‘Chaos Legion’ yields surprisingly addictive squad-based action

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Chaos Legion
Capcom Studio 6
Capcom
PS2, PC

When Chaos Legion first appeared on the scene during Capcom’s glory days, it was an easy game to ignore. With flashy sequels like Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry 2 about, and wildly inventive new titles like Viewtiful JoeOkami, and Killer 7 (all developed by Capcom) debuting during the same time period, it isn’t terribly difficult to see how a game like Chaos Legion might fall by the way side–but it’s too bad that it did.

Today, in a market where original titles are much rarer than they once were, a game like Chaos Legion feels very quaint, especially in that it was drowned out mainly by the release of other original properties. Fast forward 11 years to 2014, a time where new properties are unimaginably scarce, and successful ones are released with even less regularity outside of the indie scene. Games like these are a marvel in this regard, and unfortunately when a developer like Capcom over-saturates the market, it ends up cannibalizing itself to a certain extent. Due to these circumstances, Chaos Legion was but one of the many games from this time period to never truly take off with gamers and critics.

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The game centered around a simple yet incredibly unique idea: the ability to fight independently during some circumstances, and to call for help during others. What made this design work so well was the perfect balance of  gameplay that it created. By pitting you against onslaughts of enemies, Chaos Legion only followed the obvious framework that had been set forth by its brethren. However, generally in an action game when players found themselves being overwhelmed, they could only mash the buttons more frantically, hoping in vain for a special gauge to fill up or a healing item to appear.

Chaos Legion bucked this trend by instead trusting the player with the ability to control the ebb and flow of combat. Notions like difficulty and consistency became somewhat elastic as gamers were allowed a remarkable amount of access to the game’s central conceit, and, as such, the ability to craft their own gameplay experience.

This was accomplished via the titular “legions”, veritable armies of warrior spirits that the player could call upon and command with the push of a button. The legions in question varied from typical sword-wielding melee types and crossbow-firing projectile types, to more inventive fair such as a phalanx-like shield formation or a savage group of claw-handed monsters more akin to Street Fighter‘s Vega or X-men‘s Wolverine. The sheer depth and variety of legions and the ability to only use two at a time for a selected level allowed for endless replayability, and the fact that players accumulated precious experience and items even if they failed a level or replay meant that not a second was ever wasted.

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Though this might sound like a flawed and overpowered gameplay style, it was handled beautifully by the engine. The main character, Sieg, was actually much stronger when he was fighting on his own–he had to trade his strength and speed for assistance, and if a legion was defeated, it took time to recharge, leaving Sieg incredibly vulnerable in the interim. This forced players to walk a careful razor’s edge between fighting alone and calling for help during times of desperation. The fact that choosing the wrong legion, or entering a situation overconfidently could cause a swift and brutal death only further intensified the experience.

The plot was a somewhat typical mashup of tropes from games like Devil May Cry and Final Fantasy, but it was just interesting enough to pull players through the game, while the appropriately Gothic characters, and the neo-Victorian setting, combined with the evocative soundtrack and jaw-dropping graphics meshed together into a stellar and engaging experience even amid such drawbacks.

Today, Chaos Legion is a game that few remember, and even fewer have played, but once upon a time it was one of the coolest, most addictive actioners that a gamer could ask for, and, as such, lives on as a glorious one-off for this particular gamer.

RIP: Chaos Legion II

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