Arcade Archives: Legion (PS4|5 - Switch)

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Sturmvogel Prime
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Arcade Archives: Legion (PS4|5 - Switch)

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DANGER ZONE (PART LXXX)
THE TIME-BENDING LEGIONNAIRE


Still mad because of the Arcade Archives: F/A fiasco, and why not? It was a highly demanded game worldwide and Hamster restricted its release to a Japan-only game for no official reason pulling the "for all" out of Bandai-Namco's "Fun for All into the Future" slogan. So, what we've got for its replacement as an "Sorry for the inconvenience"?: A Nichibutsu game.

This decision reminds me of those childhood moments when you wanted a specific toy and your parents gave you something different hoping you may like it, which most of the cases doesn't work as planned. You know the scene, you're five year old in the 80's and you wanted the G.I. Joe Skystriker XP-14F, but mommy and daddy say "OOOOOHH NO, son!. That toy is too big and expensive for you. ¿Why don't you take this one? *Showing you an Ewok plush* ¿Isn't just as nice and funny?" and end up buying you that toy you don't wanted at the risk of having the unconvinced kid (YOU!) crying for telling him to play with it.
Believe it or not, Hamster did the same shit to us with Arcade Archives: F/A. The only difference is that the people who are trying to convince they are not five.

In Arcade Archives: F/A's case, this only foments the "illegal downloading" and emulation that they're trying so hard to fight because this my friends is a perfect example of "What happens when the legal option says "No, I'm not gonna sell it to you" with no reasonable explanation and refuses you when you're 100% willful to pay for a copy of the game?" Dozens or hundreds of customers going for the "illegal way" of emulation and ROM downloading. Yeah, I know there's the "Make a Japanese PlayStation Network/Nintendo Switch account" trick, but that's gonna be a short term solution 'cos sooner or later, they will be noticing the trick and cut us out from even playing our legally bought Japanese game claiming "Copyright Grounds" on pure YouTube style (don't be surprised if this happens).

Anyway, I'm not trying to convince you of picking Legion as substitute of F/A, but still of at least giving it a try.



Nichibutsu/Nihon Bussan, an arcade developer sometimes considered obscure and cult classic. Why obscure?, Because you may saw a game of the company in uncommon numbers. Just like me and my visits to the amusement arcades. Back then, where I live, I never, NEVER saw a Nichibutsu game, just the usual brands; Sega, Taito, SNK (Both Neo-Geo and "Pre-Neo-Geo" era), Namco, Data East, Konami, Capcom, Midway and the occasional Seibu Kaihatsu/Fabtek game such as Raiden II. Hell, being able to play NMK's Thunder Dragon and Videosystem/Mc O'River's Turbo Force on a cabinet was a hell of a rare happenstance due to the "Leading Brands" influence and Mexico's preference towards Fighting games. Back to Nichibutsu again, as odd as it sounds, the company developed many titles which were ahead of their time and were smash hits just like the big name companies, and that success was notorious in Japan, I mean, they were sponsors of the Lotus F1 team from 1991 to 1993. Being able to sponsor an F1 team means they're big business. Back to gaming, I've posted examples of Nichibutsu's hits such as Magmax which has the merit of being the first 16-Bit game of history and the first Cresta games which implemented combination and formation patterns. Legion is among that list of experiments of the company.



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Its up to you to pull the brakes on the enemy and rewind their mess back.

Legion, also known as Chouji Meikyuu Legion, Legion: Spinner-87 and Spinner-87 Legion seems to be like another vertical scroller that you'll find on the arcade, but ¿Does any other shooter plays with the concept of reversing time in your favor? Well, Legion does it. In fact, that's the key feature of this game. Rather than sending the screen clearing bomb or unleashing the "Murderbeam", Legion rewinds time making bullets to go back for a second. The time duration depends on how long you press the Time Bomb button, as you keep the button held, the longer will be the rewind, consuming all of your Time Bombs required, but unlike most shmups where the Bomb is an uncommon item due to its power, Time Bombs are more common to obtain and replenish your time rewind capability. You can carry a total of 5 Time Bombs and you know what's best? You can escape death by burning 3 or more. This requires timing but at the moment you hit a bullet and you press the Time Bomb button your exploding ship will regenerate and the killing shot will go back, acting like a life-saving move. Of course, you're not given this single weapon as your defense against the Dark Empire. You're provided support in multiple ways.

