Guardian Heroes Review
For the longest time, Treasure has been a studio that has earned quite a following with its fans. It’s worked on a number of classic games over the years, including Gunstar Heroes, Ikaruga, and Radiant Silvergun, among others. Lately, this love has spread over to a more wide-stream audience, as these games have gotten a release on Xbox Live Arcade. The most recent is Silvergun, which remains as challenging as ever. Leave it to Sega to offer the latest digital embrace with Guardian Heroes, a game that, until now, had been limited to entertaining players on the Sega Saturn. Now they can re-experience this magical RPG/action title without breaking the bank – it goes for a very reasonable 800 Microsoft points.
The game focuses on a group of rag-tag warriors who continuously battle against an army of knights, rogues, and other enemies that are led by a corrupt hierarchy. They come across a legendary sword to aid them in their quest, but it accidentally awakens a golden warrior from the dead, which turns out to be an ally that follows their commands. So, the team – consisting of a swordsman, a ninja-like warrior, an up-and-coming mage named Randy M. Green, and a female magician – set out to crush the evil alliance once and for all. However, some strong enemies await, including a few leaders who aren’t ready to give up their position of power.
Guardian Heroes manages to blend the tactics of a role-playing game with the move list of a Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat game. You execute special attacks through button combinations and can occasionally call upon a special magical attack should the screen start to fill with enemies. These are executed beautifully through clever gameplay techniques, and you can jump across three planes of combat, not unlike SNK’s Fatal Fury series, to get on the same level as your foes. You can pull off some really sick combos here if you’re good enough, so keep practicing.
The game also features an exquisite soundtrack. It’s a little oft-putting at first, as it mixes some interesting Japanese techno tunes with epic music scores, but it all meshes together into a wonderful audio experience. The voicework is mildly annoying at times, but that’s mainly because Treasure wanted some of the enemies to sound pitifully bad, so that’s forgiven. The sound effects are typical, with lots of thwacks and explosions, but fitting for the game at hand.
What we like most about Guardian Heroes are the new high-definition visuals. Treasure has reformatted the game with a new polish that’s undeniably gorgeous. The characters look even better with their animations, and the backdrops vary frequently, from graveyards to towns to large, looming battlefields. The screen zooms out and in on the action without error, and the frame rate rarely dips down in combat. You can also turn on the “retro graphics” option, reverting to the game’s original Saturn appearance with the press of a button, but we doubt you’ll go back after seeing the game in HD.
Guardian Heroes’ story mode does branch out across multiple tiers, and you can play with others via co-op in the campaign. There’s also a six-player battle mode, where you play as an additional female warrior or Randy’s loyal pet rabbit – a nod to Monty Python and the Holy Grail there – where enemies pack the screen in waves. It’s a bit crude, but great fun, especially if you’ve got a solid team of players put together. A new Arcade mode lets you take on waves of baddies on your own, but it’s only recommended for pro players, as the odds stack against you greatly – kind of like Treasure’s previous Bangai-O game (ironically, also available on XBLA). Remix Mode is also included, enhancing gameplay options such as air dashing and new knockback moves. It’s definitely worth a try, even if you’ve gotten used to the original mechanics.
Kudos to Treasure for treating Guardian Heroes with respect in porting it over to Xbox Live Arcade. For 800 Microsoft points, you get one of the better beat-em-up games out there, packed with fresh gameplay, beautiful visuals, a quirky soundtrack, and lots of options for you and your friends. The story may not make sense at times, but that shouldn’t stop you from playing this delightful little piece of magic. Treasure’s showing us the love – now love it back.