makes them look dumb.
Legion is a horizontal shooter, one of my favorite genres.
I love shooters, but not for their deep storylines. Like so many others, the plot goes something like this: "lone spacecraft takes on the invincible invading army!" Words that would come back to haunt me. But enough of plot. That's not why I play shooters. I play them for raw action, aesthetic appreciation, and visceral stimulation.
One of the more stimulating aspects of shooters is experimenting with their powerup systems, achieving the most firepower possible, unleashing loads of lead upon wave after wave of airborne antagonists. Legion features a few powerups, but none of them accomplishes much. There's your basic gun, there's a missile that just kind of drips out the front of your spacecraft, there's even a gun that fires two peas at once instead of just one. The biggest problem is that you won't be able to keep any of these weapons for very long, since you lose them when you die, and there's only one powerup per level.
For a good example of a powerup system, I recommend Gaiares. In that game, if you die, you can reacquire weapons from any enemy in the game.
The bosses are large and animate smoothly, without slowdown or flicker.
Giving credit where credit is due, Legion features large, fast-moving bosses.
That doesn't mean they're fun to fight against. After busting your butt to get through the "cave planet" (???), some dangerous music kicks in, and then you face.....
....a giant clone of the famous Gradius boss!
"Shoot the core!" cried the voices in my head, and shoot the core I did, since the strategy was exactly the same as in Gradius. Except that in Gradius, the boss could be beaten without dying. Here, the barrage of lasers and bullets is immense and ridiculously swift. You have to hover in the small space between Mr. Clone-Craft's frontal lasers, which is easier said than done. The enemy ship moves up and down, so you have to keep moving as well. However, this boss moves up and down faster than you do — so hovering in that small space is well-nigh impossible.
Then there's the "artificial sun" boss, which is a fancy way of saying "big orange blob with guns". This fiend fires lightning-fast bullets out of eight orifices while zipping hither and thither, crowding you into the corners of the screen. And when I say lightning-fast, I mean lightning fast. Many a time, my first signal that bullets had been fired... was my ship exploding into spacedust.
For good examples of artificial suns, I recommend Gradius 2 or Salamander 2. Not only do they look better graphically, but they do, you know, "sun" things. Like spew fire. They don't just shoot small, generic bullets at you like every other enemy in the game.
There's tons of dodge-and-blast action.
The levels are loaded with plenty of lesser opposition... but even these puny peons fly twice as fast as your ship. Or perhaps three times as fast. It's a bit difficult to measure precisely. And, when they zoom across the screen past your underpowered starfighter, do these enemies vanish off the edge of the screen like they would in any other shooter?
No, of course not! Because Legion isn't like any other shooter. In Legion, such intricately designed foes as the "donut-shaped ship" or the "triangle-shaped ship" turn around and make a second buzz for your fighter craft.
Perhaps my point isn't clear enough yet. To hammer it into your forehead, a brief summary.
1) "Square-shaped ship" or one of its many brethren tries to ram you, flying at twice your speed.
2) Somehow you manage to avoid the kamikaze cube.
3) The magical flying square turns around and tries to ram you from behind.
4) You take it up the ass.
A rational game designer would have realized that opponents moving at twice your ship's speed would be difficult to dodge. However, the designers of Legion are not rational people. Even though it's insanely difficult, you're expected to do a lot of dodging. The end result is that you will do a lot of dying.
For a good example of shoot-and-dodge action, I recommend Thunder Force 4. In that game, your ship is quick so that you can actually keep up with enemy movement!
When you lose a life, you continue where you died.
And so you end up dying again, almost immediately, since you've lost your powerups and the enemies are still TWICE AS FAST as your ship.
With the insane difficulty and limited continues, it's disappointly common to suddenly realize you've used up all of your lives in a matter of seconds.
For a good example of "continuing where you died", I recommend Sol-Feace. In that game, when you die, you're immediately given a new powerup to improve your chances of survival.
Two-player simultaneous action is supported.
Yes, share the pain.
For a good example of two-player simultaneous action, I recommend Streets of Rage. That's not even a shooter, but it's a better way to spend your time.
The game is epic, spanning the journey to the enemy's base — and back again.
Normally, I love epic. I love traveling through level after diverse level, facing off against gargantuan opponents in every type of world imaginable.
I don't love epic when the game is insanely difficult. R-Type, Rayxanber 2, Gaiares... these other shooters are child's play by comparison. BECAUSE THEY'RE POSSIBLE TO WIN. Of course, those shooters give you tools with which to fight your opposition. Legion doesn't. In Legion, the alien armada is just outright better than you. Their bullets are faster, their ships are faster, and they never stop coming.
For a cool example of "epic", I recommend Gleylancer, another shooter that can actually be beaten. Oh, and here's another difference between Legion and Gleylancer. Maybe it's a small distinction, but I think it's important. In Gleylancer, the various worlds actually look different from each other. They aren't just given names like "desert planet" or "cave planet" to trick players into not realizing that everything looks the same.
But Legion is epic in more than one sense. In fact, Legion takes "epic" to its ridiculous extreme.
The game is capped off with some unique CD audio.
As each level begins, while enemies are trying to ram you, your pilot speaks into his on-craft log, a la Captain Picard from Star Trek. Although I doubt Picard ever waxed eloquent during the middle of a firefight. Despite the silliness, this could be potentially cool, if only your pilot weren't such a flaming idiot.
The Cave Planet, checkpoint on the way to the Desert Planet, suddenly becomes eerily silent, and I can see only the shadow of the enemy ship. They seem to be busy partying and not to have noticed my presence. Well, sorry guys, but I think I'll just let you tire yourselves out dancing.
Your pilot says this while dozens of cannons hurl mach-ten bullets at him. So much for "not noticing his presence".
The dumbest (and most bizarre) monologue takes place after your pilot learns that the enemy legion is building a gigantic robot for the purpose of assaulting and annihilating your home planet.
The message from the mother ship leaves off in the middle. It's 4610 hours. The last order from the mother ship went like this:
[The Imperial Fleet is headed to invade the home planet of the Federation. The main ship will immediately proceed to render assistance. A communication from Intelligence informs us that the Imperial Army is building a giant robot at an Imperial space docking platform located at Sector C4058. Proceed immediately to that Sector and destroy the robot.]
. . . . . .
I have arrived at Sector C4058. If the communication from Intelligence is correct, a giant robot is under construction inside this docking platform.
Let's gamble and say that Intelligence is incompetent.
Wow. That's a pretty bold gamble.
One important question remains. What did developer Renovation sacrifice so that all of this ridiculous English narration would fit on the compact disc?
That's right — for this CD-based game, they sacrificed CD music. While you shoot your way through each level, with this crystal-clear moron yammering on and on about his often-inane life, tinny soundchip-driven drek beeps and boops in the background. Hell, this isn't even good soundchip music. Give me Ninja Spirit, Legend of Xanadu, Emerald Dragon, or any number of other games featuring good-to-excellent chip music. Just please, dear god, don't give me Legion.
One saving grace. In the end, Legion delivers a poignant anti-war message. So, on the surface, Legion may look, sound, and control like a crappy game — but in reality, this is deep social commentary.
Staff review by Zigfried (January 16, 2005)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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