Young Justice: Legacy Xbox 360 Review
Many people were quite angered when Artemis from the Young Justice TV series was introduced early on in the Teen Titans New 52 series, only to die almost immediately thereafter (if that’s a spoiler for you more than twenty issues later, sorry not my problem). Thus was the popularity of the Young Justice TV series at that time. We’ve also seen an altered Kaldur’ahm show up as a second Aqualad in the comics. Both only existed on the series, a la Harley Quinn until the fan response to them was so great that they had to be added. With such love for a series that only lasted for two seasons (46 episodes total), it only seems natural that Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment would allow somebody to develop the license. To that end, Freedom Factory Studios and Little Orbit have come out with Young Justice: Legacy. But is it worthy of the franchise, or does it make you wish that The Reach would just show up already?
Set between the two seasons (since there was a five-year gap between them, that’s a lot of room with which to play), we see some of the gaps being filled in. The plot is probably set closer to the second season (Invasion) than the first season due to multiple factors. (NOTE: Lots of spoilers here, but as I noted previously, it’s been a year, so that’s as much warning as you get. Skip to the next paragraph if you’d rather watch the second season yourself.) The first major hint is the fact that Richard Grayson has donned his alias of Nightwing instead of being Robin, and Tim Drake is the new Robin instead of Jason Todd, whose death is noted in Tim’s bio page. Also, there are extras related to Red Arrow (clone Roy Harper) searching for the real Roy Harper (remember Arsenal from Red Hood & The Outlaws? Yeah, that type of Roy Harper). Barbara Gordon, Tempest, and Beast Boy, who are said to have joined The Team in the intervening years, are playable characters here. Plus, the Team seems quite aware that the Justice League is getting closer to figuring out where they went during the missing sixteen hours they spent somewhere else.
With all the background, the real story should be a doozy, right? Well, truth be told, it’s fitting for the game, but because the major plots of the series are really in the first year of the Team’s existence, and during the time where they’re trying to stop an invasion of Earth while the Justice League is on trial, this feels like the interlude that it is. Basically, Sportsmaster and Klarion have enlisted the assistance of other villains, both major (e.g. Bane) and minor (such as Icicle Jr. – what a putz), in order to bring about global chaos in the form of the ancient Babylonian villain Tiamat. As it turns out, on Earth-16, Tiamat is very real, and so is the method of defeating him. Although some of the mythos makes no sense (Babylonian engraving from the second century BCE, when the Babylonians had all but been erased as a people by then), it is still compelling, since, as is par for the course in both DC and Marvel, all pantheons are treated as real, so the story of Tiamat and Marduk is given in-universe relevance as an ancient superhero taking on an alien weapon and saving the world from it. Suddenly, the Team is tasked with stopping The Light and their associates, as well as Tiamat. During the journey, you’ll go to an ancient dig site, a museum, a frozen wasteland, and three fictional locations (Santa Prisca, Gotham City, and Bialya), getting closer to solving the problem and stopping the Light’s plans with each mission. The ending is a multi-stage boss battle that requires quite a bit of strategy, and is a fitting end to the game.
As far as the gameplay goes, the controls are fairly easy once you understand them. The ability to switch between characters is especially useful, since some powers that you need are solely the providence of a few characters. Were you stuck trusting the AI, you may never get the opportunity to see the powers used, much less when they were actually needed. The squad size of three is fairly logical, especially since that was the usual squad size that we saw in the series. The power variation is another fun little caveat, since, while some powers are similar from character to character, the look and feel of each of them is just different enough that none of the characters included in the game feel the same. The RPG elements of the game, in which you can power up said superpowers, purchase general and character-specific boosts that you can apply once purchased, and also simply increase your regular stats with leveling, make the game seem more than just your typical top-down platformer. The challenges that you get outside of the regular game are also fun enough, provided that you use the right team, and since they are linked to the regular story, it also allows for a way to get experience fairly quickly.
Visually, the level design is well-done. The environments look like an improvement upon what we saw from the TV series. Considering the concept drawings that you get to see once you clear an area, this is partly because the environments that they drew are completely original, for the most part. This allows the game designers to make a game which truly captures your eye, without truly distracting you. Unfortunately, they are basing this off of an animated series designed for adolescents, so the character design reflects this. This means that most of the faces are very angular, or at least incredibly geometric. Similarly, the body shapes feel somewhat generic, which is an interesting commentary on how TV animators draw their characters, but in a video game, it seems like a flaw. The attention to authenticity is a decent attempt, but when taken in contrast to the realism of everything else, it seems out-of-place. However, the superpowers and the Hero Boost animations, as well as the cutscenes, leave nothing to be desired visually beyond that.
As far as the audio goes, the music is top-notch. While there were a few times where it got a little repetitive, that was because the music was linked to certain in-game events, so it was more the fault of the game design than the composer. Each locale had a different flavor to it, from the ancient Egyptian flair of the first level to the Latin inspiration of Santa Prisca. Although it was admittedly the stereotypical version of the music associated with said locales, it did offer enough variation to seem worthwhile. The voice acting in the cut scenes is close enough to what we got in the TV series that the connection between the game and the series is obvious. The sound cues for the superpowers are fitting, and the enemy reactions work well enough. However, hearing Wally repeatedly say that he’s faster than a speeding bullet, provided that doesn’t infringe upon Superman’s trademark, or having Zatanna repeatedly state “fireball” backwards (but pronounced “lay-buh-reif” instead of “lahb-ryfe”), or a multitude of others, does get old, to the point where you want to just mute the game during combat.
Although the game is fun enough, there are some issues – besides those already mentioned – that really hinder the game. The Challenge mode, although decent on standard, becomes nigh impossible to defeat as a solo player on any of the other modes. This is partly because the AI that the programmers used for your allies is heavily underdeveloped. They barely help you (or don’t help at all) in some of your boss battles, and the only reason you win is by switching between them constantly. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if there was an online community playing the game on Xbox Live, but the game’s Live experience is apparently so easily discarded that there is, for all intents and purposes (side note: yes, that’s the proper way to use that phrase), nobody using it. Power recharges sometimes take longer than the on-screen display says that they should take, as well, leading to combat that feels a little disjointed. A last issue is that the game seems to get jammed up during loading sequences, seemingly freezing when it is simply a glitchy transfer between the loading screen and the next part of the game.
While hardcore Young Justice fans may enjoy Legacy (and I hate to admit it, but as a DC fan boy, it was kind of awesome to play as the team of Nightwing, Robin, and Batgirl in Gotham City), this is not exactly a game that lives up to the standards that games set by the Batman: Akham series, or even LEGO Batman. It’s fun for the sake of nostalgia, and it does fill some gaps, but other than that, it’s probably best to only get this if you absolutely loved the Cartoon Network series, or are die-hard about buying everything DC.