Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Guardian Heroes Review

Note: Reposted from Reviewers Unknown earlier last month.

Some people probably know I usually do reviews in video format, however due to capture card issues I figure we’ll give this text thing a whirl. This past week a timeless classic made a return to the world of gaming on X-Box Live. For those who don’t know Guardian Heroes was a side scrolling beat em up for the Sega Saturn. Now, there weren’t really that many people who had a Sega Saturn so it comes as no surprise when someone hasn’t heard of this game. However those who did have a Sega Saturn knew that this game was one of only a handful of games that really made the system worth having. Why it so popular among those who were actually fortunate enough to play it? Well let’s discuss that…

The Story
The game featured a much more in depth story then a lot of beat em ups. Beat em ups often resort to the standard save the princess/girlfriend plot or something similar. While there is a princess to be saved here, that’s not the main focus and it’s also an element you may not even see depending on what path you take through the game. Guardian Heroes like many old school beat em ups can be beaten in a little over an hour or two, however there are multiple points through out the game where you are given a choice to make. These choices can lead to different stages, fighting different enemies, and up to 5 different endings. With each ending there is also a different final boss and even seeing each ending won’t mean that you’ve seen all the stages so there is a lot more reason to replay the game outside of achievements and gallery unlockables like some other beat em ups recently ported to X-Box Live (Like say Final Fight).

As for what actually happens in the story, well I’ll try not to spoil to much. But the game starts out letting you choose between 4 characters (With a 5th after you beat the game). Han the fighter, Ginjuro the ninja, Randy the wizard, and Nicole the cleric (Do not use her solo!). This group of adventurers are celebrating their recent acquisition of a magical sword while relaxing at a tavern. However there R&R is cut short as a swordswoman named Serena bursts in warning them that the royal guard is coming for them. Naturally the party doesn’t understand why the guard would be after them but to make a long story short the guards are after the sword they just found and soon after when they arrive in a graveyard they understand why when the sword awakens an undead juggernaut to assist them in their quest.

From there they essentially end up as reluctant members of a rebellion on the run in an adventure that will have them fighting soldiers, bandits, monsters, robots, and even a few godlike beings. Choices through out the game determine things such as where you go next as well as who are your allies and who are you enemies.

The Gameplay
The gameplay shouldn’t be too foreign to anyone who has ever played a beat em up before. However it has elements of fighting games and RPGs mixed in to spice things up. Characters have levels. With levels comes more HP and points to spend on your stats as you see fit. Most of the stats are self explanatory but if you want a few tips don’t waste points on Han’s INT stat since he has next to no magic, the guy is meant to be used up front and hacking everything in sight with his sword. If you want your character to move faster make sure to put some points into their AGI and if you want to get more exp faster put some points into Luck.

Characters also all have their own range of moves that can be performed by doing a motion fighting game style and following it with a specific button. Spells can be done with a motion as well or you can push the magic button and bring up a quick little menu. However the menu is inadvisable since it’s really not reliable or quick enough to use in the heat of battle. And even as a magic user don’t underestimate the effectiveness of your physical attacks both to deal quick additional damage as well as refueling your mp by performing multiple hit combos.

Now some people may be disappointed by the fact that co op is only 2 players. But you have to keep in mind that the game was originally released during the PS1 era, so when it was originally made they wouldn’t have expected many instances of that many players at the same time due to lack of online. Increasing the number of players now would require rebalancing the entire game since 4 players would curb stomp most of the enemy encounters in the game. But for those who really want to play more then 2 players…

The original game featured a 6 player versus mode where 6 players or bots could duke it out using almost any of the characters in the game. Yeah not just the story characters, but nearly every enemy you defeat in Story Mode can be unlocked. But Treasure really outdid themselves here, not content to just give the game a visual update, they really upped the ante with versus mode by doubling the original number of characters allowed in a single match. Up to 4 players local and 12 online, you can even have 4 people on the same system while playing online.

Now for those who have never played Guardian Heroes, while the story mode is fun and you’ll spend plenty of time on that. A big chunk of the replay value comes from the versus mode. You can do all sorts of things with it. You can have a free for all, team matches, handicap matches, all sorts of things if you’re creative enough with the options. A personal favorite for me and my friends was to put the characters and levels on random to see who would get the luck of the draw. Sometimes you’d be the underdog, sometimes you’d be a wimp, or even stranger still sometimes you’d be both because you’d be really high level but be a crappy character like the regular soldiers.

With all that said, versus mode is a blast… literally. With most people using some of the heavy hitters all in the same match there will be times when the screen is filled with a variety of fireballs, laser beams, tornadoes, and force fields. It almost feels like Dungeons and Dragons meets Dragon Ball Z at times with how much can be happening all at once.

One final thing to mention is that not only did they add to the versus mode, there is also a completely new mode in the HD version which is Arcade. I haven’t done much with it yet but it’s basically a straight forward kill everything mode where you play as a character of your choice. Not exactly much special but new modes are always welcome and it gives us a chance to use some of the non story characters in a different mode just for fun rather then a competitive mode.

Final Thoughts
It’s great to play this game again and know that should my Saturn ever stop working I’ll have one less reason to replace it. This game in my mind is still the greatest beat em up ever made and it’s unlikely that it’ll ever be surpassed with the shortage of them these days. The only thing I can think of that really comes close is Castle Crashers but that’s more comical while this is more serious.

Final Score: 10/10
Keep in mind this score is based off of comparisons to other beat em ups rather then something like Call of Duty or Final Fantasy and that graphics play no part in my overall enjoyment of a game (Not that the HD sprites aren’t beautiful). I also don’t really based a rating off the soundtrack but this game still has one of the most memorable that I can think of.

Have a 360 and haven't bought the game yet? Do you wanna make the Undead Hero angry?!

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