Advance Guardian Heroes – GBA – Review

Old school gaming
seems to be a popular trend, especially on the Game Boy Advance.  It seems as if
the Game Boy Advance is the system of choice for remakes and reworks of classic
games from yesteryear.  Everyone from Mario to Sonic, and almost everything in
between, has been subject to the rework bug for the Game Boy Advance.  Guardian
Heroes Advance is the latest reworking of an old school game.  Instead of going
back to the days of the NES, we’re treated with a sequel for a game that was
released on the Sega Saturn, Guardian Heroes.  In fact Guardian Heroes is more
of a cult classic than a widely recognize title which makes it surprising that a
sequel was made for the game. 


The original
Guardian Heroes for Saturn was a 2D beat-em up, side scrolling, fighting, 
hack-n-slash game.  It was a very unique and colorful title for the Saturn that
had a ton of action on the screen at one time.  It combined doses of hack and
slash games with 2D side scrolling fighting games with a little bit of RPG style
thrown in as well.  It wasn’t the best game ever released for the Sega Saturn
but it has always been considered a quality title for the system.  But taking
into consideration that the game was developed by Treasure solved how and why
the game was so over the top.  In case you don’t know, Treasure has developed a
long list of fantastic games dating back to the 16-Bit era and with games being
released today.  So now with Guardian Heroes Advance we get the same developer,
Treasure, making a sequel to a well beloved game. 


The premise of the
first Guardian Heroes revolved around the Soul Sword, which contained the soul
of the Legendary Undead Hero, an ancient hero from long ago.  The black mage
Kanon had wanted to claim the Soul Sword for his own so his reign of terror on
the land can become even stronger.  But in the process of obtaining the Soul
Sword, the Undead Hero was revived from the guardians of the sword, Han, Randy,
Ginjirou and Nicole.  The four adventurers and the Undead Hero waged war against
Kanon and his army only to have the Undead Hero give up control of the Soul
Sword to return to eternal rest.   Now years later the immortal Zur enlists the
heroes of the past under his control and revives Kanon.  With the souls of the
heroes vanquished, Kanon is once again able to control the world as he sees fit
by plunging the peaceful world into chaos.  As in the first game, the powers of
the Soul Sword are summoned but the soul needs a body to enter the world.  So an
unknown warrior volunteers himself to host the soul and defeat Kanon again. 
Does it make sense yet?


Now with Guardian
Heroes Advance the game plays almost the same as the original Guardian Heroes. 
The best way to describe the game is to say imagine the most intense 2D side
scrolling game you’ve played with a crazy storyline with a ton of characters to
choose from (and unlock) and a small dash of character building thrown in to
spice things up.  Oh, did I just type a run on sentence?  Well maybe I’m still
trying to figure out just what in the world was going on in the game! 




Every thing I
mentioned above is true.  The game is presented in a side scrolling 2D layout
with a ton of action happening on the screen at a time.  The story line in the
game is downright confusing but this can probably be blamed on the rough
translation from the original Japanese text.  Parts of the story line will make
sense at first but other parts will have you scratching your head wondering
what’s really happening in the game.  The pacing of the story is also very
confusing because it seems as if the game is always jumping from one subject to
the next without any flow to the story.  As far as characters, the game starts
off with three characters that you can choose from but up to 20 different
characters can be unlocked later.  Some of the original characters from the
first game will appear in this game as well.  The RPG aspects are not heavy but
it at least gives you the ability to level up, unlock other characters and use
different magic spells in the game. 


Since the game is
based on the old premise of side scrolling, beat-em ups, Guardian Hero Advance 
(GHA) doesn’t let up with the action.  In fact if you want a screen full of
action, then look no further than GHA (but that’s if you can actually see what’s
happening on the screen).  Treasure has always been known to push the envelope
when it comes to filling the screen with intensity and they do not disappoint
with this game.  In fact you could say that the Game Boy Advance isn’t ready for
GHA because the ugly and often dreaded old school trait of slow down.  There is
so much happening on the screen that the GBA has a hard time keeping up with the
action and soon the characters on the screen will start to slow down.  This can
lead to some very frustrating moments where you’re waiting for your character to
move but he doesn’t because of the slow down.




The action on the
screen looks great most of the time, with the characters moving well and the
sprites looking sharp on the Game Boy Advance screen.  However this isn’t the
best looking 2D game that’s been released on the GBA but the game does retain
the look of the original Guardian Heroes.  Another problem with the amount of
action on screen is that it’s too much for the gamer to handle as well. 
Sometimes it seems as if the developers are purposely trying to annoy you by not
giving you a chance to move your character out of the way of being hit.  Several
times I would try to find anyway possible to avoid being hit on several stages
but only to end up getting hurt worse for trying.  The action is hot and intense
but only the hardest of the hardcore gamers can appreciate the amount of
insanity happening on the screen in this game.


