Everything you wanted to know about Galaga Legions, but were afraid to ask.
Like most historic game companies, Namco hasn’t always treated it’s classics as respectfully as they should. As I alluded to in my Bionic Commando: Rearmed review, I’m pretty sure Pac-Man is still in therapy for all the mediocre titles he’s had to appear in. As the average gamers get older and older, they tend to tolerate such insolence less and less. Namco, among other companies, has finally seemed to realize this. I’m not sure exactly when it happened for Namco, possibly sometime around the release of Pac-Man Vs. (which is a great multiplayer game, by the way), but I think we should thank our lucky stars they’ve come to their senses. We all love Pac-Man Championship Edition and now, thanks to the same development team, we can all start loving Galaga Legions.
The original Galaga has a certain purity about it. Namco essentially took the simplicity of Taito’s Space Invaders and upgraded it with Galaxian but really nailed the archetype of a great shmup with Galaga. Galaga saw a few sequels and most did a fairly good job of improving on the core gameplay without rocking the boat, or spaceship in this case, too much. Galaga Legions somehow turns the series on it’s ear while managing to keep that classic Galaga nostalgia alive.
By the power of Timothy Leary’s sugercubes, what do we have here?
As crazy as it may sound, I believe the best way to describe the gameplay is classic Galaga gracefully and covertly combined with a very highspeed tower defense game (like PixelJunk Monsters). I must prove my sanity now. In Galaga Legions you are no longer restricted to the bottom of the screen as in the previous games. You remember the looping and charging of Galaga‘s enemy ships, correct? Well, imagine if before they appeared quick neon lines flew around the screen showing their impending paths. Now add two indestructible satellites, capable of firing in unison with your ship, that follow your ship until you place each one. You can place them wherever you like, facing in any orthogonal direction. They can also be picked up or recalled at any time much like the R-Type games.
Such is the brilliance of this new gameplay. It’s got that great Galaga feel while giving you the option of using the satellites as little or as much as you like. You will, however, be greatly rewarded for effective strategic usage of those wondrous little satellites, giving the brains of strategy fans a nice gentle massage. As in Gaplus, aka Galaga 3, you’ll be able to capture enemy ships and fight alongside them. Now they’ll be tied to your satellites so you can station (no pun intended) them anywhere.
Yes, your $300 Xbox 360 can create a cat’s cradle, without your fingers!
The graphics, sound and music are all what you’d expect from the Pac-Man C.E. team and that’s a good thing. Right out of the gate, you will have two “skins” to apply to the in-game graphics such as your ship, satellites and the various enemy types. One featuring pretty new 3D rendered graphics and the other featuring glowing versions of the classic Galaga sprites (similar to Pac-Man C.E.). Regardless, the screen will fill with more enemies than you can quickly count and the effects are quite beautiful and flashy without blinding you to whats going on. The music has a fun classic sci-fi, almost Star Trek-like, feel to it and the sound is well done with my favorite part being the female computer voice constantly talking to you and warning you. Believe it or not, I found it charming and not annoying though some might disagree.
There’s the main adventure mode which is all levels in succession and championship mode where you challenge single levels for highscore. The game features XBL leaderboards as it should. My only complaint is a lack of two player, but good multiplayer fun is to be had in battling for highscores.
Galaga Legions is a great update to the series that manages to blow me away while staying true to it’s simple past. I’d be hard-pressed to ask them to do any better at it.
Final Grade: A-