SOLDIER (Red Legionnaire): Picking a Soldier will add a support shooter to one of the corners of your Legion.
LASER GUNNER (Light Blue Legionnaire): This man will switch your weak twin shot for a strong laser beam that passes through enemies.
ENGINEER (Purple Legionnaire): Picking an Engineer will increase your Legion's speed, making him ideal for a speed boost against homing missiles and agile enemies.



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The amazing "Chain of Power".

Along with your Legionnaire support, there's crystals which you can pick to obtain different skills troughout them. The most common is the blue crystal which provides you with one more time bomb for your ship, since its time-stopping effects are the heart of Spinner-87 Legion's gameplay, you'll be finding this one very often. The "Weapon-esque" Red Crystal will provide you with a chain-like shield and option like attack as it reveals 5 split-shadow replicas of Legion which fire a bullet. The duration of this weapon varies on the following factors: The first one is if you move too far from the "center", since it has a stretching point, going too far will break the chain reverting to the Legion on its configuration previous to the red crystal pick up, so don't move too much since it has limited flexibility. The second factor is by taking hits. Along with its function as a weapon it is the shield item of the game at the same time. If you pay attention to both factors, the Chain will last for a while until it depletes by its use with time. The rarest of the crystals is the green crystal which grants you a 1Up, which you'll be needing since you'll be losing lives if you're careless, although you can get lives after getting a considerable high enough amount of points too.



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Legionnaires need to put the "Gotta Go Fast" principle on practice.

In the style of Konami's classic Jeep shmup Jackal, you can drop the rescued Legionnaires on the Rescue Aircraft, getting 1000 bonus points per each Legionnaire onboard the Rescue Aircraft which is well received. Also you don't lose power-ups or support turrets for doing it so, but unlike Jackal there's no safe spot and you have to do this while dealing with the enemy, resulting in keeping some Legionnaires in the ship waiting for the next transport vehicle.



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The wrong decision might make you repeat the same level over and over again.

Along with the time rewinding feat (which predates the rewind function from Forza Motorsport/Forza Horizon), another major feature is the Stage selection after completing a level. You'll be facing two gates with faces which will blink the respectives stages they'll be sending you, so you have to decide which one you want to go. Keep in mind you should keep track of which stages you're crossing because if you're careless you might end up repeating the same level more than once or even going 1 level back. Stepping back and even repeating levels can be exploited for the sake of high scoring if you're an expert player, so I recommend this technique if you know the ins and outs of the game.



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Can you defeat the Dark Empire's mastermind without continuing?

The only problem with this game is the difficulty peeves that come with it. The most annoying of all is the power ups themselves. With the exception of the Soldiers, the Laser and Speed Up upgrades are temporary, and this is a critical flaw since the enemies take a lot of hits (pyramids and bases that transform into robots). Also, there's ground based enemies that are immune to your shots like the "armored cannons" (see left enemies next to the crystal at 0:49 on the video) which are immune to your shots and worse, they won't open unless you're away from them, requiring the laser to destroy them. With the speed upgrades being temporary, you'll be exposed to enemy attacks, being the homing missiles the worst of all because there's two types: The slower gray missiles and the fast orange ones, and to make things worse, they're indestructible, so your only hope is that you can get away from them until they're off screen but that will require you to burn a Time Bomb. So, you'll be more on the defensive rather than the offensive due to these issues and getting hit by the homing missiles or letting the mid-sized enemies escape is not fun at all.

Some of the bosses are nearly impossible to defeat because they shield themselves with a never-ending supply of debris that protects them until they escape. Unless you tap the fire button like crazy, you might hit them until they die. You can also try to take them down with the Laser weapon as long as you still have it. Dying in this game is quite odd. After losing your last life and typing your name on the ranking, the game will show the Game Over text skipping the traditional 10 second countdown, implying there's no "Continue" function, but guess what? You can continue indeed, when you get Game Over you can press start and resume the action. I mean why they had to made it cryptic making you think you can't when in reality you can? A 10 second timer would come in handy to know that. Speaking of continues, when you reach the final boss, the game will pull one last dumb move: Removing the continue option. Unless you're either skillful with the default blaster or you have enough lives, you've might make it out alive or else you'll be forced to start the game all over again.

