Review by Saikyo Ki
"Mob riots and mosh pits + swords and sorcery = endless carnage!!"
Blessed be the Funco Land worker that recommended this awesome ''Choose Your Own Adventure'' style fighting/brawling game to me! Everyone who says that this game is good enough to own a Saturn just to play it is absolutely right; in fact, one of my friends actually did just that! If you like huge no holds barred melees and having a large amount of fighters to choose from, this game is perfect for you!
This is the first time I've ever given this category a 10. One of the reasons this game rocks is the fact that there are multiple paths you can take to not only fight new enemies and see new stages, but to see different parts of the story. Also, you not only can see more of the story, but you can see the story from different perspectives.
The story starts out with the Guardian Heroes, which consist of Han, a swordsman, Randy, a mage with a rabbit bodyguard named Nando, Ginjurou, a ninja and Nicole, a healing priestess. They are staying at an inn talking about their newest treasure they've discovered, an old sword with hidden powers. As they talk about it, a lone warrior named Serena literally bursts into their room (through the wall) and tells them not to use the sword. Suddenly, the people who were after Serena are now after the Guardian Heroes as well! Heh, I wish I could tell you more of the story but I don't wanna spoil any of the fun!
Obviously, because there are many paths you can take, there are also many endings. Some are good, some are bad, some may seem good or bad at first until you try out another path/ending and find out something new. Because of the complexity of the characters and plot, Guardian Heroes probably has the best storyline of any fighting game ever.
In story mode, you pick one of the Guardian Heroes and fight your way through one of the many paths of the game. Every so often you will reach a checkpoint where you can choose a place to go or something to say to someone. Unless you play non stop until you're blue in the face, it WILL take you several months to find every path combination and ending.
One or two players can tackle story mode. You may also meet up with some CPU controlled fighters who will be your ally through certain stages. Make sure to keep them alive if they are in trouble, they make the game more fun (they usually communicate with you) as well as a little easier.
This game is sometimes compared to the Streets of Rage series, which isn't a bad comparison, but there are a good amount of differences between the two. You progress from left to right, fighting all enemies you come across. However, you don't move up and down like you do in Streets of Rage. There are three ''planes'' you can be on (basically, you can walk/fight in the foreground, middleground and background. If you are cornered on one of these planes, you can jump to another and try to escape. Watch out, though, cuz the enemy can do that too.
Do you mash one button to perform an auto combo like in Streets of Rage? Well, a *few* characters have moves like this, but they are mainly for newbies to the game. Once you master the real special moves, the auto combos will look very weak in comparison.
Your character(s) and enemies all have their own special moves. Most characters have magic spells on top of physical special moves. The main heroes have spell menus that can be accessed, but when you get better and have the spells memorized, it's better to perform the joypad movement yourself, since you're vulnerable while you are selecting a spell from the menu. Are there super moves? Kind of, but you don't have a super meter. Usually a ''super'' move is a spell that takes up most or all of your MP.
Yes, you have HP and MP in this game. You also level up when you beat enough enemies. On top of this, every time you level up, you get a bonus attribute point you can assign to one of your stats (for instance, vitality, which makes your max HP grow). You should assign these points wisely, because these stats don't grow any other way (the only things that grow little by little automatically are your HP and MP), and you will need a very well powered up character to beat the end bosses you meet on some of the harder paths, especially if you are low on continues (easy mode gives you 99, normal mode gives you 10, hard mode gives you 3). One last cool thing about leveling up and getting attribute points: If you assign the points to your character's magic attributes the right way, they become way bigger and much more powerful!
Speaking of the multiple paths through story mode, what's your reward for finding all these paths and endings? New fighters! There are over FORTY different fighters in this game, putting this game up there with the Capcom crossover fighters in terms of sheer fighter abundance. Can you play as all of these fighters in story mode? Well, no, you can only unlock one extra fighter to use in story mode, but you CAN use all forty plus fighters in VERSUS MODE! As if this game wasn't fun already, now SIX PEOPLE can beat the living hell out of each other with six controllers and a six player adapter! If you don't have six people, you can make computer opponents! If you want a computer partner or two human players want to work cooperatively, teams can be assigned! Someone way too good? There are also handicap settings (you can actually set the experience level of each fighter, from level 1 to level 198)! If you want to have a completely random match, you can randomize teams, characters and experience levels.
You can also play versus mode in a different way. Instead of fighting to the death, each fighter will get points for hitting the enemy with a physical attack (no, you can't cheese your way to victory by using huge magic spells :P) and points are taken off of your score if you are hit with a physical attack. When the time limit (which you can increase or decrease in one minute increments) runs out, the one with the highest score jumps into the foreground and the other fighters line up in order of second highest score to lowest score in the backgrounds from left to right.
If you are an SNK fighter fan, the graphics in this game will remind you of Samurai Shodown right off the bat. No, I'm not saying the characters were patterned off of SS, in fact they are all original and cool looking anime characters for the most part. What I am saying is that the 2D engine is similar. For instance, if you step back from your opponent, the entire screen will scale to fit the whole scene. Backgrounds and characters are all large, well animated and detailed, even when a lot of spells are flying across the screen. Yes, sometimes the graphics slow down, but it really doesn't happen *that* often (it usually happens when powerful mages are casting huge spells at once).
Sadly, in versus mode, there are some fighter combinations that can't be processed by the Saturn because of RAM limitations (trying to put six big bosses in the fray, for example). If only Treasure made this game compatible with the RAM cart! Don't worry, though, you'll still be able to have endless fun fighter combinations, plus you will be able to fit some big bosses on screen at a time.
There is an intro FMV. It's not that high quality (which is sad because the Saturn is very capable of displaying better FMV), but the intro is cool nonetheless. Did the intro footage come from an anime? YES. Is it hard to find? Unfortunately, that also gets a yes.
Voices are quite clear, but most of the voices are battle cries, so they might get on your nerves. Sound effects are also good, from explosions to the sound of swords finding their mark. The music is downright awesome! Very animeish and fitting for the scenes they are used in. There are suspense songs, songs that get you pumped for action and songs that make you wanna explore. I actually pop my CD into my CD player and listen to it at times.
Sadly, once again due to RAM limitations, when playing in versus mode, only the voices of the first three fighters are loaded. One thing you can do to cope with this is add three fighters with voices you'd like to hear, then add three more fighters who don't speak at all. Once again, a RAM cart would be very useful for this game...
Everything is responsive, which is good because when you have many enemies coming at you, you're gonna wanna be able to do those huge special moves to make them all back the hell up. One thing I should mention is that Ginjurou's running ability is slightly quirky, but it's nothing that someone can't master.
Replay Value: GREAT WHEN YOU'RE ALONE *AND* GREAT AT PARTIES
Got a huge gettogether? They'll come for the story mode and stay for the versus mode! I've been playing this with my friends for years and none of us have gotten bored with it yet, and I highly doubt we ever will! Obviously, this game is also fun to play by yourself. Not only will unlocking all of the characters in story mode take you a long time, there are so any ways to assign attribute points to each playable story character it's not even funny.
Ignore the mediocre scores this game got in video game magazines. This game is like Ambrosia for the Saturn. Fighting game fans and side scrolling brawling game fans will both love it, plus there are enough hidden secrets and endings to keep you exploring until you're old and grey, which is why I give it a 10.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/07/01, Updated 10/07/01
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