Legend. Its Legend-ary how little information there is about this game. To the best of my recollection I can only remember one review at the time of the game’s release. Even with the vast resources of the internet there are maybe 2 or 3 reviews and only a few youtube videos. But why is that? How is it that a game can fly so far under the radar? I’ll tell you why, because it’s terrible. There were many average brawlers released during the 16-bit era that at least got the fundamentals right. Legend fails in that regard and as a result the rest of the game suffers as well.
Beldor the Maleficent reigned as a despot over the kingdom of Sellech for one thousand years. All was chaos and destruction. Many knights went on a final crusade to destroy Beldor but none returned. The people united, built energized heroes and imprisoned Beldor’s soul. Now, Clovis, corrupt son of the King of Sellech, wants to harness Beldor’s power and conquer the kingdom.
There was virtually no marketing for this release back in 1993 and I sure as hell never saw it in any store. I remember the Gamepro review which gave it middling scores in control and fun factor but praised the graphics and sound. It’s a fairly accurate assessment as Legend has good art but awful gameplay. The original developers, Arcade Zone, would later go on to create a remake for the PlayStation that was only released in Europe. THQ were going to publish the game as Knights of Carnage but dropped it supposedly due to its violence. I’d like to believe someone actually played it and changed their mind.
Stylistically the game is similar to Golden Axe. Both games feature the same mix of fantasy action with a dabble of magic set in a mystic world. You have a limited number of moves to combat opponents with, such as a normal 3 hit sword combo and 3 variations of the jump kick. It’s hard to believe but this is one of the few beat em ups that allows you block attacks which when you think about is absurd that most games in the genre don’t allow it. The special attack is a ranged blow that saps a little bit of life. Magic bags dropped by enemies or in barrels can be used for devastating magic attacks if things truly get hairy.
While the Golden Axe comparison might sound favorable in practice Legend is a broken mess. The main culprit comes from your slow attack speed and movement in general. I would kill for at least a throw or a dash, anything to at least speed up the game. Pulling off a basic set of attacks on one enemy is a laborious process, one that the gang of enemies that will assault you all at once will take advantage of. Your attacks are so slow in fact that I can almost guarantee every enemy will shrug it off and break your attack cycle. This is alleviated somewhat by the rare lightning orbs that will increase your strength level but you shouldn’t have to start at such a disadvantage just so the game can show a pattern of character growth.
Enemies always attack in groups of 3-6 and you can see how this can quickly become frustrating. Even if you try to cheese your way out of it by drop kicking everything in sight eventually they’ll become wise to your scheme or you’ll get the timing wrong. As bad as it is facing regular thugs the bosses are a god damn nightmare in comparison. Just as an example, the first mini boss is a pole wielding bastard with insane reach. Trying to attack him head on is futile as all of his attacks have priority over yours. I can comfortably say that most will use up at least one continue getting past him.
The sad thing is you can tell the developers realized they had screwed up the game’s balance to some extent. Enemies drop health restoring food at a steady clip and you’ll always have a decent supply of magic available. Depending on the number of keys and vitality left at the end of each level you’ll have the opportunity to pick up reams of gold for points and extra lives. It isn’t enough to make up for the rest of the game’s faults however.
While I found the pace of the game sluggish I can’t help but admire its art. The game makes extensive use of foreground objects that look nice but have a habit of obscuring the action. They do tend to lean on the forest backdrop a bit too heavily; it’s recycled with slight color variations at least 5 times. I get that it is supposed to connect each location on the world map but it’s a bit much. Aside from that the world is expertly drawn and has a nice eastern European fantasy flair to it that is distinct from something like Capcom’s Knights of the Round. It’s just a shame that few will have the patience to deal with the game’s issues to see it all.
Had they at least nailed the game’s fundamentals than maybe Legend could have been decent. As it is the game is a broken mess that is better left to rot in obscurity.