Name: Guardian Heroes
System: Sega Saturn
Genre: Beat em' up
â€œWhere'd this sword come from?â€
â€œGolly gee. I don't know. It looks like the legendary sword of Something-or-Other, you know, the thing in that prophecy everyone knows about that says will purge the land of evil and institute a new world order.â€
â€œPut it back! You don't know what it's for!â€
â€œHark! What is happening? Soldiers at the doorstep... firebombs shattering through the windows...?â€
â€œOh perilous exclamation! We're being attacked by imperial forces!â€
â€œHey, let's beat the snot out of them.â€
Guardian Heroes is a beat em up game for the Sega Saturn. The story is some sort of mildly zany anime. Big eyes, clumsy minions, pointy haired protagonists and other stuff like that are to be observed as the contextualization for the game's escapades. The setting is some sort of medieval fantasy world. To be cruelly honest, the story is not worth telling. It's just there to justify the conflict. Moving on...
As for the look and feel of the game: Guardian Heroes' graphics are 2D â€“ very pretty 2D, I might add. They look like Street Fighter Alpha 3 for the Playstation; big sprites, nice, cartoon-like animation. Gameplay-wise, Guardian Heroes is similar to â€œFinal Fightâ€ or â€œStreets of Rageâ€. You walk from left to right up various fantasy/medieval-ish locations and beat people up.
The gameplay. Imagine this: 12 characters are on the screen. At least two of them are ten feet tall (trolls, cyclopses, mecha robots, man-eating plants, etc.) Perhaps three are airborne. The rest are scummy imperial knights. Thus ensues the conflict. You let into them like mad. They get kicked around. You get kicked around. Points rack up. Level up. 23 hit combo. Digitized voice clips of â€œAUGH!â€ and â€œUnh!â€ resound throughout the fray. You use a magic spell. Lightning flashes from the sky, and about seven of them lose half their health.
Things are getting tight. You've gotta use your secret weapon. So you flee from the melee and select the apocalyptic death move for your golden warrior (a computer controlled ally who follows you around). The golden warrior unleashes a bestial roar, slashes several guys in half with his sword, lets loose a seismic flame-wave or two, then in a contortion of raw power, he screams at the top of his lungs and fills up the entire screen with a thermonuclear blast of death. Particle effects shimmer. Damage is slathered like icing. Blind whiteout ensues.
The screen empties. Everyone is dead; a sunbleached stain on the nearby wattle and daub peasant's wall. Move to the next region. Repeat.
In a word, awesome.
Extra features. There are lots of characters you can play as. I especially like the little magician dude with the magic stick who flies all over the screen beating people up. He reminds me of â€œAngâ€ from â€œAvatar: the Last Air Benderâ€. There's also a sweet martial artist. He's like someone from Street Fighter. I don't like the prissy mage girl, though. She's annoying and weak. As you beat the game, you can unlock more characters. This is a cool aspect.
A cool thing about Guardian Heroes is that it mingles RPG elements in with the left-to-right beat em' up scheme. When fighting, your character gains experience points to improve certain fields of performance (agility, strength, health, etc) and he/she grows levels like an RPG character. Things get really good once your character is level 40 with 800 HP and 700 MP. Yes, you will be able to tell the difference when your health his five times what you start off with. It makes me feel powerful. The Saturn's internal battery saves these stats so you can pick up later from where you left off.
Guardian Heroes has lots of replay value. It is no linear affair, that's for sure. The game is a downright spiderweb of branching storyline paths. At the end of each level you'll get to choose things like, â€œDo you want to attack the castle through the woods?â€, â€œDo you want to go through the villageâ€, or â€œDo you want to avoid a battle?â€ The said choices each lead down an entirely different path. It feels like you can play the game a hundred times and play a different set of levels almost every time, which is very cool.
At first I didn't like Guardian Heroes very much. It grew on me very quickly, though. The controls take a bit of figuring out (A=block, B=light attack, C=heavy attack, etc...) I also had to figure out a few of the (simple) button combinations that call for the characters special moves (A+B is backflip, down down B is an uppercut...) Single player mode is pretty fun, but when I finally got a second controller and played co-op mode with my brother, we had a BLAST. I've heard that this game is designed for a special multitap accessory allowing you to plug six controllers to the Saturn. I haven't been able to do this myself, but I can scarcely begin to imagine the jaw-dropping insanity that would ensue if I ever could.
There's only one thing that's wrong with Guardian Heroes. The game's storyline is EXASPERATING. Too much dialog. Too many obscure characters, presented as though they're supposed to be important yet given about as much pathetic exposition as can be achieved through little talking-head-loops and speech bubbles. Too many plot twists and conspiracies. It's like some fantasy story written by a nerdy 13 year old kid on some online anime forum. I don't like it. The game would be much better of if the story were simple and sweet. â€œSave the princessâ€ would have done the trick. Or, â€œ'We must stop him!', 'HAHAHA!' , 'Oh no... the entire planet... under one man's power...'â€ But I digress. Different game, different story. Moving on...
In terms of circulation Guardian Heroes is, for better or worse, rare and coveted. Complete copies go for something like $80 through $70 on eBay. Yes, outrageous, I know. But is it worth it? Um... No. Not in a million years. Don't mistake me. Guardian Heroes is fun. Lots of fun. Probably classic. But it's not $80 worth of fun. Sorry. Is just the disc worth $31, though? Um... I'd rather not think about that. I'd rather just keep playing. :-D
Final score: -A