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Up from (Super) Obscurity

This week we look at another beat-em-up featuring folks with grotesquely disproportionate arm-muscles flailing at each other with murderous intent. The twist? You're not beating up modern street thugs with your fists, feet, and lead pipes...instead you're beating up MEDIEVAL villains with SWORDS!
Yes, today's brawler hails from a more ancient time; a more primative time; a time of...
LEGEND
Welcome to the incredibly-generically-named Legend (which has nothing to do with that identically-genericaly-named movie of the same title). Legend's plot has more in common with the movie-with-Miles-O'Keefe-em-up, Ator: The Fighting Eagle: the bad guy ruled for 1,000 years, then he was defeated...and, well...here's the jist of it:
Honestly, I'm stuck on the phrase,
"The people united, built energized heroes and imprisoned Beldor's soul."
How does one build "energized heroes"? I gather you have to "unite" first, but still, I feel like they left out some of the most crucial details...like, the ones which would make it make any kind of sense.
Energized Heroes, you say?
Well, let's look at the Player 1 Energized Hero and maybe we'll get some clues as to his creation:
Ok, so...uh, there's Player 1: "Kaor." I guess the people had a lot of "chin" to use up while building that energized hero.
I wonder if you have another choice for Player 2...perhaps that shaggy long-haired fellow with an axe whose back you can kind of see on the title screen? Maybe he's the slow, lumbering, powerful type?
Player 2: Igor
Ah, a gray armor palette swap with sprite work on his weapon so it's an axe instead of a sword, but otherwise he performs identically? Never saw THAT coming!
Yes, that seems perfectly normal...Wait, why on earth would they call him "Igor"?
No time for logic, we've got to talk about Beating-Em-Up!
I like to say, "beat-em-ups are like a pizza: you can't make a bad one." Why, even if there's no enemy variety, it's kind of fun to carry on your mission of "Scrolling to the Right and Repeatedly Punching People Upside the Head", right?
Well, as I've learned time and time again, it's not that easy to find a fun beat-em-up. Which is why Legend is a moderately pleasant surprise: it has some pros and a fair amount of cons, but it's reasonably playable.
Before I go further, I'll just say that it's biggest saving grace is that you have only three lives, but unlimited continues. This basically means, "you have three lives to win EACH LEVEL, and if not, you can try again." Compare this to most other beat-em-ups I've played which give you 10 or 15 "tries" total (in some combination of 4-7 lives and 1-3 continues), but when they run out, you have to start over from the beginning of the game.
The Good
Eye Candy: For some reason, they spent a lot of time on some nifty graphical "extras;" the US release even has the opening credits fly off-screen in "mode-7" fashion, and there's plenty more cutesy visual flourishes where that came from:
The between-levels map, which includes an amazing zoom-towards sequence, a cute "connect-the-dots-with-your-sword" sequence (not shown above), followed by a zoom-into-the-map sequence.
One level contains a long walk through the driving rain, complete with periodic lighting flashes and visible rain-splashes on rooftops.
Plus the Golden Axe-inspired "magic blasts" you can unleash for every two Potions you collect have several different snappy visuals. Pictured above, a giant pirate skull vomits green energy all over the level 1 miniboss
The Bad
Too Much Foreground Imagry
Legend suffers the same problem as Batman Forever*...let's just say that there's a good reason why most video games keep their scenery in the background: it guarantees it is in BACK of the action. There are many sections of the game where about 1/6th of the screen is no-man's-land, as scenery obscures the action.
*: the Super Nintendo video game version that is -- not the movie version. So, that means the problem isn't "rubber nipples."
Mediocre Beat-em-Up Engine
You do have two extra attacks -- the standard "special which costs health" (in this case, it takes the form of a projectile attack rather than a hits-all-around-you spin), as well as a smartbomb magic spell you can use once for every two potions you collect.
And of course you have a jump-up-and-attack or jump-sideways-and-kick attack...and you'll be using that jump-sideways-and-kick a lot, as the extra lunge you get while jump-kicking is a lot faster than your really slow walking speed.
