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June 20, 2012

Enter Sandman: Remembering Chaos Legion

Anyone out there ever play a game called Chaos Legion?  For those who haven’t, it’s an old hack and slash from Capcom made in 2003, and follows in the same groove as Devil May Cry.  A young yet skilled swordsman, fighting against the army of the damned with his own supernatural abilities, in what is arguably a hybrid between Pokémon and Dynasty Warriozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Sorry, let me start that again.  Gameplay-wise, it’s pretty simple -- run, jump, summon demons, attack with squazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Dammit, why does that keep happening?  All right, seriously though, the first level has the standard tutorial, letting you get a feel for the combazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Okay, reset article.

A while back, my brother got some spending money thanks to his birthday -- and naturally, the first thing he spends it on is a few old games.  Spider-Man: Web of Shadows for himself; Dissidia: Final Fantasy, which we played mutually; Chaos Legion for me, unceremoniously stickered with a $4.99 price tag. 

A game’s a game, I thought with a shrug as I booted up the PS2.  Without complaint, I loaded the first level and began my playthrough.  According to dear old big bro, the game was molded in the style of Devil May Cry, a series which I hold in high esteem.  Surely this game, despite being fairly old, couldn’t be that bad, right?

Huh.  Lot of enemies, I thought, mowing them down with a series of button presses.  Lot of enemies…the same enemies, too.

I cut them down and moved through the gate. 

More enemies.  Hmmm.  Guess I’d better use my demon thing.  I unleashed the power of Thanatos and fought the new enemy wave.  I hope I get some new moves soon.  Getting kinda tired of mashing the square button.  Hope triangle does something later.

I cut them down and moved through the gate.

Oh, so I have to kill the target enemy now.  Well that shouldn’t be too hard with my demon.  I summoned Thanatos again and, as my partner ground-pounded my enemies straight to hell, I cut my way through a few monsters of my own – only to have them respawn a minute later.

Looks like I’ve gotta go directly for the target.  I sliced my way through the enemy ranks and approached the large monster…only to get smashed in two hits.

Oh, splendid.  Now I have to start over.  With a slight groan, I grind my way through again.  Can’t really target these guys too well…better check the controls to see if I’m missing any moves…and I can’t see which button does what.  Wonderful.

I cut them down and moved through the gate.

This is kind of dull.  I could really use some new moves right about now.  But alas, I still had to complete the level before I could even dream of unlocking new moves.  So I swallowed my pride and marched through, like a true soldier of the…gothic…demon…army thing.

Only to get killed again.

This is starting to piss me off.  I couldn’t even see that guy.  So I fought my way through again, having mastered the ancient art of mashing the square button, and this time killed everything without fail.  My reward?  A hammy cut scene, a save point, and a quick screen explaining that my demon had been destroyed, and I’d have to find the pieces to restore him.

Game off.  I’m going to sleep.

I’ve never played a game so aggressively boring.  A main character with zero charisma, a bland, colorless world (and it’s not even a graphics issue), repetitive combat against brain-dead enemies…crap, this isn’t a Capcom game, it’s Dynasty Warriors!  And it goes well beyond the fact that this is just a tutorial level, a taste of what’s to come; hundreds of games, before and after the release of Chaos Legion have done more in five minutes than what this half-assed game could ever do.  Viewtiful Joe had you starting from scratch, but offered insane thrills from the get go.  In true RPG fashion, Final Fantasy X had you as a neophyte, but compensated by throwing you in the thick of a vibrant world coming to an end.  Chaos Legion has…two hundred or so spider things that jump into your sword.  WHAT FUN.

I never really understood the mantra of gamers who quit a game after a short session or two; it seemed like a waste of money, closed-mindedness, and melodrama.  Until I had the misfortune of playing Chaos Legion; I learned that some games, despite noble intentions -- most of the time -- are just unbelievably boring.  No merit, no redeeming qualities, nothing.  We’re not playing just to run up the electricity bill; we’re playing to experience something otherwise impossible.  It’s cool to wield a sword and all, but it should be fun.  Is that too much to ask?

I wish I could sympathize with games like that -- games that are extremely slow starters, but according to fans “picks up about halfway through” or something to that effect.  But that is a steaming load of crap, and you know it as well as I do.  Why jeopardize the efforts of months of work by deciding to make the start of a game balls-out dreadful?  What if The Terminator started out with thirty-minute long discussions of politics?  What if a third of a season of 24 dealt with Jack Bauer analyzing documents left on his old flash drive?  What if Street Fighter made you go through an hour of practicing a sweep before you could even choose your character?

Worse yet, I’m under the impression that some games are just as bland by endgame as the beginning.  Having refused to touch Chaos Legion since that day, I decided to watch a clip on YouTube that could capture a gameplay element that I’d missed -- a redeeming quality that I’d never experience if I didn’t persevere.  My discovery: same character, same attack patterns, same dull environment.  Only now, he could do a shoulder tackle, kick a bomb into some enemies, and summon a squad of ethereal gunmen to do the work for him.  Because if there’s one thing I want, it’s for the game to play itself!

Chaos Legion is a bit like staring into the abyss -- the nexus of negativity, the dark side of video games.  I may be a wide-eyed idealist, but even I can fathom that not every game’s a joy to play.  But when I look at a game like Chaos Legion and see all the wasted potential it makes me wonder how a game could make it to shelves without anyone realizing that they’ve produced a thoroughly tasteless experience.  Is it pride?  Is it wishful thinking, hoping that someone will pick up the game based on how cool the art looks or the sweet-ass title?  Is it quiet admission, fully aware of the fact that the product has glaring weaknesses but there’s no time left to resolve them?  Or is it merely blindness to the atmosphere around them, of the peers that can do much, much more -- and with that, a stubborn refusal to learn from them?

