Gauntlet Legends - A very fowl Guilty Pleasure
I have to admit that the age of the arcade is no more.
The advent of home consoles with sufficient power, endless playability, versatility, and relative inexpense has killed the days of fluorescent lights and arcade clamors. I miss the neon-lit rooms and endless waves of cabinets. There was something altogether more connected about gaming when it was done in a dark room lined to the very corners with machines designed for my gaming pleasures.
Among the light blue haze of Street Fighters, Houses of the Dead, and Pac-Men, I had a dark pleasure I can hardly describe in so few words. Many may be thinking something altogether more bizarre like Dance Dance Revolution, but my pleasure comes from a little bizarre feature of an already well-known game. The game I refer to is Gauntlet Legends. An arcade beat 'em up that incorporated RPG elements into a massive survival endurance game with a natural progression.
The game enabled the player to choose a class to play their way (Magic, defense, attack, speed). After that, the class will inevitably level up to an upgraded version of the class. Each one deals heavily in mythology, and they're all fairly interesting. Perhaps a little less than unique, but interesting.
The gameplay relied on a simple setup of Attack, Special, and Magic. This layout worked well from a very simple perspective, and made for an easily approachable pick-up-and-play style. Messes of enemies and four player co-op was particularly fun. The problem is it doesn't have a lot of lasting power. The gameplay is fun in a very shallow way. It doesn't have a lot of depth, there isn't a large amount of "hard to master" entertaining the players beyond the simple surface layers.
I'm no stranger to enjoying bad gameplay for reasons unrelated to bad gameplay. Several RPGs are on my must-play lists for the narratives, unique design choices, or art. Gauntlet Legends has none of that. Too skinny characters on a cardboard-flat quest repeating a title designed in 1983 for the Atari 2600. Even the unusual jokes of the inner game of Tag (with whoever was "it" being the target of every single enemy) and intentionally sloppy dialog could hardly save this game from its terminal case of mediocrity.
What sold me on this game wasn't the fact that it was the first "Save Your Progress" arcade I'd ever played. I was sold on the chicken. Pojo the Chicken was a small, bright white chicken whose flapping form had really made me look fondly on this game as a whole. By choosing the initials "EGG" and the password "911", you can start the game as a high-level fowl. A fire-breathing angry little fowl.
In itself, Pojo exists to me as Gauntlet Legends.
I've beaten the game twice as a regular character, and at the very least twenty times as Pojo. A lone chicken, wings flapping and flinging fire while quelling armies. Aside from running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I got to enjoy a decent game as a freakin' chicken.
Technically, I'm cheating my way through a game. I'm guilty of abusing this cheat. Practically every time I play the game. Blue Wizards and Green Valkyries may need food badly, but I wouldn't like the game were it not for Pojo. The entire game for me can be boiled down to a single sentence.
Pojo the Chicken is now it.