Space bees are the worst. They think they're so cool, but they're really not. Fortunately, games like Galaga exist to take them down a peg or two, and Galaga Legions DX exists to take them down in the coolest way possible.
Stupid space bees.
Galaga Legions DX (PSN, XBLA [reviewed])
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release date: June 29, 2011
MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points, $10
Namco Bandai does a pretty good job of updating its arcade classics, with Pac-Man: Championship Edition and Pac-Man: Championship Edition DX proving to be unbelievably excellent games. Very much like the last "DX" game, Galaga Legions DX is an updated follow-up to an older game, with 2008's Galaga Legions getting a fresh lick of paint and new features.
Galaga Legions takes only the most core feature of the classic Galaga -- top-down shooting -- and turns it into something magical. With free movement around the map, players must tackle wave after wave of space-faring invertebrates, firing a path through the peons to eliminate the boss creatures and set off a chain reaction that will eliminate a whole squad.
There's almost a puzzle element to the game, as the key to victory lies not so much in avoiding and returning fire, but making use of the space and switching between focused and directional firing patterns in order to destroy a squad in the most efficient way possible. Points are earned through the swift extermination of entire squads rather than attempting to shoot as many enemies as possible, and so your goal is to find the shortest way to access a squad leader and take it out.
The squads move in set patterns, and players must tune their movements to match the enemy in order to make an effective strike. They must also make use of floating Galaga Bombs to rip large chunks out of the enemy. There's a unique and rather beautiful flow to Galaga Legions DX, one that can prove quite mesmerizing.
The game features a Championship mode and nine separate levels consisting of five enemy waves, as well as one tutorial level and a time attack mode. Each level can be cleared fairly quickly, and you'll be able to beat everything in an afternoon without any hassle. However, like most score-attack games, the replay value extends as far as you want it to, with plenty of room for players to practice and improve.
Despite the replayablity, it would have been nice to have had an "Endless" mode included for those who just want to see how far they can get. Levels also feel a tad short, with gameplay only sustained for short bursts of time. Even Championship mode is over fairly quickly, and I'd have preferred a few lengthier excursions to eliminate the "stop/start/stop/start" feeling that can sometimes occur.
Galaga Legions DX isn't a "hard" game in the traditional sense -- most players can clear every level without dying much at all. However, getting the high scores and an acceptable ranking is a worthy challenge in and of itself. Honing one's skills, taking effective positions, and knowing when to switch between your alternative firing modes -- focused fire will attack singular enemies dead-on, while dual-fire will split your ship's satellites and allow you to tackle enemies approaching from multiple directions -- are all part of the learning curve, and it feels utterly rewarding when one nails the fundamentals and starts to wipe out huge squads within seconds.
Some of the best moments, however, come when tactical play is thrown out of the window and maximum genocide is required. At fifth wave of each level, players get to win an army of Galaga soldiers over to their side and fire as one unified army. The game will then proceed to spawn squads that can take over almost the entire screen, and the effect is akin to watching a windshield wiper battling heavy rainfall. There's a gorgeous fluidity to the visuals, and the feeling off pushing back a legion of foes with your squad of defecting space bees is something special indeed.
There's a range of visual styles to choose, ranging from the ultra-modern to enhanced versions of classic arcade sprites. There's a decent little soundtrack too which, while not very memorable, keeps the action subtly pumping.
Galaga Legions DX is a terrific little game that even casual shooter fans ought to find rather addictive. The score-attack gameplay and the uniquely satisfying way in which enemies are swiftly dispatched combine to create a compelling experience that's hard to simply put down and walk away from. Although there's not a huge deal of content, the potential replayability ought to cover the ten dollar entry fee. I just wish levels could have been longer and a few more modes added. What's there is fantastic, but there was definitely room for a lot more and, as such, the title doesn't feel 100% complete.
All told, this is another win for Namco Bandai and its arcade remake initiative.