Besides the Story
mode the game also includes a VS Mode, Training section and a Tutorial mode as
well.  The flow of story mode follows the structure of dialog, action, dialog,
boss fight, and then level up.  Besides trying to figure out just what’s going
on with the story you can pickup crystals during the story mode that are used to
raise your characters statistics and unlock other characters.  The VS mode
allows up to four players to battle against each other at the same time.  The VS
mode requires that all of the players have their own copy of the game.  The
training mode allows you to practice your moves in the VS modes.  While the
tutorial mode allows you practice modes in the Story mode. 




It’s sometimes
hard to believe that our favorite game developers can let us down, but sometimes
life can be disappointing.  Guardian Heroes Advance isn’t a bad game but it’s
not the type of game that I would expect from Treasure.  Sure we get the color
graphics and crazy action that only Treasure can bring but the game just doesn’t
play as well as the original game.  The problems with the slow down, crazy story
line and frustrating difficulty is just too much to bear.  If you’re a fan of
the original prepare to be shocked and disappointed.  If you’ve never played the
original then I would do yourself a favor and at least try and find a copy of
the first game before giving GHA a try.  Sometimes our memories are better left
as memories.  It’s painful sometimes seeing something we cherish and love wither
in front of our eyes. 


Review Scoring Details


Gameplay 5.5 

The basic gameplay
is similar to other side scrolling, fighting games: button mashing.  While the
game boasts that you can execute special moves while fighting during the game it
was always easier to just mash the attack button.  Performing a special move was
supposed to execute a more powerful attack but it seemed easier to just keep
mashing the buttons to hit the enemy.  Sometimes the special attacks would open
yourself up to the enemy and leave you cursing that you bothered to try the
special attack.  The game does allow you to block an attack as well and if you
time the block at the right time you can counter the attack.  Once again this is
a great idea but it’s something that is almost useless when trying to block four
or five characters at the same time.  If you forget about the special attacks
and counters you might be able to enjoy the relentless action. 


Graphics 6.5 

Now if it wasn’t
for the slowdown you could add an extra point to point and a half to this
score.  I can understand the game slows down because there is just so much
happening on the screen at one time.  It’s hard for the gamer to follow so it’s
not surprising that it’s pushing the GBA to its limits.  But it’s still a
disappointment that the game cannot keep up with the action on the screen.  The
animation of the characters was well done and the graphics were well done as
well.  Most of the characters in the game are well-detailed sprites except for
the main characters.  It seems as if the main characters are composed of just a
few basic colors and lack the detail of some of the other characters.  The
backgrounds in the game don’t really stand since you’re focused on the action in
the game.  However some of the backgrounds are impressive with some nice detail
for this type of 2D game. 


Sound 6.0 

I hate saying it
but the game’s music was a let down as well.  Imagine the music from your
favorite 16-bit game, but without a catchy harmony and this is the best way to
describe the music in GHA.  It’s classic 16-bit music and sound effects all the
way.  The sound effects for the action in the game did come through the GBA
speakers very well.  All of the explosions, punches and magic spells sounded
good but still with the 16-bit feel to them. 


Medium to Hard 

Old school gamers
can always appreciate a challenge because they know what it’s like to dodge a
million missiles or laser beams.  So for the veteran 2D gamer the challenge to
Guardian Heroes Advance will probably be right up your alley.  Now for the
uninitiated the difficulty can be a huge learning curve.  This game isn’t for
those with a short patience.  The game is tough and even remains tough on the
lowest difficulty setting.  One area that I didn’t appreciate was the fact that
the game would autosave in different parts of the game but you didn’t know when
the save would happen.  So if you continued a game the continue would always be
at the worst time with a large assortment of enemies to deal with. 



The game does
offer several multiplayer features.  The VS mode allows up to four players to
battle it out to see who can win a battle.  But the game allows you to play the
story mode with up to two players as well.  Actually this is probably the
easiest way to beat the game is to have a friend playing along with you.  The
original Guardian Heroes allowed you to play the story mode with more than one
player and thankfully the sequel does as well.


Concept 6.0 

Remaking classic
games for a new generation of fans is never easy.  The people that played the
original game will try for tradition while newer fans want something more
modern.  Making a sequel to a cult classic is just as hard with the same type of
requests/protests being voiced as well. The first Guardian Heroes game was a
fresh take on the hack-n-slash, 2D beat-em games.  Guardian Heroes Advance tries
to show gamers just what made the original so good but falls short in
delivering.  The confusing story line and difficult gameplay will probably be
the biggest let down for most gamers.  Being able to level up your characters
and unlock additional characters is a fun idea, but not having fun playing the
game isn’t the way to do it.


Overall 6.0 

It’s with a heavy
heart that Guardian Heroes Advance gets a score this low.  I was looking forward
to this game before it was released hoping it would live up to the original. 
However the confusing story, slow down during the game play and difficulty will
probably have most gamers feeling the same way.  On the positive note the decent
graphics and multiplayer options does give the game a little room to grow.  At
least I know that my copy of the original is safe and sound, ready to be played
at anytime to wash away the bad memories of the sequel.