Arcade Review: Guardian Heroes
Xbox Live Arcade Games
800 MS Points
Bringing back a title from the Sega Saturn days, Guardian Heroes is an old side scrolling beat-em-up title that uses 3 layers of ground, foreground, middleground and background, as your places to move while fighting. The game has been upgraded with a new look and with a new fighting set to try to get right with the times. It’s an interesting concept, but does this age old design hold up in this generation of gaming?
Guardian Heroes comes packed with a new reskinning of it’s old design and, instead of using traditional sprites, you can use a painted look to the game. It resembles a mix of graphic pen work and sumi-e coloring. This pallette, on writing, seems like a good idea but in execution it falls short of looking great. What ends up happening looks like each character seems separated by their extremeties. Heads seem to float over bodies, the outlines shake and flicker and the overall appearance makes it difficult to look at, forcing many players to switch the the traditional sprite sheet from the original game.
The old design layout of Guardian Heroes is actually refreshing and very retro to check out making the new redux of the game seem un-needed and like a stale attempt to make the game look better. The sprites still look wonderful and vibrant, creating a great classic look while keeping a modern feel. The backgrounds for each level are unique and welcoming and each enemy is designed to fit with each backdrop that you find yourself battling in. Explosions are giant and a plenty, animations are smooth and satisfying to watch, special effects are a joy to watch and each character has their own specific animation set that gives them life.
The way the game feels depends on the different styles of gameplay you choose. There’s “Original” and “Remix”. In this case, the opposite of the graphics is true. Original controls feel stiff and without much intuition and they require more complex button combinations in order to pull off specific move sets. For a bigger challenge and higher difficulty, this seems to be the choice but at the same time it can be frustrating to play through the game with these controls when there’s a much easier and enjoyable option.
The “Remix” selection gives the player a lot more freedom to enjoy the game without as much stress and complexity. It makes combo moves easier to pull off and it gives a much better sense of control over the characters as opposed to the original controls. Combos are executed with grace and ease, taking down multiple enemies at once becomes sufficient and satisfying and every directional move is smooth and fluid making the traversing of each level a breeze. This control scheme doesn’t make the game easier, it makes it as enjoyable as it deserves to be.
Each character has it’s own fighting set and they all come with different feels for their moves. When playing the game you can move left and right but then also in a 3 dimensional sense that it’s possible to move to the background and foreground in 3 degrees. Whether the player decides to move between these grounds doesn’t really matter because enemies will always come to the player no matter what placement. This makes the movement in 3 dimensional space seem uneccessary but doesn’t detract from the experience.
The soundtrack is about what you can expect from a title such as Guardian Heroes. It’s fast paced rock and synth tracks that keeps pumping you through every single level. They do their job in feeding you the need and adrenaline to keep you going and it makes you feel rather powerful while you’re blowing away enemies in record time with crazy combos and skills. It’s not the greatest soundtrack and it’s not the worst. It won’t be getting stuck in your head anytime soon, but it does a great job of keeping you on your toes throughout the story. Speaking of which…
Beat-em-up games are notorious for having rather weak stories without a great deal of depth. Guardian Heroes takes that as a challenge to come up with a rather strong story that leads the player on several different quests based on decision choices that are made in cutscenes. By choosing a particular response to a question or statement, the player can end up playing a multitude of separate levels that can’t be accessed had said player answered in a different fashion. This leads to different light and dark endings to the game and each one has a slightly different take on the entire adventure. Depending on answers to questions will also determine the amount of leveling up a character can accomplish during a playthrough. In one, a character might only get leveled up with strengths being as high as 12 whereas another playthrough might get the player skill levels as high as in the 20’s. These make huge differences when combined, as there are many different skills to upgrade such as strength, vitality, agility and luck. The story, without giving away any spoilers, is strong and it certainly leaves the player asking themselves if they made the right decision in a certain playthrough.
Getting all 200 points in Guardian Heroes won’t be too tough of a task, as almost all of them are tied to beating some version of the story line. Whether you encounter a certain boss or not is the only key to unlocking all of the achievements, minus one that requires you to beat the game on hard without using a continue. For fighting game enthusiasts, this should be a very obtainable goal and one that would be achieved in an enjoyable fashion without feeling too tedious or boring.
Probably the single most impressive part of Guardian Heroes is it’s ability to be played over and over without losing any momentum. Each playthrough can have an entirely new experience and each playthrough will not take too long, making this game an easy one to pick up and play in short bursts. The story changes in so many different ways as you traverse it that it is a wonder how many different alterations can be arranged when playing the game. It’s a solid title and every single time it’s played, it doesn’t get old. Fighting the creatures and bosses over and over doesn’t lose steam and it always seems like a fresh, new title.
- Retro Sprites still look great
- Modern Controls are smooth
- Achievements are fun to obtain
- Enjoyable Story
- High Replay Value
- Modern art is lacking
- Retro Controls feel stiff
- Soundtrack isn’t memorable
Guardian Heroes is a solid title and, considering it’s being ported from a system as old as the Sega Saturn, the improvements to the controls are all it needed to make it fit with today’s arcade fighters. While some of the new additions aren’t as welcome as the controls, the game plays very well, the story is worth reading (Yes, you read the story like in “the old days”) and each playthrough is a joy.
Graphics – 8.00
Gameplay – 8.75
Sound – 8.50
Story – 9.25
Achievements – 9.00
Replay Value – 9.50