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by Sotenga - August 19, 2013

Legend (レジェンド) - Arcade (1986)

Japanese Instruction Card

The old adage "never judge a book by its cover" also applies to game titles, where the most generic-sounding thing you can think of houses a fun and/or innovative game beneath its banal name. Take Kyugo's Legend, where the title is as white bread as you can get. It's as humdrum and basic a title as you can get, but beneath the opening screen is a rather innovative action game that requires a bit more brainpower and a lot more resource management than your typical "run-around-and-hit-everything" sort of venture.

Now unlike every other action game under the light of the sun, you normally cannot attack on your lonesome. Some "Legend" you are, eh? But wait, instead of brawn, you have the greatest power of all on your side: Money! Batman has it, Lex Luthor has it (though he uses it for evil), and now you get to use money for your favor in order to hire soldiers. The most common enemy you face are these odd red-and-yellow soldiers who look like Roman centurions if they were ripped from the pages of Flash Gordon. They will attempt to bum-rush you with their swords if you get too close, but if you toss a bag of money their way, they proclaim an "OH!" and turn blue, indicating that they have joined your side. You can have up to three soldiers in your employ, and they rush forward with their swords each time you press the action button.

You don't just get money and soldiers to help fight enemies, and there are three one-time use weapons you can find in reasonable abundance. Bombs are incredibly common, sometimes dropped by the basic soldiers, and they arc through the air, doing good damage to whatever they land upon. Some enemies will also drop spears, which are your most effective secondary weapon. They fly straight and barrel through anything they touch, making them a valued commodity of which you should usually have at least one of at all times. Then there are the swords, which can be found every now and again but are not usually dropped by enemies. They may be rarer than the other two weapons, but being as they fly at an angle and are strictly anti-air weapons, you won't be getting as much use out of them anyway.

All you simply have to do is barrel through the legions of foes and get to the end, where a very odd wizard and two of his servants signify your goal. Aside from soldiers, you'll contend with hopping enemies which resemble Jawas and tougher-than-normal cyber-knights who are very obviously clones of Darth Vader. It should also be mentioned that one of the areas you walk through, the Desert, has an architecture somewhat based on Tatooine. So yep, random Star Wars for who-knows-why. Other hazards like pits and flying boulders can destroy you or your armed servants, and it can be tricky to manage everybody all at once. Occasionally, large doors allow you passage through caverns which act as shortcuts into later and more difficulty levels.

At the end of every level, you face a scary demon which serves as the boss after three stages in the same environment. He's big, strong, and will likely obliterate your crew even if you hammer away at the action button. The demon is where you throw out your remaining attack items and hope for the best, though you may be somewhat screwed if you run out of soldiers and/or weapons, but you live to fight another day if you beat it down and cause it to shrink into a baby and run off.

So Legend is an incredibly weird game, and it's not a very nice one either. You're likely to run out of offensive items when you need them the most, and some obstacles are particularly mean, exacerbated by the need to keep your soldiers alive as long as possible. The inability to attack without any soldiers or items is a novel concept that gives a bit more strategic bent to Legend than your typical sidescroller, but it also makes the game obtuse and tough for most to get into. Still, it gets points for innovation, even if a bold idea doesn't always translate to being a good one.

At least the aesthetics are competent, with bold colors and a catchy main tune that compliments your constant rightward march. Legend's main selling point is just how danged strange it is; it may not be off the scale in complete wackiness like I'm Sorry, but there are a lot of elements about its design that are unorthodox. Why aren't you given a main attack but command soldiers to fight for you? Why do some enemies vaguely resemble characters from Star Wars? What's with the vaguely racist-looking wizard and his servants who greet you at the end of each stage? Only Kyugo can explain Kyugo's actions, but for as unfair as it can be, it's worth a play just to behold how incredibly out there it gets.

There seems to be some confusion as to who actually published this game. Some sources indicate it was Sega, but apparently it was actually put out by Kyugo, the developers themselves. Kyugo was a small company consisting of members from Crux, another small development team who previously worked on titles like Repulse for Sega. According to Japanese Sources, Sega was planning to distribute Legend as well and promoted it on trade shows, but dropped it after disappointing location tests. This left Kyugo to launch a small scale release on their own, which accounts for the game's obscurity.

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Legend (Arcade)

Legend (Arcade)

Legend (Arcade)

Legend (Arcade)

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