Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Galaga Legions

Like the inextricable pull of a tractor beam, Galaga Legions captures the spirit of a 27-year-old arcade classic. This download doesn't enjoy the single-minded focus of the brilliant Pac-Man Championship Edition, but it too manages to zero in on the moments of gameplay that made the original an enduring classic. The focus here is on the swooping attack formations of insectoid aliens. Before every onslaught, you get a brief sneak preview of the approaching enemies. Simple white lines sweep and curl across the screen, tracing out the planned paths of incoming targets. Armed with this half-second of recon, you have to find the best position for your spacecraft and its two detachable satellite guns. Then it's just a matter of surviving the waves of space nasties to come.

The biggest shortcoming of the arcade throwback Geometry Wars is the way a great score requires a massive, bleary-eyed time investment. Galaga Legions chops its experience into five missions, rewarding smart chaining of score combos over marathon-length longevity. Instead of the long game, Galaga Legions focuses on moments. But in one case, where the game refers to a gambit from the original, it misses the point. The coin-op shooter let you double your firepower by allowing a fighter to be captured by the enemy, then regaining it later. Now, black holes suck up whole swaths of buggy bad guys, adding them to your arsenal. This massive power-up offers massive reward for minimal risk.

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Beyond the game: The shmup (short for "shoot 'em up") is one of the few genres that endure in modern arcades. Japanese developer Cave, the folks behind the "bullet hell" of DoDonPachi, are one of the few keeping the flame alive.

Worth playing for: Button-mashing is overrated. Galaga Legions features an auto-fire setting that keeps guns constantly blazing. Those looking for precision and higher scores use the trigger to unleash a stream of white-hot death.

Frustration sets in when: The game's updated graphics are ugly and unimaginative. The game's vintage skin mixes the chunky look of the original game's art with next-generation razzle-dazzle.

Final judgment: More stand-up fight than bug hunt