The success of the Devil May Cry series has clearly influenced Capcom's design direction. Though the quality of the second game may be dubious, the company has nevertheless drawn on some of the positive aspects of Devil May Cry in creating Chaos Legion, its new "gothic opera," which was recently released in Japan. Chaos Legion is similar to Devil May Cry in that it has a dark and twisted visual aesthetic, lots of varied hack-and-slash action, and, of course, a stylish, taciturn hero with a big sword. But unlike Devil May Cry, Chaos Legion is less a Resident Evil-style adventure--it lacks any significant amount of item fetching and backtracking--and more a linear, action-oriented affair. This tightening of focus has allowed the designers to create a robust and interesting combat system that will surely please action fans.
Chaos Legion stars Sieg Wahrheit, the aforementioned sword-toting badass with a yen for killing monsters. He's your typical lanky, spiky-haired hero with a blade and a flowing cape. Sieg is locked in conflict with his enigmatic nemesis, Victor Delacroix. Early in the game, they lock swords, and there's a flashback to Sieg killing a girl that Victor apparently has some relationship with. Of course, this breeds all kinds of animosity, and Sieg will have to plow through a host of monsters to get to Victor and resolve the conflict. The game's plot is presented alternately by simple voice-overs and some pretty well-rendered CG cutscenes. Alas, all the dialogue and text are in Japanese, so we'll get back to you with more intricate information about the storyline as it's available.
The real star of Chaos Legion is the combat system. Sieg starts with a giant sword and a projectile attack, and at first he can perform only basic combos against enemies. Sieg doesn't have the acrobatic finesse of Devil May Cry's Dante, but he doesn't need it--his own combat gimmick comes in the form of legions, which are powerful allies that can be summoned at any time during a battle. The legions are integral to the combat in Chaos Legion because you'll often be facing far more enemies than you can deal with on your own. It's not uncommon to see 20 monsters or more on the screen at once, and though it's possible to slice your way through a good number of opponents yourself, you'll need the help of your legions to survive. Legions can be summoned at the tap of a button, and they have their own attack AI so you don't have to spend time managing their actions. You can also set a legion's attack mode to active or passive at any time--when active, they'll aggressively go out in the horde of enemies and fight for you. The active attack mode is definitely what you'll usually want to use, but you can also put your legions in passive mode to surround Sieg and protect him. Pressing the triangle button will cause them to dart out and attack once, then return to you again. When your legions aren't present on the battlefield, you can still use them indirectly by invoking a super move that Sieg can perform--this move depends on which legion is active (you can have two equipped during a level) and what level the legion has attained.
In fact, the legions can be leveled up in a number of different ways, as can Sieg. Chaos Legion features some noticeably RPG-like elements, primarily the gaining of experience from fighting enemies. As you slash your way through the hordes, you'll gain experience points for your legions (as well as items that power up Sieg himself). The game's combo system tracks the number of hits you score in a given combo and adjusts your experience points accordingly. At the end of a level, you get the chance to spend your legions' experience points by upgrading a number of different attributes, such as attack, defense, and the like. The more you focus on a particular legion, the more powerful it will get--a fully upgraded legion is a truly formidable force in battle. Even more, as your legions progress you can integrate them freely into your combo attacks, making them a vital part of your attack strategy.
Capcom calls Chaos Legion a "gothic opera" for a reason. The game's overall presentation is indeed very gothic--it's dark and gloomy, and the monster designs are fairly disturbing. The cinematics are also given to a dramatic flair. Graphically, the game is something of a mixed bag. Sieg and all of the enemy monsters are highly detailed and fluidly animated, and the boss monsters are especially immense and menacing. The frame rate is also completely smooth, without a hint of slowdown. Unfortunately, the backgrounds are all sparsely detailed, with predictable settings like castle ruins. Of course, this fits the game's motif, but the backgrounds tend to run together quite a bit, since everything ends up looking basically the same. Still, it's hard to fault Chaos Legion's visuals in a significant way. The music is a mixture of darkly symphonic melodies and that particularly Japanese brand of melodic metal that's common in a lot of action games these days, and all of the tracks are decent, if not especially noticeable.
Chaos Legion is looking to be a very solid action game for fans of the genre. Though it consists solely of combat--no puzzle solving or character interaction here--the gameplay model is complicated and interesting enough that it should hold the attention of even jaded action gamers. Capcom hasn't officially announced a US release date for Chaos Legion yet, but its appearance on our shelves is almost assured. We'll bring you more information on the impending English version of Chaos Legion as it arrives.