Review: Galaga Legions DX

It may not be as fondly remembered as Pac-Man or Space Invaders but Galaga was one of the pioneering titles behind the top down shooter and video games in general. Fortunately Namco knows this and has therefore included it in its Namco Generations series, along with Pac-Man and Metro-Cross. Unfortunately Galaga Legions DX deviates from the original’s formula in a way that won’t be appreciated by all its fans.

The original Galaga was a lot like Space Invaders. The player was only capable of moving left and right and shooting  forward at enemy spaceships. What separated it from other shooters at the time, and what made it better in many fan’s eyes, was the sporadic movements of the enemies and the ability to shoot more than one stream of bullets at a time by recruiting a second ship. Galaga Legions DX takes several things from its predecessor, the enemy movements are more unpredictable than ever before, it sticks to the top-down camera angle and it is now possible to recruit a whole fleet of ships or “satellites” to really maximise fire power. There is even a selection of six different art styles, five of which are reminiscent of the game’s old school heritage with pixel art graphics.

All that being said, gameplay wise Galaga Legions DX is actually quite a drastic departure from the original. Taking more of a cue from something like Geometry Wars the player is now tasked with a twin stick shooting system and the ability to move anywhere on the screen. The inclusion of these mechanics makes the game feel like a more modern affair than the game it’s based on. Along with the twin stick shooting comes the bullet hell enemies. Yes, Galaga Legions DX is a bullet hell shooter. This is probably the biggest change in gameplay in this version. To compensate for the player’s ability to move and shoot in any direction the game flings ships on screen from each and every direction. At its most hectic Galaga Legions DX can literally have hundreds of enemies on screen at a time. The shooting itself is very tight and fun to do, with two shooting modes – one that lets you shoot in three separate directions and another which allows for one focused stream of fire. 

Another new feature is the time limit. The objective of the original was to survive as long as possible while scoring as many points as you can. In Galaga Legions DX you have to score as many points as possible within a certain time limit. You can still run out of lives of course but it means that every game has to end after about two minutes, which breaks the flow of the game and means you can never have a mammoth session like you could in say, Geometry Wars. The main point of this game is to score big, and you do so by shooting the right targets at the right time to cause chain reactions, making it possible to wipe an entire screen clean with only a few well placed shots. Of course the game supports leader boards which pit you against the rest of the world as well as your friends, even allowing you to watch replays of the best players in the world. 

Unique to DX is the removal of being able to place satellites around the screen; now they all stick by your side no matter what. Also, like in Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, the near death slow motion has been added. In Pac-Man CE DX the slow down worked because you could always tell what was about to kill you and you had just enough time to avoid it, but in Galaga Legions DX, due to the hectic graphics, it’s often impossible to tell what is about to kill you and what you’re meant to do about it. The game also includes score attack tournaments held by Namco. They aren’t on all the time but when they are it’s a great chance to see how you stand up to the rest of the world.

Overall, Galaga Legions DX feels like a natural evolution of the Galaga formula. The game is a visual spectacle and plays like a treat, rewarding efficiency which can only be increased through multiple sessions. The game clearly had a lot of thought and love put into it, exemplified through inclusions like six different art styles to choose from, or the sheer amount of game you get for your money, including nine full levels, one championship level, as well as a time attack trial for every single stage. Sure old school gamers may be disappointed by the time limit forced onto the player, or the changes in gameplay but Namco took a risk with their re-imagining of this old shooter and it would be hard to argue that it didn’t ultimately pay off.

Galaga Legions DX by Namco Bandai is available on the Xbox Live marketplace right now and will be on the Playstation Network in the near future. 

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