After defeating the final boss, you'll be restarting the game on stage 1 since both gates lead to the same level, effectively repeating the game. Also, it restores the continue function back online if you want to keep playing or invite a friend to join the action on the following loops.



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Graphic quality is Very "Mid-90's" for a 1987 game.

Despite the new and innovating gameplay mechanics, its difficulty could be the cause that Spinner-87 Legion didn't made its way to computers or the Nintendo Entertainment System, even when other Nichibutsu games made their way like Terra Cresta, Seicross and Magmax. It might be the "Way ahead of its time" graphics and sound which will obviously result on simplifying them to make them fit on the NES or the Amiga, but also the more advanced, arcade port hungry consoles like the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis or the PlayStation didn't ported it either. 37 Years had to pass until the game get its well deserved homeport as part of Arcade Archives, which brought both the Japanese Chouji Meikyuu Legion and the overseas Spinner-87 Legion for the Original Mode along with the additional contents that every Arcade Archives fan know. It took a lot of time, but its good to finally have this obscure shmup in the collection.

If there's an aspect where Nichibutsu NEVER FAILS to amaze is the graphics. While not as perspective as it was on Magmax, the 16-Bit graphics were simply amazing at the point that sometimes they feel more like 32-Bit due to the smoothness and great execution of the animations. The treads of the tank enemies and the "under ground" movement effect of the enemies are impressive and there's plenty of animation on the player sprite. For example, when its pushed to a wall, it rattles rather than remaining static or banking as if it was on movement, and when you move backwards, you can see the driver turning its head. The best part of the animations is the green (and sometimes blue) octagonal saucer which spins in an incredible 3D-ish effect. Pretty ambitious for 1987, predating Raiden II and Pulstar. There's also the use of multiple layers for a sense of depth during the volcanic and sea levels, and the use of gradient colors on the fonts are also another nice detail which breaks with the traditional flat colored text from before.
While the game and its plot involves science fiction and mecha with transformation capabilities, there's some enemies that borrow horror elements like the houses that transform into flying Cthulu heads, along with small sea monsters as your marine popcorn enemies.

The sound department is OK for its time and the chiptune quality is good enough, but becomes repetitive since it is used for all the 12 Stages of the game, being the boss battle and level clear the exceptions that break the repetitivity, but it was more than clear that the music quality was improving much further than Terra Cresta and UFO Robo Dangar.



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Sunrise/Bandai-Namco Filmworks lawsuit imminent?

One of the robot enemies is basically the MSM-07S Z'Gok Commander Type/Char's Zugock from Mobile Suit Gundam and guess what? The Arcade Archives release kept them on the game instead of doing sprite reworking to avoid legal issues like the censorship of Pac-Land and Pole Position, and that's a point in favor of arcade preservation.



FUN FACT-87 TRIVION


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Defeated Robots: Even in the age of super robots, no one lasts forever.
Welcome to mecha's graveyard.


- In the "robot graveyard" background of Stage 12 we can notice the heads of many Tokusatsu and Mecha characters: Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Gundam, Guncannon, Raideen, VF-1J and Mazinger Z.
- Just like the Z'Gok enemies, those weren't removed on the Arcade Archives release.
- The English arcade flyer puns Back to the Future saying "Use time warp ability for "Back to The Future" experience".
- The Japanese name "Chouji Meikyuu Legion" means "Super Time Labyrinth Legion".
- The ship's name "Legion" comes from the term used to refer the basic military unit of the Roman army. It comes from the latin word "Legio".
- Its name refers to the capability of picking ground troops to operate the support cannons. A legion riding a combat chariot and providing support fire.
- The Arcade Archives release is the first port of the game.
- For some reason, the Arcade Archives manual calls the Legion as "Helicopter" when it actually resembles a flying car.




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Just using time on my favor.
"Saved in the nick of time" indeed.


Arcade Archives: Legion brings home another obscurity from the Nichibutsu catalog which plays with the rewind format and while the concept is well executed and its visuals are impressive, the unfair difficulty spikes kinda stab the fun. I mean, if you're a Nichibutsu/Cresta fan or someone who likes tough as nails, downright unfair difficulty, you will want to give it a try. Standard pilots and casual gamers you'll prefer to play something else. I mean, its not a bad game, just a hard one which require a lot of skill, not as demential as Gradius III, but still tough.



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Alright "Top Gun", if you like difficulty, then this game's for you.
Don't say I didn't warned you.
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