With a fascinating theme that blends ancient mythology and futuristic sci-fi, Legendary Wings is an excellent and underrated Capcom shooter. Two players can simultaneously enjoy Legendary Wings, and like most shoot ’em ups it allows you to join a single-player game at any time. The game begins with vertical shooting reminiscent of Capcom’s own 1942 series, featuring targets both in the air and on land. Your character is a winged warrior armed with a laser rifle and bombs, constantly flying through the air. Fire at enemies approaching you while dropping bombs on ground-based foes. Eventually you’ll encounter a giant face on the surface of the planet, which sucks you in to a mysterious base inside of the massive enemy where you’ll switch to a side-scrolling perspective similar to Contra or Rolling Thunder. These two gameplay modes switch throughout, keeping things interesting.
In the unique world of Legendary Wings, a supercomputer that has helped humanity towards enlightenment since ancient times suddenly goes rogue, and it’s up to our characters to stop it. This computer, named “Dark”, is reached after five long levels of gameplay and acts as the final boss of Legendary Wings. While the story isn’t particularly meaty (or necessary), it’s a strange concept and world that leaves a lasting impression. Curiously, a bit of censorship changed the player avatars for the US release. In the original Japanese release, player 1 is “Michelle Heart”, a female warrior in a pink bikini, and player 2 is Kevin Walker, a shirtless male warrior. US players first saw Michelle replaced by another male character, and both heroes rendered nameless. In an alternate US version, the original characters remain, but Michelle’s bikini is inexplicably green. Michelle has even appeared in obscure cameos in Capcom games, like Marvel vs. Capcom, Namco x Capcom and SNK’s Card Fighters. Most people will likely recognize Legendary Wings from its excellent NES port that faithfully recreated the arcade experience with less impressive graphics.
Anyone who enjoys a good “schmup” will get a kick out of Legendary Wings, with the variety offered by the shifting vertical and horizontal perspectives and the interestingly realized world that looks like none other. A game that stands up nicely next to better-known classics like the aforementioned 1942, Legendary Wings deserves a place in any classic gamer’s repertoire!