July 4, 2011
In theory Galaga Legions DX is a massive expansion upon the last game, which can be hard to picture if you've of course never played Galaga Legions. The original Galaga gave players a ship which could strafe left and right, and of course you could shoot up at the aliens, all of whom are arranged in neat rows and slowly attack the player in waves.
Legions and of course, Legions DX throws all of this out the window retaining only the very core element of Galaga gameplay: shooting aliens. From the very beginning players are able to move their space craft in just about any direction they like, still restricted to a top-down perspective, but finally able to move freely about the screen. Additionally the space craft no longer just shoots a single beam, now players get to choose between a controlled blast forward or a spread fire that covers a potential of three directions at once. Players also get to choose the direction their ship faces, a change from Galaga Legion that takes gameplay in an extremely different direction.
The aliens have also received a makeover. They are still swarming forward in an attempt to collide with the player, but their old block formation has been removed to allow for a fluid stream of movement. Each level is broken down into more complex invasions, all of which start the same way. On screen, players are prompted with a string of lines that show which direction the aliens will be coming from and what path they will be taking. This is then followed by a caution indicator highlighting where the aliens will be spawning from. Players then have a limited amount of time to kill all the aliens on screen by either blasting them individually or blowing up certain explosive baddies which will cause a chain reaction. Alternatively, killing the 'leader' of the invasion will detonate all of the others instantly, racking up quite an impressive set of points. This shift in gameplay means that Galaga Legions DX isn't really about strictly killing the aliens, but doing so as fast as possible while at the same time facing relatively predictable waves invaders; and with aliens no longer retaining their habits of spawning only from the front players have a lot more to keep their eyes on visually.
Considering that there wasn't really too much leg room to work with when it comes to Galaga's original gameplay Namco did an amazing job at reinventing the franchise. Though predictable to an extent, the new means of surviving each wave and killing off invading aliens is unique enough to hold interest while at the same time still maintaining that classic arcade feeling. Pushing for points while working against the clock really captures the sort of competitive spirit that's surrounded many of these classic cabinet games, and the extremely tight, responsive controls help motivate players to make each run as flawless as possible.
The game features a few different modes as well, and though (very similar to the Pac-Man remake) a classic 'endless' mode is nowhere to be found, at the very least Namco was nice enough to offer a few alternatives. A handy tutorial coupled with a Championship Mode, Time Attack, and nine 'levels' to make up the game's content, all of which can individually be cleared relatively fast depending on the difficulty. Lower levels scale in difficulty over time to an extent, but assuming you're able to master the first two levels, the rest of the game is almost too easy on any level aside from hard. Many of the invasion patterns used throughout the game are reused and recycled from map to map, and it's relatively easy to understand what the best way to go about completing a wave is. To top it off, Legions DX goes relatively easy on the player, slowing down time whenever contact with an enemy ship/projectile comes close to scoring a kill. The effect is fancy and dramatic, but it also makes the game extremely easy for those with deft and agile thumbs.
Though fairly short, each mode provides competitive players with quite a bit of incentive to memorize each wave and push for a higher score.
Individual rankings for each level or mode couple with online leaderboards and game-hosted tournaments to actually help reinforce the high-score addiction that fuels most arcade gamers. That's not to say that the entire game's worth of content isn't easily completed in a few short hours, but they're an incredibly fun few hours and well worth the ride.
Part of this is due to the game's controls, which are easy to learn but absolutely flawless in execution. If moving and aiming were two completely separate functions Legions DX would rapidly fall apart, but with both axis sticks working in the same way that an FPS shooter does (one for moment with another to aim the ship) responding to the constantly shifting waves of enemies is extremely simple. The only real complaint here is that there just isn't enough game to go around considering how simple to concept is. Time trial modes and the soon-to-be championship tournament do extend the life of the gameplay to a significant degree, but that's only assuming you're an absolute perfectionist who loves to see how high they can rank on the leaderboards.
Visually the game is an absolute treat, not simply because Namco took the time to update the visuals even from the prior Legions, but because they took enough care to add a few little bonuses in there for any long-term fans of the classic. In addition to selecting levels players are given the choice of what ship and enemies they would like to fight, ranging from the updated modern aliens from Legions DX to the classic pixelated bugs from the original game. It's a pretty adorable feature that kicks up quite a bit of nostalgia. Nothing game changing really, but the throwback does earn a few props for letting me view the various visual changes that have been implemented in the series over the years.
In the end if you were never particularly impressed with the gameplay that Galaga has had to offer over its existence then Legions DX will hardly impress any further. That doesn't mean it's not a good game, because it's certainly enjoyable. There's just not enough change to the series to justify any newcomers and certainly not enough depth or length to this new title to sway anyone looking for a decent time sink. That all aside the game is quite enjoyable still, and fans of the classic arcade cabinet days will really appreciate what's been done here. At the very least if you've ever enjoyed the original and never got the chance to play Legions it may be worth giving it a quick chance.
Galaga Legions DX was reviewed on the Xbox Live Arcade. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.