Review by Stygian Ablyss

"3 Guys, a bony girl, a renegade soldier and an insane zombie with a HUGE sword go around killing stuff."

Narrator :Our Heroes stand looking lost in a wooden house, which is currently on fire.
Guy with a huge sword:
What are we doing here in this burning house?
Shorty in a white cape: No idea, I just know Treasure told me to stand here and talk to you.
Guy with huge sword: Yeah, I have no idea how this sword came to my hands either. Hi, chump with the bunny, I'm Han, your generic muscle bound guy with enormous physical strength and few brains...wait...I can't believe I actually
SAID that!!
Shorty in white cape: First, I'm mage, and 2nd, if I you call me chump one more time I'll turn you into a toad. And the name's Randy you idiot. And this is not a bunny, it's a hare.
Bony girl: Pretty warm reception here guys. Get it? Warm? HAHAHAHA!!!
Ninja: .......


Reviewer: That's enough people, I'll take it from here. Treasure, the company best known for creating the classic Genesis sidescroller, Gunstar Heroes (*Applause from the looney bunch of characters above*), overdid themselves once again (Han :''Is that a compliment?'' Reviewer :''Shut up.'') with this new game, Guardian heroes (*Thunderous applause from those looney characters*). WILL YOU IDIOTS KEEP QUIET!! I'M TRYING TO DO A REVIEW!!! (*Silence*) Much better. As I was saying, this game, though created for an ailing system that was unfortunately outclassed by that greatest of Evils, Sony (Randy :''Wait, isn't it supposed to be Microsoft?'' Reviewer glares at him. Randy: ''Nevermind..''), this game is indeed, a rare treasure(Pun intended). Anyway, this game is reminiscent of another Genesis classic, streets of rage (abbreviation: SOR), but with a far more complex game system and storyline. And to top it off, it actually plays like a combination street fighter and Streets of Rage and full of the fun, craziness and polish one expects from treasure.

Narrator :
A Renegade female soldier in a hot red body armor breaks down a section of the left wall and enters.
Renegade :
Hey fellas! Run!
Han :Ooooo....*drools*
Renegade :Quit staring and the hell out. NOW!... Oooo, what a cute bunny!
Bony girl :Wait a minute, I don't care who you are, but you've just broken down a section of MY wall, and now you must pay!!
Randy :Don't you DARE touch my pet you violent woman! I'll report to SPCA! And it's a hare, not a bunny!
Ninja : .......
Renegade: Some job
THIS is, Treasure. I come to help you guys, now I have to deal with a lawyer, an animal-lover extremist, a dumb man and top it off I have a lecher with no taste in women...Wait, what did I just say?!?
Ninja : ......Enemies approaching.....
Randy :You don't talk a lot, do you?
Ninja : .......
Randy :
WHAT a great team.....

At the start of the game, you get to choose 4 characters, each with his/her various strengths and weaknesses. Each character actually has 6 stats : strength, vitality, intelligence, mental, agility and luck, each affecting the character in various obvious ways (Han :''What way?'' Reviewer :''Increase your intelligence, dummy. You'll never understand it at your current level.''). The values are preset for each character, but as you fight, attack, use ''magic'' (More on this later), you gain experience points, and you will level up as you progress, much like a rpg. At the end of a game level, you get to add points to your stats equivalent to the number of levels gained (i.e. 1 level = 1 stat point. Simple maths, eh?). Your stats will improve your combat performance, which is important as you face tougher enemies. A rarity in fighting sidescrollers, isn't it? The addition of an RPGish system increases it's appeal enormously, to both fighting game fans and action RPG fans.

As for the cast, there's Han (*points to muscle guy*), as mentioned, your typical strong, slow, low intelligence guy. He's got just one magic spell, and he suffers a lot in the magic department. Randy (*Randy waves*) is the guy with the cape, a mage with little muscle but loads of brain power (Randy :''Brains beat brawn in my book''. Han :''Muscles attract more girls than brains, dummy''. Randy :''Yeah, brainless girls. I want a girl with brains, not marble statues.''). Ok, enough, people. Then there's a priest, Nicole (*Nicole does a curtsey*), who is pretty bony but is pretty powerful since she's the only one who can heal (Nicole :''I'll take that as a compliment'' Han :''Really? I though 'Busty' is a better compliment'' Nicole:'' Shut up.''). Then there's a ninja, Ginjiruo, who has higher than average strength and great agility, and pretty good magic (Ginjiruo :''.....''). Lastly, Selena, the renegade soldier, who is a secret character that is not choosable at first in story mode(discussed below) and has all round stats and all round abilities. (*Selena gives a salute*) A pretty well mixed and varied combination of characters, each balanced well and none are overpowered.

