Legends has been around for an age now. The game was finished some six months ago but, over the past year, coders Krisalis have concentrated their efforts on producing games for newer platforms and converting other titles for other mediums. Thankfully, Legends has not boon consigned to the dustbin, the publishing duties instead passed onto Guildhall Leisure, surely the most prolific of their ilk, in the past couple of years, as far as the Amiga is concerned.
It must have been two years (perhaps a little less) since Krisalis first dropped into the office with an early demonstration of Legends. They were then in the process of completing the first world and we were all rather impressed. At the time there wasn't anything like it available for the machine - the cutesy RPG style so far being reserved for Nintendo's Super Famicom. The Zelda series on the SNES has proved to be massive and it remains a mystery to this day why nobody thought the Amiga a suitable platform for this style of game. Are we regarded as being too serious? Do they think we spend all our time playing Dungeon Master and the Ishar series?
Legends is a viewed-from-the-side-but-above role playing adventure game - take a look at one of the screenshots for the definitive perspective. You trot around the landscape in the guise of a fetching little fellow (OK, slightly cute) and rattle up to people to discover what they've got to say for themselves and discover if they can offer you any clues to aide your quest. Not all people are so friendly though, for instance, in the first world - a Red Indian camp some years past - your first task is to collect a bow and arrow. Within minutes you'll be getting chased by other dishonest injuns firing wildly at you, as well as others that prefer to give you a sound thwack with a fist. After the initial 'erbapetty (Arthur Daley used to say that) you discover that you can dodge and kill them without much ado and collect the resultant hearts which replenish energy - you lose plenty of health in the early exchanges.
The worlds are huge, too. The first is possibly the biggest - all right, so we haven't seen them all - but the games tester at Krisalis reckons that to complete the whole game takes six hours, and that's when you actually know what you're doing. So you can imagine the journey to enlightenment takes some time when you haven't the foggiest what's going on.
Some plot, perhaps with a biscuit? Well, basically, a couple of scientists have travelled back in time and handed powerful weapons to ancient civilisations who might want to do bad things with them. Hey, just a minute. Hadn't we agreed that the Indians in the Americas weren't exactly to blame for everything ever? Anyway, only the professor and his assistant can save the world. You're the assistant and you have to possess the souls of each particular place and clock on to the next job. Otherwise everything goes horribly wrong, i.e, you get fed up and go and watch The Bill, or something.
For those not familiar with the Zelda genre, here follows an albeit brief description of what goes on. You're a cutesy platform-esque character. You wander around the landscape and chat with people - not in speech, mind, just text. The people you chat with offer services or give you clues as to what the blazes is going on. More often than not, you don't have the requisite coins or keys or whatever to make use of the service offered, but at least you know that you need said coins or keys. A map offers assistance, too. Jingly-jangly music plays in the background and often there are secret games and hidden areas, as is always the way of these things.
America 1400AD is up first (the aforementioned Red Indian place - probably now a 'reserve' or a drive-in McDonalds perhaps). It's huge, probably the biggest world in the game. You're heap the little Red Indian and collecting (read 'finding') the sacred bundle is the goal. Dotted around are pick-ups which you slot in the inventory. The warp crystals allow you to beam to different parts of the reservation, firesticks are needed to blast rubble in order to open blocked entrances.
There is most certainly plenty of head-scratching even in the early parts of the game. You know you need certain implements but finding them is another matter. What Legends glaringly lacks is a save option of any kind. The aforementioned first world is huge and it takes a deal of time to complete. A password is given upon completion of a world, but you can spend a couple of hours in America, die and have to start the bloody lot again. Having to retrace steps for an hour and more is asking a darned lot.
Each of the worlds has guardians and sub games (America - worm bashing, England - duck shooting, Egypt - alien bashing and China - the Great Wall dash). In America you battle swooping eagles and bears, in Egypt, crumbling mummies while Medieval England harbours the giant Robo Knight - he, rather unfairly, carries machine guns. Oh, and there's a fire-breathing dragon to contend with. Once you've got the hang of controlling the little fellow, you can dodge most of the enemies that come your way. Often as not, they've got a set movement pattern so you can sit tight and await time and space then tinker on through.
Legends is a quirky, enjoyable game. You can enjoy it even after scratching your forehead to the flesh. Because your enemies constantly regenerate you can always boost your health by killing them again and again. This is rather a pain at first but soon becomes a blessing. You know if you lose energy, a few easy killings will boost you back to maximum health.
Each world offers its own challenges and visual variety. In Egypt you come up against wandering mummies and Tutankhamens and bouncing and sharks. Anyway, in Medieval England witches hover the trees, soldiers hunt and occasionally you change from human to frog, which is rather a shock first time around. You won't get bored of the scenery. The only problem is that you'll struggle so much on the first, enormous stage and have to start it so many times (because you can't save your position) that the initial enthusiasm you worked up for Legends dies a death before any progression is made.
But there is no doubt that much time and energy has gone into producing Legends and it's gratifying that games like this are still appearing on the Amiga. The PC version was coded by Pete Harrap, a veteran of the industry. Although it looks a cutie, Legends is a horribly stubborn cookie, a game that requires patience, tenacity and puzzle-solving know-how. You won't regret downloading it.
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