: 800 Microsoft Points
: 12th October 2011
SEGA have been re-releasing some of their greatest classics recently, such as Space Channel 5 Part 2, SEGA Bass Fishing and Radiant Silvergun. Some of these did better than others when they came to this era of gaming. But does that mean retro gaming should stay in the past or is it just a case of selecting the right game? Guardian Heroes hit the XBLA marketplace last week and is the latest re-release. Even to this day, the SEGA Saturn copies can fetch over $100 if it's mint condition. No doubt it was one of the highest rated SEGA Saturn games, but does this game remain a hit or does it feel out of place in this era of gaming? Find out in our definitive review.
Game-play - 8/10
The first thing you notice when you boot the game up is the background. On the left side you have the Guardian Heroes logo, on the right you have the group of heroes. You then press the A button to bring the menu up. This menu offers a wide choice of what you can select. You are provided with Story, Versus, Training and Arcade. Also on the list is the ability to switch graphics. We will take this section by section.
Story mode sees you select one of the characters, Han, Randy, Ginjirou or Nicole. Each character has their individual attacks and abilities. An example of this would be that Han fits into the strong heroic stereotype, while Ginjirou is styled as a ninja. The group find the Sword of Legend, and shortly come under attack by the royal knights. During the initial escape, the Sword of Legend disappears from their grasp; as an un-dead hero is brought down to wield it. As their adventure goes on they learn about the Sky Spirits and Earth Spirits and the ongoing struggle of power. Ultimately, the outcome is up to the player as the game provides many different paths to follow and offers multiple endings.
This game is a retro 2D hack and slash, so if you are after some compelling storyline or action then you will be disappointed. That isn't saying that this game is lacking however. The stages are a lot of fun to go through and as stated before, there are different pathways to the ending of the game; it all depends on the players' choices throughout. Guardian Heroes does feature boss fights, though with the un-dead hero constantly by your side, these are rarely a problem.
The team face down robot and human enemies alike, all can jump quite high.
The health bar is featured at the top of the screen, along with your characters level and magic bar. Whenever enemies are nearby, their levels and health bars appear underneath your own. This is helpful as when you are crowed and unsure which you are attacking, you can still see the amount of health they are losing.
The only downside to the fun story mode provided is the length. One play-through can be completed within an hour. Whilst this is a short story mode, the different pathways do make up for it, as they will take you through the 30 different stages. For those who want the full complete story, it would be wise to make a note of what choices you did, that way you can select a different one the next time around.
The game also features different difficulty levels. Easy contains 99 credits which count as lives, whereas Hard is less forgiving of failure with 3 credits. This makes it quite a challenge for the hardcore gamer out there determined to beat hard. Overall, the difficulty feels more like it limits your chances as opposed to making the game harder.
Versus mode offers a multiplayer diversion from the story. This mode can be done over Xbox Live or local against the computer and supports 12 players. This leads into a mad horde style of attacking and it can prove hard to keep track of your own character. However if you think 12 people attacking each other while bunched up sounds like a mad sight, you should hold that shock for Arcade mode.
Arcade mode places the player against a continuous wave of enemies. However, it isn't a case of starting off small and working its way up to bigger waves and enemies. It instantly throws you into a random selection of enemies, and all 20+ come at you at once. This is a fun mode however it's quite harsh as when one enemy drops another instantly takes its place. Ultimately, this is more of an endurance challenge, and it provides quite the challenge indeed.
Finally, there is the Training Mode which is a relaxed area to work on learning the characters skills, as well as stringing together your combo attacks. This mode is perfect for those who want to stand a chance and see what each attack in the repertoire look like and how much damage they dish out.
All these modes contain three lanes which you can jump to and from. This is handy when you either want to reach a new enemy or want to avoid some attacks. However sometimes this feature does seem a bit under sensitive, and at parts of the game I was forced to come to a complete stop before switching lane by using either LB or LT, depending if I wanted to be closer or further away from the screen.
Expect to see double that amount of health bars in Arcade mode
Graphics - 7/10
As stated earlier, Guardian Heroes features the original graphics as well as the remixed version. The main difference is that the remixed version is more cleaned up. The original graphics stay true to what they are called. The edges of characters are pixels, yet not heavily. Meanwhile in the remix, while it's similar, it is less noticeable. As it is a 2D fighter, the backgrounds rarely change during the stage; however they are detailed for this type of classic genre. Depending on which stage you are on, you could have houses in one stage, to a field or cemetery on the next.
Some people would say that to live up to the remix title that is held by the new graphics; more work should've been put in to make it look more different. While a bit more work would've been nice, it's important to remember that re-releases need to stay as true to the original as they can, and this is superbly done.
Sound - 8/10
Everything from the main menu to the in-game music sounds exactly like it was in the mid 90's and that's not a bad thing. The music fits perfectly with the retro feel of the game. As for fighting, each attack can be heard when it hits anything, be it a barrel in the way, or an enemy trying to kill you. The only addition that could've been made would be voice-overs. Yes, this is a classic arcade-esqe title, but it would've been nice if the remix featured voices to add to the faces of the characters. Regardless of this factor, the game manages to captivate players with its catchy tunes.
Achievements - 7/10
Arcade titles are notorious for either being extremely easy or hard when it comes to achievements. For the most part, Guardian Heroes features easy achievements which are tied to the story mode. These are for beating various enemies and completing the stories multiple endings. Both of these scenarios however do require you to play through the game multiple times.
There is also an achievement for finding all the characters, which requires the player to go through every possible pathway the game provides. Probably the hardest one would be to get through the game on the hard difficulty without losing any credits, which means not dying once.
Try not to get too surrounded otherwise you could get caught up in a big combo
Conclusion - 8.5/10
Even to this day, Guardian Heroes remains one of the best SEGA Saturn games that got released. When playing it, it's easy to see why that is the case. While the story mode can be completed in one sitting per pathway, the amount of choices to reach the different stages certainly makes up for it. While there are not too many differences between the original and remixed graphics, the game looks exactly what it is; a 2D hack and slash from the mid 90's. This was a fun arcade experience which is able to get you playing it over and over to discover what all 30 stages contain. Guardian Heroes gets 8.5/10, and is a recommended purchase for any fan of 2D fighting or retro gaming.