As for gameplay modes, there are 2. First is a story mode, where you basically play like SOR and fight hordes of enemies and bosses. You can choose your path, and each path has different bosses and enemies to fight. The story will also be different depending on the path. As for the 2nd mode, it is basically a Street fighter mode. You square off with up to SIX opponents in a crazy fight. You can adjust your levels to balance the fights, or make yourself obscenely powerful (Han :''I LIKE that!''). Of course, you can add stats to your characters before fighting if you increased their levels. After completing various parts of the story mode, you even get the choice to use the bosses (and their minions) here! In fact, if you complete ALL of the story mode's various paths (31 paths), you can use virtually EVERYONE in the game (including the lame peasants....). The 2 modes of play are both enjoyable, giving players lots of enemies to beat up.

As for the aforementioned magic (Han :''a-Fore..what? Know hard words, you do.'' Reviewer :''Great. A Yoda Fan. Just what I need.''), this is one feature that is quite new to the fighting sidescroller genre. While other sidescrollers typically freeze the screen before casting spells, in this game, magic is treated as a ''special move'' and does not freeze the screen when done. In fact, some of them are comboable. Using magic drains the ''magic point bar'' below your character's life bar, and when completely drained you can't cast spells. You can gain back those points back by attacking without magic. Magic can be ''cast'' in 2 ways, either by doing street fighter like controller moves ending with Z or by pressing Z and selecting it from a bubble that appears above your character. Personally, I find that very troublesome, and prefer doing the moves. Overall, a very interesting variation on a old technique. Treat them as you would treat ''super'' moves in fighting games.

As for moves, as mentioned, there's magic moves. There are also special moves. These moves are performed also using street fighter style but using buttons C and B, the strong and weak attacks respectively. They do not consume magic points, and will be your main arsenal. As for the battleground, unlike streets of rage, where upon pressing up you move up, up is jump in this game (again, same as street fighter....which will be know as SF from now since I get so tired of typing over and over). There are 2 ''planes'', one foreground and one background. Pressing Y will switch planes, much like Neo Geo's Fatal Fury series, but to be exact, it is exactly similar to a rare, seldom heard of genesis game by Treasure called Yu Yu Hakusho. In fact, this game could be more accurately described as a combination of Yu Yu Hakusho and SOR, but since few people know of this game, I made a comparison with SF. On the plane, you can only walk back and forward, like SF.

Han :
A 2D character's life is hard.
Reviewer :Yeah, I know.
Han :You can't imagine what 2D pee looks like
Reviewer :I'd rather not.

Similar to Yu Yu Hakusho, in this game, you can block, by holding A. I never fully understood why you can't block in so many sidescrollers but the bad guys can. Must be some kind of universal disease affecting those sidescroller characters. Probably explains why the genre died out. Anyway, you can create a crazy number of combos in this game, due to the rather loose combo system. It's possible to do 30+ hit combos in this game. It's quite delightful to see the combos, and doing it gives a sense of satisfaction (Han :''Like the feeling you get after you shit?'' Reviewer :''Errr, quite. That's a crude way of putting it.'' Han :''I'm a crude man.''). Combos can be done using regular special moves or with your ''magic'' moves. The ability to do crazy combos add a great deal of fun to the game, as well as a great deal of variety and possible experiments (with the combos, that is).

Narrator :
Our characters have entered a graveyard and have just defeated some kind of robot boss.
Han :OK!
Randy :Blatant Terry Bogard rip-off.
Han :Just shut up.... Ahem! Ok, now I must finish this robot with a slice of my sword!
Randy :I don't see why
YOU must do it. My lightning spells will do much better than your lame sword on a robot. Electricity will cause circuits to malfunction and burn.
Nicole :My force field will work better than that rusty blade.
Selena :Freezing him will cause him to malfunction. Robots have a certain minimum operating temperature. Far better than denting that sword.
Ginjiruo : ......*readies his lightning kick*
Han :Shut up, all of you! How the hell do I know
WHY Treasure wanted me to do it!... And how do you people know so much?
Everyone :*Points to intelligence stat*
Han :Should've just kept my mouth shut...
*Lightning strikes Han*
Han :What?!?!
Treasure descends from above :Sorry, old boy, but Randy's reasoning was too sound. And you forgot that holding a metal item up above your head in a thunderstorm is a bad idea. Anyway, we gotta change the story a little. We've just electrified your blade so it seems more logical that the electricity overcharged the robot. Oh, and you can't use it now. It's charged with enough lightning to killing a million humans, so we've gotta bring back an old friend. Oh, and by the way, here's your new sword.
Han :*Looks disparagingly at his new sword* Thanks.... for nothing...