Undoubtedly, the answers may vary from company to company, and the public opinion so diverse that a final consensus is out of the question.  And undoubtedly the individual preferences of us gamers can have an effect, whether we see an RPG as cookie-cutter anime fluff, or an FPS as generic space-marine garbage.  Even so, there is a game out there -- no, a series, against the will of God -- that is continuously released, without consequence, that sets ablaze a fire in our bellies.  You know EXACTLY what I’m talking about; I’ve already referenced it a few times.

That’s right.  The dreaded, accursed, reviled, heinous, hideous, and positively crap-tacular KATAMARI DAMACY!

Wait, let me try that again.

DYNASTY WARRIORS!  It boggles the mind how this game can continuously be released without fail.  It has all the problems of Chaos Legion, made even worse by the fact that they’ve essentially exhausted every angle of the source material.  A million faceless drones to cut down; bland environments and characters (Lu Bu notwithstanding, but only because he’s so overpowered in the games); hilariously bad dialogue and dumbass allies whose idiocy costs you the mission on a regular basis; horrendously repetitive combat that relies mostly on mashing one button.  And the innovations from game to game?  In Dynasty Warriors 6, there’s a bar that fills up as you attack with your basic strike; as it rises, the max number of hits in your basic combo increases by one.  Oh yes, now you can mash your way through even more brainless enemies -- and the fact that it’s even harder to use your other attack type in combos makes it all the more painful.  And -- I am NOT making this up -- you now have the ability to swim and climb ladders.

This emerged for the first time in Dynasty Warriors 6, by the way.  Released on the Xbox 360.  Well, I guess it takes a while to integrate mechanics that had just been pioneered by, oh, I don’t know, ANY GIVEN NINTENDO 64 GAME.

But that’s all right.  There’s no need for innovation.  Because Koei knows all too well that someone, somewhere, will buy the game.  Just enough to turn a profit, and just enough to make a sequel, I imagine/hope.  I know all too well, because my brother has repeatedly bought the games despite near-negligible upgrades. 

Dynasty Warriors 4.  Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires.  Samurai Warriors 2.  Dynasty Warriors: Gundam.  Dynasty Warriors 6.  More recently, the anime tie-in Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage.  And before I’d even heard the name of the series, I picked up Mystic Heroes -- the exact same game, with a bit of magic thrown in for good measure – in eighth grade.  Which means that, across a seven-year time span, nothing has changed at all for the series.  Graphics aside, you wouldn’t be able to tell one game from another.  I should also mention that I got bored by the time my big bro rolled home with 5 in hand; anything beyond that was met with the fury of a thousand hurricanes.

He didn’t get the message until 6; as it stands, we have an unspoken embargo in place to prevent ever wasting money on the series again.  Even though I’m his informant of sorts, I once neglected to tell him that a demo for one of the games had come to Xbox Live.

I’m no tyrant.  We have our tastes, our tolerance levels, and our expectations.  And naturally, we want games that can fulfill them.  If games, by definition designed to be fun and exciting, fail to do so, then perhaps it’s for the best that they be forgotten.  It’s painful for me to say that, considering how much time and effort went into making the game, but on the other hand, if they had time to make it so aggressively boring, then they could have made it aggressively fun instead.  That said, I doubt I’ll ever play Chaos Legion again, yet I have a better understanding of why I literally went to sleep after one level.

A little Metallica should clear that right up, though.


  1. Oh thank God, somebody condemns the Katamari bullshit at last! But I'll have to disagree with you on Dynasty Warriors, because it was the first ps2 game I ever played (i think it was 7?) that one ROCKED!

    I never really thought you'd played Chaos Legion. From the screenshots I could tell it looked like a bland, dumbed down DMC rip-off, anyway.

  2. If you want a terrible Capcom game that loops all the way around into Awesome, God Hand. The game was so incredibly hard and unplayable but manages to be hilarious and fun. You will die a million times though. You WILL die.

    I won't lie I was a bit sad to see Katamari get ripped on though. Can't defend it being re-released though. The original When it first came out I don't see how anyone could dislike it. It was a) fun. b)unique c)hilarious and d)inexpensive.

  3. To be fair, Dynasty Warriors isn't 100% awful; I liked the first one I ever played as well (DW4 on the PS2). The problem is that when you keep playing them in rapid succession -- like I did -- then the luster starts to break down.

    On the other hand, my brother loves the DW series, and hack-and-slash games in general -- hence, why he bought Chaos Legion. He played a demo of it a while back, and seemed genuinely shocked that I didn't like the game.

    Sometimes I question his taste. And by sometimes I mean at least once a day.

  4. Meh. I'm sure he means well. How old is he?

  5. Twenty-six. Though between the two of us, sometimes he acts like he's the younger one...

  6. I actually started up another playthrough of God Hand the other day. I can see why people would have a problem with it -- bad camera, tank controls, clipping...I still remember the infamous 3.0 rating IGN gave it in their review. But God Hand has an incredible style and spirit to it that games this generation could stand to remember. In spite of (or maybe because of) its difficulty, I still like the game a whole lot.

    Don't get me wrong, though; I like Katamari as well. Granted I've only played a little bit of it, but a demo alone was enough to convince me that the series is something magical. I'll have to make a note to pick up a used copy of one of the games these days.

  7. Jesus Christ man! 26? Holy crap, how can you be 26 and still like DW? Um...I'm sure he's a good guy though, all things considered...

  8. What can I say? He really likes slicing dudes in video games.