Guardian Heroes

Published on October 12th, 2011 | by Derek Strickland, Contributor

Guardian Heroes XBLA Review

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade (Xbox 360)
Developer: Treasure
MSRP: 800 MSP ($9.99)
Release Date: Oct 12, 2011

Many gamers out there may be wary about having one of their favorite and most beloved Sega Saturn beat em ups ported on a next-gen console, yet Treasure’s critically-acclaimed Guardian Heroes proves to be as fun now as it was all those years ago. With re-mastered graphics and fully online capability over Xbox LIVE, gamers can now re-experience the glory of button mashing arcade mayhem alone or with other players across the world.

Guardian Heroes has a somewhat confusing story arc, and if anything it seems to be your standard hero’s journey where a group of heroic characters battle evil to save the world. What makes this game’s story unique is the multiple endings based on the karma system, which is determined by the decisions you select in the game and what paths you decide to take. Gamers are presented with a number of key selections at certain dialogue cut-scenes that determine both karma and what stage is played next.

This is one of the XBLA titles that actually lives up to the designation as an arcade game, as it not only allows for online play but delivers an action-packed side-scrolling beat-em-up experience. Treasure is well-known for delivering these types of games and not only hits the vein of the genre dead-on, it re-invents the entire sphere of the genre itself with new features and game mechanics.

Guardian Heroes truly delivers classic arcade-style button-mashing gameplay wrapped in anime-style graphics, making it an example for which many beat em up titles can be judged. With it’s use of revolutionary mechanics such as 3-D character movement and explosive combos and special attacks, it’s easily one of the best and most enjoyable games of it’s genre and defines the word awesome.

This XBLA port makes use of two versions of the game: Remixed and Original. Both settings have varied controls that can be looked over via the main menu, but most gamers just want to jump right in and start battling, however checking out the features of each mode can be helpful (especially if you find the game to be too difficult).

The graphics are decent in this adaptation, however I personally find the Original graphics to be more enjoyable than the Remixed setting, which purportedly is re-mastered and in full HD. When you set the graphics to Remixed, everything is alright until you see dialogue: the character avatars don’t look right, and they actually look better when pixellated under the Original settings.

One of the most enjoyable factors of this particular title is that anyone can play and be decent at it. You don’t have to study a complicated moves list–although it does help learning the actual attacks. Players can just pick up the controller and jump right into the fray of screens full of bad guys and villains.

Treasure’s treasured arcade fighter also incorporates elements of RPG-style customization, giving gamers the ability to fortify their characters and specialize their attributes. Each character has their own specialized fields of combat, however through the level up system gamers can customize each character’s proficiency and solidify their expertise in a certain attribute.

Below is a list of characters and their combat specialties:

  • Samuel Han – Has powerhouse melee attacks and high strength with little magic
  • Ginjirou Ibushi – Super-fast ninja-like attacks, lightning magic
  • Nicole Neil – A mix of melee and magic, fast attacks with decent damage
  • Randy M. Green The fastests–and conversely the weakest–of all the characters, strong magic attacks

Each character also offers their own unique fighting styles as well as special moves that can be studied under the “Repertoire” section of the pause menu. New magical attacks can be gained from boosting the MNT attribute, as well.

The intense combat action is the meat and potatoes of this game’s enjoyability: fighting hordes of oncoming enemies–from soldiers to demons and bizarre bosses–that fill up the screen is something that beat em ups in the early ’90s are famous for. This game resurrects the classic multiplayer intensity found in this genre, serving up the authentic explosive gameplay that hardcore gamers know well.

One of the most unique elements of Guardian Heroes’ gameplay dynamics is the three-dimensional movement system. In many beat em ups, gamers can traverse three different fields on any given level: foreground, mid-ground, and background. Players who make strategic use of all the helpful features of this game–like backstepping and moving throughout the 3-D playing field–will become more efficient fighters.

Playing online via Xbox LIVE is the most enjoyable aspect of this revamped port of Guardian Heroes. For the first time ever gamers can team up together to vanquish armies of monsters and villains while experiencing the mysterious (and somewhat confusing) story mode. Another player is extremely helpful when fighting on the hardest setting, or even medium–having another player to soak up the damage and trap enemies is pretty much essential.

If the story mode isn’t enough to quell your thirst for insane fighting action, then head on over to the Arcade Mode. This mode allows up to 12 players (yes, that’s right, twelve players) to battle in a ruthless survival gauntlet where dozens upon dozens of high-level enemies crowd the screen and smash everyone and everything in sight. This mode offers a hilarious and enjoyable experience…however it’s highly recommended that you don’t experience it alone because you’ll most likely just die.

The Arcade Mode is a new feature that’s only included in this version of the game, and every enemy throughout the Story Mode is included within. Also, players are free to choose any character to use in the arcade–they aren’t limited to the selection of heroes and can choose many of the game’s most ruthless villains and bosses to fight with.

Guardian Heroes also offers the classic versus fighting experience where two players face each other in an arena-style melee battle. In this mode gamers can choose from over forty-five different characters–selections are unlocked when players come into contact with enemies/bosses via Story Mode. Players can face off against one another locally or against others via Xbox LIVE.

The achievements are easy to unlock–for the most part–most of which require gamers to beat Story Mode and see all the different endings of the game. The endings depend on the actions that players have taken throughout the game and also depend on karma. Gamers can also boast their personal best scores with leaderboards for Arcade and Versus Modes.


Final Truth:

While the Sega Saturn version will still remain king, this XBLA port delivers the signature and authentic action RPG brawling experience that gamers would expect from Guardian Heroes. From the twisting and turning story arc to the button-mashing melee mayhem of Arcade Mode, this title offers hours of enjoyable gameplay that players can replay over and over again and still have fun. Being able to play with friends via Xbox LIVE is a great feature as the game offers a new level of social interaction that was previously only available through couch co-op.

Guardian Heroes on XBLA truly is a great game and while it has a few quirks–like the strange Remixed character drawings or the massive amount of enemies that crowd the screen–it’s still a must-have for all gamers who loved the classic version.

[xrr label=”Rating: 8.5/10″ rating=8.5/10]

+ Intense arcade style action
+ Enjoyable for all fans of fighting games
+ Lives up to the original Sega Saturn version
+ Three-dimensional movement scheme
+ Variety of characters and special attacks
+ Xbox Live integration
Can be quite challenging on Medium and Hard
– Screen-fulls of enemies can make it hard to focus

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About the Author

I'm an aspiring games journalist who writes articles focused on everything from Indie Games to next-gen titles. [Twitter] @Mr_Deeke [E-Mail] derek.s(at)gamingtruth(dot)com

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