Shotgun Legend (PC) review
"A redneck in King Rhoam's court"
Throwback games can serve as pleasant diversions, provided you're in the right mood for them. I mean, sometimes all you need is a jolt of nostalgia to warm your heart and wash away your woes, and that's fine. However, let's recognize this phenomenon for what it is: novelty. Sure, it's cool that the umpteenth run 'n gun platformer on Steam reminds you of Contra or Metal Slug, but what substantial offering does it possess besides fond remembrance? Often, products of this nature retread older ideas as a means for developers to say, "Look at what I was playing during my formative years," while presenting little else. The best examples of this category rise beyond merely imitating the hits of yore, usually by offering some intriguing or modern twist.
In this case, we're looking at Shotgun Legend, an ape of The Legend of Zelda that replaces Link with a shotgun-toting hillbilly, Eugene. Rather than a prophecized hero, Eugene is an every-man who stumbles upon a gateway to an alien world while searching the local dump for a tire rim. The one he finds turns out to be a device created for interstellar travel that brings him to "totally not Hyrule,' where he wanders aimlessly while plugging shotgun shells into cave bats, giant bugs, and skeletons. Predictably, his proximity to these beasts alters the damage dealt, where closer blasts lead to more pellets penetrating flesh and dishing out greater punishment.
Legend somewhat looks the part of its inspiration, though it doesn't sound quite right. It proudly sports similar visual, from the colorful 2D overworld to terrifically dark caverns and dungeons that smack very much of old school Zelda's tileset. Obviously, this adventure doesn't look exactly like an NES title and bears a closer resemblance to your average GameMaker Studio fare, but it visually captures the essence well enough. Sadly that's more than I can say for most of its soundtrack, which provides few memorable cuts. The overworld BGM sounds like a menu theme crossed with waiting room muzak, thus lacking any sense of adventure. On the flip side, the dungeon track exudes evil just enough to qualify as decent, but still comes across as a bit of a generic piece. Obviously, these offerings are a far cry from the iconic soundtrack of the NES classic, so much that it wouldn't be fair to even expect music so grand. Even with that in mind, Legend's score disappoints.
As with Zelda, Legend doesn't provide much guidance. It thrusts you into its world and leaves you to your devices. You wander the vast realm, hoping to find an obvious pathway or dungeon entrance that serves as your next destination. Though you don't receive any hints, it shouldn't take seasoned players long to locate the first stage. There, it's the same old song and dance: map out the premises, get the special item hidden in the depths, fight the boss, and acquire a piece of the tire rim. Some of the equipment you find is pretty standard, like a crossbow or some dynamite. However, you also gain the occasional neat object, like a banjo that kills ghosts or a wave cannon that helps wipe out whole groups of foes.
Never the less, the experience remains a wash, rinse, repeat, affair in a similar vein to its subject, except shorter in overall length and with fewer well-hidden secrets that require you to hit old issues of Nintendo Power or visit GameFAQs.
With each passing dungeon, you feel Legend's grip on your heartstrings diminish. It remains a mostly solid action-adventure experience, but doesn't offer content or concepts its sub-genre hasn't done to death. By the fifth stage, it merely goes through the Zelda motions, with its only standout feature being a storyline told through notes left in various places--a hallmark of the survival-horror genre. Beyond that and the silly premise of a redneck visiting a Hyrule-esque landscape, there's little to separate this product from its subject aside from a few tough boss encounters (especially the final boss, who's a right bastard).
Which takes me back to my original point: when the novelty wears off, what sort of material is the game in question going to pull from its bag of tricks to keep its audience's attention? Really, a throwback title's attractions don't need to be complex or deep. They can be as simple as unlockables or permanent bonuses acquired through constant playing, or collectibles. Legend at least makes an attempt at this by giving you cards that defeated enemies sometimes drop, but this feature isn't enough to bolster the finished product. This title offers no twists aside from its titular weapon, which adds little to the formula besides maybe earning a little snicker from its players.
Basically, this game is a comedy that has one lightweight joke, and the punchline is supposed to hold you over for eight hours. Thankfully, the content on offer is quite playable, albeit unremarkable. No, Shotgun Legend isn't a waste of time or a terrible experience, and it's actually a fairly decent acquisition for anyone looking to scratch a "not-quite-Zelda" itch. Just the same, there are many vastly superior games in that category available on numerous platforms. I wouldn't advise playing this one over something like Alundra or 3D Dot Game Heroes, but once you've cleared the A and B list, this one should be your next selection.
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (August 25, 2021)
Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.
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