• My biggest mistake when I first encountered Galaga Legions was to immediately compare it to its hallowed ancestry. I’ve spent rather a lot of 10p pieces mashing through level after level of the original Galaga (though strangely I’ve not been compelled to download the XBLA version yet). But the true benchmark for Galaga would have to be the peerless 88 and 90 versions, sublime in their original arcade format and just as good as a PC-Engine game.

    First impressions of Galaga Legions made me wonder how many mind-altering drugs the design team would have taken to come up with something so visually busy, so frenetic and so wildly different to its immediate predecessor. Gone is the rather sedate pace and gentle lilting music of Galaga 90, to be replaced with hypersonic assaults on all your senses all at once, causing your brain to go into a spasm and not knowing whether to make you puke, flee or fight.

    But fight you must, and don’t let Mr Brain think he’s allowed off on his holidays either because this Galaga demands a little more strategic thinking.

    Invaders on Speed

    Invaders on Speed

    Truly lazy players can opt for letting the game do all their firing for them (lame!) – I can understand the logic here. Galaga Legions demands such a ridiculously speedy firing rate that if you do go for manual firing controls, your trigger finger would probably be worn down to a scar-riddled stump within the space of a couple of levels so the best option would be to just stick with autofire.

    As with previous games, swarms of Galaga fleet ships accompanied by their squadron commanders warp into the level and the trick is to completely annihilate them before they assume formation and start buzzing your hyper-powered defence ship. In Galaga 90, this was merely a case of positioning yourself at a pinch-point where Galaga swarmed and danced their dainty space ballet. In Galaga Legions you’re given a precursor to each attack – a warp signature that appears momentarily before the Galaga themselves do. Keep your beady eye on those warp signatures, look for the appearance point and blast merry hell out of the Galaga horde as they appear.

    This time though you’re not alone from the outset. Whereas before you had to get your ship captured, then free your stricken vessel in order to gain some extra firepower, this time you have two satellite ships that can be independently controlled and positioned to give you some much-needed backup firepower. Sticking these in line with a warp point will see you tidying up each level in record time, and rather handily these can be placed to face up, down, left or right so you can bring them to bear on the attackers with the greatest efficiency.
    Not only that – you can actually turn the tables on the Galaga hordes quite neatly too. As I mentioned before, previous games would let you sacrifice a ship to grab it back later for extra punch. This time you can capture whole swarms of Galaga and use them beside your own ships to put paid to the enemy in a frenzied and chaotic mash-up of sheer unadulterated lunacy. These captured Galaga won’t last forever though so make the best use of them while you’ve got a chance.

    For the first few levels, the game will feel a little on the mundane side but once you face off against the end-of-world bosses, the action keeps gathering pace until you’re relying purely on adrenaline and instinct rather than forming split-second strategic decisions in order to succeed. Once again the busy screen with its multi-layered and multi-hued effects can be so distracting at times that you’ll often lose sight of your satellite ships in the melee.

    With story, challenge and pure score missions to play and plenty of other tweakable options as well as the online leaderboards, Galaga Legions is like a precocious teenager trying to convince you that its Facebook-fuelled house-trashing drug-taking party is better than your memories of 6th form Discos, sensible school jumpers and furtive nips at a two-litre bottle of Woodpecker Cider. Though it’s still got a long way to go before it’ll touch the true greatness of other Xbox Live shooters like the mighty unstoppable Ikaruga, or the sublime Rez, Galaga Legions is actually a lot better than I expected it to be and at least proves that I’ve not got too slow and too old to cope with this visual and dextral extravaganza of over-the-top pacing and sugar-fuelled frenzy. It’s certainly a good few notches above a lot of the other twin-stick-controlled cross when it comes to quality, so perhaps Namco haven’t completely lost the plot with their Xbox Live Arcade offerings just yet.

    Score: 7/10

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