The best shooters in the world not only include addictive gameplay and innumerable enemies, but also demand precise reflexes. Galaga Legions is billed as the true sequel to Galaga, much the same way Namco Bandai's Pac-Man Championship Edition was for the yellow pellet eater. Namco Bandai has successfully reached deep into its intellectual property reserve and produced a shooter with spectacular production values, as well as demanding encounters that are sure to test your mettle.
The original Galaga had you piloting a lone star fighter as you traversed levels shooting bugs as they attacked in specific patterns and predetermined waves. Galaga Legions stays true to that gameplay premise and assaults you with five areas divided into four to five levels. Each level must be played sequentially within an area. Each area is populated by continuous waves of enemies. Lines trace the paths the enemies will take. It is up to you and your two satellites to destroy the enemies as they follow that scripted entrance. While it is a fairly simple premise, the difficulty of some encounters is ratcheted up as scores of enemies fill the screen, swarm around your ship, and bombard you with attacks. The enemies are plentiful, the patterns are demanding, and your reflexes have to be spot-on to survive.
This sequel adds four tricks to vary and improve the classic gameplay. First, as you shoot down enemies, you can earn bonus multipliers to exponentially increase your score. With the game's autofire turned on, you are prone to miss, but can also blast through innumerable assailants without satellite to act as a stationary artillery platform. The satellites will only shoot in one direction, but their support is essential since they can shoot in four directions, while your ship proper is limited to shooting vertically. Once the coast is clear, you can pass over the satellite to bring it back in formation with your fighter. If the heat is still on, you can flick the analog stick again to warp the satellite to a new location and a new firing vector. Third, key enemies can be targeted; when they are destroyed, the enemies they are linked to will in turn be destroyed in a cascade of destruction and points. Finally, you can conscript some Galaga to follow your satellites and increase the firepower at your disposal. That feature alone is an incredibly useful addition and a smart reversal of the original game's abduction mechanism.
While the environments are not complex, the action is very reminiscent of one of Capcom or Treasure's shooters. Even the menu system borrows heavily from the aesthetics of the recently rereleased Ikaruga right down to the flashing WARNING indicator when you reach the final level of the area. Truth be told, if the backgrounds were any more detailed than the luminous star field, the view would get in the way of the action. Where the design shines is in the introduction of four skins that change the visual aesthetic without detracting from gameplay. In addition to the improved visuals, an all-new soundtrack brings techno beats to outer space showdowns. The music is complemented by satisfying sound effects while still sounding very much like the Galaga of yesteryear.
Unfortunately, not every area of the franchise has been improved. This sequel lacks any multiplayer options, including an offline, turn-taking Versus mode currently offered in other classic games. The closest you'll get to a true challenge between friends is having your best score posted to the leaderboards. Even though the original Galaga didn't have any multiplayer options, its absence in this release is made even more poignant because of Geometry Wars 2's recent evolution of the arcade shooter experience.
At 800 Microsoft points, the game makes a strong case for new shooters, but one can't help but feel there are still superior games in the same genre for the same price. If you have somehow exhausted Ikaruga, are tired of Geometry Wars 2, or are looking for another great game to offer a serious challenge, Galaga Legions is well worth the investment of time and money.