Guardian Heroes Review (XBLA)

Game Review: Guardian Heroes
Release: October 12, 2011
Genre: Action/RPG
Developer: SEGA
Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Players: 1-2
MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Website: Xbox Live Marketplace

You and your four heroes are out to stop the reign of Kanon, an ancient wizard who would plunge the world into darkness. When you accidentally revive a legendary warrior, the future becomes yours to make. You just need to decide a path to take, and fight with all you heart down it. Guardian Heroes is a relic of the Sega Saturn’s time, but is it a dusty old thing that should be forgotten, or a pearl of a game that can be brought into the modern age?

Guardian Heroes stands out as one of the best Sega Saturn games, and its inclusion on Xbox Live is a much-welcome surprise. Thankfully, while a simple port would have been enough, the time has been taken to improve the game and bring some elements up to 2011. Upgraded graphics, online co-op, a new versus mode, and so forth are all appropriate additions to the game, and only serve to improve its replayability.

The game, beyond having a pretty entertaining and engaging story for what’s effectively the evolution of side-scrolling fighting games pioneered by Final Fight, Streets of Rage, and their kin, adds a good amount of variety. The playable characters in Story Mode all have different attacks and techniques, and everyone will have to choose their own player that fits their style best. Within the first parts of the game, an interesting element is added: the skeletal warrior that takes your commands. He can either defend, attack, hide, or even go berserk and attack anything and everything in sight. Different usages are necessitated at different times; if you’re trying to go for a good ending, you don’t exactly want him beating up every civilian and fleeing soldier you cross paths with. More traditional gameplay elements are present, but their inclusion in a beat ’em up are nice. Characters can jump between foreground, middle ground, and background to attack on three different planes. Players earn experience points, expend magic points, and level up their attacks and characters between scenes. A branching storyline may feature redundant villains and areas at times, alongside dialogue points, but it makes it so nobody will ever go through the same game twice; in fact, the game tracks which paths you’ve taken and shows when you’re choosing so as not to repeat yourself. Characters defeated in story mode will become playable in arcade mode (and a few unlock Achievements), so multiple paths throughout the game are necessitated to get through.

Beyond story mode, there’s a training mode to practice out moves and techniques. Versus mode lets you fight against a friend or enemy. Arcade mode, probably the most fun for a single-player of the extra modes, lets you face endless waves of villains as any of the characters you’ve beaten as the game. Not every character has a good amount of moves, as Civilian Child can literally just tackle… and still be incredibly powerful. Xbox Live is available in most of the modes, allowing played to hop in and out. Live (and just standard two-player mode) has a little balance issue, but it’s understandable. Players can either go through the game all by themselves and take twice as long, or speed through it with a partner but share lives.

There are two major flaws with the game, and both stem from Story Mode. There’s no apparent ability to save (despite a “Continue Game” option listed) beyond exiting the game, and if you skip dialogue, the game is rather short, averaging about one or two hours given difficulty.  With the ability to level up your characters, a New Game Plus option would be a major boon, allowing players to fly through the earlier levels with their super-powered heroes, letting them reach the alternate paths deep in the game quicker and easier. With nine continues and no apparent way to earn more, you can easily get to the last level, take a bad hit, and have to restart the entire game all over again. Treasure games are notoriously difficult, but these are just simple features that would be expected in any game of this sort.

Guardian Heroes is not a perfect game, and age shows at times. Still, it’s an amazing product of its generation, and is brought heartily into the modern generation. For 800 Microsoft Points, you could do much worse than one of the best games from the Saturn.

+Hours of replayability
+Appropriate Xbox Live expansions and additions to the original game
– Lack of saving and New Game Plus means the same game will be played the same way dozens of times at the start

9 out of 10

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