Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade on Xbox Live is nearing very quickly, and while there are a few titles in that bunch that have me excited, this past week’s offers kicked off what will certainly be an expensive summer for me. Galaga Legions DX and Half Minute Hero were both released for $10 and I have to say, both are worth every penny.
Remaking a remake…again
I’m huge arcade fan and Galaga is certainly in my Top 10 along with Ms. Pac-Man, Burger Time, and a few others. When I discovered Galaga Legions last year, it quickly became a favorite that did justice to the original. It managed to update Galaga without going over the top…it was just enough. Similarly, Pac-Man CE was an update that was a lot of fun and very challenging, and then they updated that late last year with Pac-Man CE DX (too many letters, if you ask me). Pac-Man CE DX was again another great game and spin on Pac-Man, so naturally when I saw a Galaga DX was coming out, I had high hopes that it would do for Legions what Pac-Man CE DX did for its original CE update.
Galaga Legions DX builds on top of Galaga Legions and adds more patterns, more challenge, but also does something I didn’t expect – new controls. With the original Legions you could place your satellite ships in any of the four cardinal directions while you continued to shoot straight up…and it was fun. Legions DX throws out this mechanic and instead turns the game into a dual-stick shooter, which seems to take a little bit of the Galaga out of Galaga, if you know what I mean.
However, even with the dual-stick update, Legions DX is far from a disappointment. This game tosses more patterns at you than you can count, and this time you’re also up against the clock. One of the best updates to the game is a time limit, similar to what you have in Pac-Man CE DX. This creates some artificial rush but the dual-stick controls negate this a bit and makes the game a lot easier overall. Unlike the first Legions, which I haven’t been able to beat on adventure mode, you’ll cruise through Legions DX fairly quickly. But whenever a game appears to be easy it usually means it’s not and that is most certainly the case here. Sure, you can get to the end quickly, but can you get a high score? Galaga has always been about a high score and that doesn’t change no matter how many sticks you use to control your ship.
Last but not least, Legions DX also adds a time trial mode for every level of every stage, and in another page from the Pac-Man CE DX handbook, Legions DX features the “oh crap” slow down when an enemy gets too close to your ship. It’s a neat effect that is quite satisfying but at this point nothing too new. If you’re a Galaga fan…or a shmup fan at large, then Legions DX should certainly be on your buy list. The original Galaga Legions is a lot more challenging than Galaga Legions DX, but Legions DX is not without merit…and hey, it’s Galaga!
S’good to be the king
Whoever said we all get 15 minutes of fame never played Half Minute Hero. As the name implies, your fame here is limited to just around 30 seconds as you battle the forces of evil over and over again. I’m a sucker for time limit games. I just think it brings the best out in gamers and finds out just how good you are. Half Minute Hero is a port from the PSP game and I had never played it before, but the challenge of doing anything in 30 seconds was too much of a draw. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed with the game even though it strays from the 30 second constraint pretty quickly.
To be fair, however, the quests in Half Minute Hero will almost always be completed in less than 90 seconds, if not less than 60. You play a would-be hero fighting the forces of evil (surprise) that have cast nasty spells all over the kingdom. Conveniently enough, every evil spell has a 30 second time limit before your game is over. Helping you along the way is the Time Goddess and even though you can skip her chit chat, make sure you pay attention because she gives you invaluable hints to completely each quest.
As you wonder around each quest map you’ll come across baddies that you fight automatically…yes, automatically. No turn-based time sucks here. When you hit a bad guy your hero goes for the gold every time. Frankly, I really like this feature because in most other RPGs the combat can be extremely daunting, and just because it’s automatic doesn’t mean there isn’t any strategy. Like any good RPG, you can equip your hero with weapons and armor. You’ll visit villages and towns on each map where you can buy additional weapons and food. Quick tip: Save your money and always have an herb handy, you’ll need it.
As far as the 30 second time limit is concerned, you’d be surprised how much you can do in half a minute. However, thanks to your friend the Time Goddess, you can pay to pray at her altar and she’ll reset your clock to a full 30 seconds. If you play your cards right and earn enough gold, you can keep your time going for upwards of two minutes. Two minutes can be a life saver, but don’t go thinking you won’t see that clock hit zero. You’ll fail a lot and have to start each quest over again and again, but since everything happens so fast you don’t really mind. Half Minute Hero is a near-perfect combination of arcade rules in an RPG setting. It works out pretty well. Half Minute Hero is also very well written with humorous dialog, and after you complete each quest you get to watch game credits, which is surprisingly rewarding.
If there’s any place Half Minute Hero fails it’s in the controls. You’ll never have a harder time moving your character around map than you will in this game. You wouldn’t think moving around a grid would be so challenging but it just ends up being frustrating, especially when it nips you in the butt and causes you miss a village at the last second. Grrrr! Another tip, the maps are built on a four-way grid, there are no diagonals so don’t try…it’ll just upset you. The cartoon graphics don’t do anything to help the controls despite their charm. You can switch to an old school 16-bit graphics mode, which helps in the control department but otherwise looks like pixel barf on your big screen television.
Sit, play and be on your way
Neither Galaga Legions DX nor Half Minute Hero will result in hours of session gaming. Both of these title are designed to be quick pick-up games that will keep you playing for a few minutes before you’re on your way to bigger and better things. If you’re a high score junkie like myself then you’ll find a little more depth to each of these games, but neither game is perfect or without its faults. However, for $20 you get two games of high quality that can’t be argued. Try the demo of each game before you buy but no one will fault you if you add both of these to your arcade library…and I’ll see you on the leaderboards!
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