Like most beat-em-ups where you're carrying weapons, there's no grappling/throwing, which is kind of a downer...but the worst part is your basic attack:
Your standard combo attack is 3-4 swordstrikes followed by a knockdown. After the first strike in the combo your attacks get slower, and virtually every enemy swarm has the same tactic to take advantage of it: they make sure one of their number is behind you at all times. And if there's ever NOT someone sneaking up on you for whatever reason, one of them breaks away from the pack and RUNS behind you. And when you end your combo and knock down your opponent?
They give you the bum's rush and backstab you. This is so central to standard enemy's attack patterns that you are virtually invulnerable when fighting just one enemy: they have no way of breaking your combo!
You DO have two extra tricks: a shield (which appears out of nowhere when you hold the shoulder-buttons AND the left or right D-pad button):
but in true beat-em-up tradition, blocking is pretty useless. Aside from a few boss-fights where it actually stops projectiles, the shield just delays the inevitable: normal enemies will just keep attacking until you stop blocking.
You also have a change-up spin attack, where if you start attacking one direction then hold the D-pad in the other direction...
...you whirl around and hit the enemy behind you instead. However, this doesn't let you swing any faster than normal, so by the time you take your next swing or so in the new direction...
Uh, let's just say it doesn't go well.
So, my last word on the combat engine: since backstabbing is so central to almost all the enemies, the game would be greatly improved if they threw out the "spin slash" and replaced it with a "press either Shoulder Button for a little-or-no-damage quick kick in that direction."
As it is, you have to either keep walking towards your opponent between attacks (so you never complete a combo) or interrupt your combos with lots of jumping attacks.
Well, that's the good and the bad...what's left?
The Goofy
Weird Dialog: In case that whole "building energized heroes" wasn't odd enough, there's some more fun lines scattered throughout the game:
Sometimes this game just gives you a present.
EAT AT JOES.
Bizarre Regional Differences: in a GameWTFs exclusive*, I've found that the American release and the European release's "Options" screen are different:
*: due to the fact that I bought the American version, but discovered this while taking screen-captures using what I found out was the European version of the game
The European version has a Speed option, with the choice between "Normal" or "Turbo," where Turbo lets your character walk about twice as fast. This seems handy, because your walking speed on "Normal" is noticably slow, at least compared to how fast you can move if you use jump-kicks as a means of transportation.
And for us Americans? What did we get in exchange for not being able to turbo-charge Kaor and Igor's walking speed?
You get to choose between three alternate uniforms for KAOR!
Oh, and what if Igor wants to wear something else? Too bad -- he'll wear his normal gray leathers and he'll like it! I guess that's what you get for being named after Victorian literature's second-most-famous hunchback.
So, which side of the Atlantic has a better options screen? Well, despite my well-documented love of pointless 16-bit fashion options, the fact that Igor never gets another set of clothes (not even a "reactionary" wardrobe change -- like, Red Kaor = Gray Igor, Blue Kaor = Yellow Igor, etc) means I have to award this one to Europe.
I think that about wraps it up...anything to add, Pitfall Harry?
"I hate this very old map!"
...and tune in next week for Legend's Enemy Guide!
— carlmarksguy, 2013-02-01
1
For a second I misread the old man's dialogue as "TAKE THIS VERY OCD MAP." That's what you want out of a map, right?
2
Yeah -- speaking of which, I think the game developers were kind of OCD about the map: it seems like they spent more time on all of its swooshing and zooming graphics than they did on the actual fighting mechanics :(
3
Well, the Golem Construction rules for Pathfinder are in the Bestiary 2 rulebook, but I'm not sure about "energized heroes". Maybe the material components are a pink rabbit's foot and a drum?
4
Well, that bunny's ability to keep going and going and going would come in handy as screen after screen of goons with spears attack Kaor and Igor! Also it fits with the "unlimited continues" thing :)
5
I'm more enamoured than I should be with the fact this game contains a character called Clovis.
6
I'm more amused by "the Kingdom of Sellech"; at first it bugged me that it was one letter off from "Select", but now I think it's a kingdom ruled by Tom Selleck.
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