Review by Psycho Penguin
"It's everything you want, it's everything you need, but it means nothing to you and you don't know why."
After reviewing Activision Classics, I realized just how many damn shooter ripoffs there were out there to choose from. Almost every Atari game was apparently a ripoff of Space Invaders. And there were a lot of vertical scrolling, and side scrolling shooters to choose from on the NES, as well. Legendary Wings was yet another example of this, but like most of the other ones, it's still a lot of fun to play. I've always been a big fan of the genre, and feel Legendary Wings brings a lot to the table, managing to become unique and fun at the same time. I find it is one of the better shooters on the NES, just because of the variety of things you can do in the game, but it is a somewhat flawed game. Despite the flaws, you will still find little to hate about Legendary Wings, and that's why it's one of the better choices for the NES out there.
The story is certainly a little more unique than the majority of stories out there. It's your basic ''save the world'' type story line, but instead of it being another boring one, this one has an interesting premise to it. It takes place 20,000 years in the future. Apparently, you are a Greek warrior, which begs the question, how did a Greek warrior survive 20,000 years into the future? You would be hoping to find out during the game, but to no answer, as the game does a poor job of developing the plot. Hell, outside of the instruction manual, you will barely see any story at all throughout the game. That doesn't mean the story isn't good, though, it's fine in the manual and sets up a nice premise for the game. It's not like story matters in a shooter, anyways.
Legendary Wings is a typical shooter, as you progress vertically, killing enemies and collecting power-ups. It's a lot of fun, and manages to be one of the more fun shooters out there. The cool thing is that the power-ups are logically placed, and you have to go out of your way to get some of them. It certainly provides an unique challenge, and the stages are nice and varied, with a ton of powerups and weapons to get. That's another thing I enjoyed a lot about Legendary Wings. The stages will take you to a variety of ancient places.. only set in the future. They're really creative and manage to be a blast to play through. You get six stages in the game, and some are vertical scrolling, while others are side scrolling. Plus, there's several mini-stages in each stage, like a ''danger'' portion where enemies come at you in waves. It's lots of fun. Plus, the enemy patterns are pretty good in this game. Far too often, shooters rely solely on throwing tons of enemies at you, but this game relies more on smart enemies who are aware of their surroundings. I really liked that aspect of this game, as well.
And finally, the fact you could get a buddy to play along side you was pretty good, as well. The mutltiplayer aspect of Legendary Wings was one of the stronger parts of the game, as you could do co-operative gaming. This made the game a little easier, especially since one player could focus on overhead enemies, while another player worried about the enemies on the ground. I've heard a few complaints about the fact that there are enemies on the ground and in the sky, but I have yet to see why. Sure, it may become a little annoying after a while, especially when you got swarms of enemies coming after you, and you have enemies on the ground shooting at you, but it's all part of the shooter experience, brother. A lot of shooters out there have this feature, and it's supposed to make the game challenging. I had no problems with it, but if you don't like throwing bombs and shooting, then don't play this game. Or half the other shooters on the NES, for that matter.
Sadly, the controls could have used a little bit of work. It's a shame that a game this fun has such limited controls, and the controls will get on your nerves from time to time. I'm not a big fan of blaming the controls for your deaths, but you will find instances in this game where you will die just because the directional pad didn't react quickly enough. It was always hard to move from left to right, and felt like much more of a chore than it should have. Dropping bombs and shooting enemies was simple enough, however. I just wish it was easier to actually move around.
Along with the controls, Legendary Wings has one other fatal flaw that prevents it from becoming a true classic. There's one thing I always fear most when it comes to shooters, and that's slowdown. Due to the vast array of enemies that you will have to endure during your quest to save the world, your screen will get attacked with this evil slowdown quite a few times. I was disappointed by this, as it made the game seem less fun. There's nothing quite like bareeling your way through a wave of enemies then getting hit with some slowdown from hell.
It's not the graphics fault, though, since the game actually looks quite good. The backgrounds are very detailed and quite varied. I especially like some of the later designs, especially when you started to get to the futuristic cities. (I hope that's not a spoiler!) Plus, the enemy designs are unique and pretty varied. I wouldn't say that they were the best enemy designs in the world, but they certainly got the job done. Everything here actually looks pretty good for a 1988 game, and you will find little to complain about, besides the whole slowdown issue. I think the fact that this game looks as detailed as it does, combined with the age of the title and the fact there's so many enemies at certain points in the game, is the cause for the slowdown issues you will face.
The game gets an added boost to its ''legendary'' feel with the music. Despite the fact that it repeats too much, it is still some of the better music that I have heard on the NES. From the time you hear the music at the title screen to the final boss, you will be hooked. It's melodic, and very up-tempo in parts. Especially at the beginning, which seems to use the harp a lot to get over the Greek aspect of the game. Later on, the game becomes more brooding and dark, as well as more mysterious. It's certainly well done, and I especially liked the boss theme, which is one of the better songs in the game. The variety of music is good, but sadly you will hear the same song repeated a few times. The song is not that annoying, though, so it's not a major flaw. The futuristic sound effects combine perfectly with the music, and really add a lot to the overall listening experience.
The game does have some good replay value, despite the problems with slowdown. There's not really a bunch of secrets, or game modes, but it's a shooter, so what do you expect? If you're a fan of the genre, you will find a lot to like and appreciate with Legendary Wings. The game manages to be a lot of fun, and the stage designs are very varied. Plus, the challenge level of the game actually does help the replay value, plus the fact that you get points means you can try for a high score. The multiplayer aspects of the game also make the game more replayable. There's nothing quite like going on a shooting rampage with a friend of yours. if you're into shooters, you could do far worse than Legendary Wings, especially if you're looking for replay value, because you won't find any reason not to come back to it.
And boy, Legendary Wings sure is challenging. Some of the earlier stages have been known to give me problems, and then by the time I get to the later stages, I am history. The most challenging part, of course, is the lack of continues. You only get a few before you have to start over from the beginning. There's six stages in the game, and they get increasingly challenging, especially due to the amount and intelligence of the enemies you will face in the later stages. Plus, the bosses are massive and take quick reflexes in order to defeat. You may think that a game with only six stages is not the most challenging game in the world, and it's true that Legendary Wings is not as challenging as others make it out to be. But, the game still manages to be quite challenging. Shooter fans who have beaten a lot of them might not have as much of a problem with this game as newbies to the genre, however.
If you like shooters, you can't do wrong with legendary Wings. Yes, it has flaws. The game is challenging, there's slowdown from time to time, and the controls could have used some work before being released to the public. Regardless, there's too much to like here to hate on the flaws too much. The stage designs are nice and long, and well varied. You get to switch up between vertical scrolling stages and side scrolling ones, and I am pretty sure that this was the first shooter ever that allowed you to do this. I may be wrong, though, so all you shooter fans out there with more knowledge than me can email me or AIM me and correct me on that. The game looks and sounds great, too, for all you people out there that care about that sort of thing. There's no reason for me not to recommend legendary Wings, so go buy it and have yourself a dandy old time with a ''legendary'' futuristic shooter.
Now, where's my Legendary Wings 2, Capcom? It's the 15 year anniversary this year, you know.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/08/03, Updated 07/08/03
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