As for the ''Zombie'' part in the synopsis, there's an uncontrollable character that follows you soon after you defeat the first boss. He's immortal, big, mean, ugly, and took Han's sword away from him (Han :''Sob...and I was having so much fun slaughtering those people....sob..''). Supposedly a ghost of a fallen warrior (never really got to know who...), he looks remarkably like Gunstar heroes' final boss, except he's got a cap. Anyway, fortunately his moves weren't recycled from Gunstar Heroes (it's rather ridiculous to do that anyway). Basically he attacks like Han i.e. slow but powerful. You can give him simple commands like defend, all out attack and so on by pressing X (which causes a delightful bubble with nice, cute pictures of the guy and Casper...or someone that looks like Casper.) The pictures describe what his commands will be. He also has a full screen attack that does insane damage to all enemies on screen, but it's slow and needs to charge up. While immortal, he cannot handle too many enemies at once, so don't expect him to do all the work for you.

Zombie :
......
Ginjiruo :
......
Randy :
You 2 sure are
GREAT company
Han :
I know! Silence of the Heroes!!
Randy :
Blatant movie rip-off....


As for the visuals, graphically, it's pretty nice. It's anime-style,with rich and vibrant colors giving the impression of viewing an anime. I must caution that anime haters will probably hate the graphics. Spell effects look pretty good, some of them looking like Goku's Kamehameha (you know,...that huge, big thingy Goku always fires at the last minute which obliterates the opponent no mater how much they are winning...from the manga dragonball). Several other spells are spectacular displays of bright flashes and explosions. Backgrounds are good on some stages, plain on some others. The forest stage looks rather plain, especially, as well as the sky kingdom. And during occasional camera close-ups, it will look rather pixilated, ruining the graphics (Han :''You look funny up close, Randy, with your hare.'' Randy :''IT'S A BUNNY!!...opps. Anyway, speak for yourself, your muscles look square! HAHAHA!!)

Music wise, it is truly a masterpiece. While it may not be as good as some of the final fantasy games, it is solid enough on it's own. Brilliantly orchestrated with classical instruments, it almost feels as though there's an orchestra playing around you while you fight. Simply brilliant. It also makes you wonder why, amidst all the killing, hacking and slashing you hear such joyous tunes......but what the heck.... Overall, the music suits the atmosphere, although a few don't.

As for sound effects, generally they are done well, each character sounds as they should(read: if they look like a sissy, they sound like one). Spell sound effects are a little funny, but hey, Japanese game companies are not renowned for making good sound effects. Just look at a certain Square series that begins with ''F''.

Nicole :
Pssst...Selena.
Selena :Yeah?
Nicole :
Tell me the secret of big ....you know.
THOSE *moves hands in a circular motion*
Selena :
Dear, let me tell you straight. You wouldn't like 2D ....chests. They are horrible. Being flat is the best. You know why Andy refuses to marry Mai? (Reviewer :King of fighters reference) That's because the reality of 2D ...chests... is this. *Gives Nicole a peak*
Nicole (looking a little green) :
OK. I happy to be a flat, bony 2D girl!


Storywise, it starts off rather dull, (by the way, some of the silly scenes above are parts of the game's beginning dialogue completely corrupted by me ^_^)but slowly builds up a crescendo, and on several story paths, you go to unusual places, fight weird creatures, and finally bursts out into an unexpected finale. Excellent story telling, coupled with surprises. You start off trying to save the country from tyranny, and you may end up doing battle with an unexpected enemy. Incredible story, with loads of twists and turns.

For controls, the game does pretty well. The Saturn controller was the best during its time anyway. Moves are easy to do, without those extravagant movements that all fighting games love to employ. Pressing left generally makes the character go left. Pressing right makes him/her go right. What more can you ask for?

As for replay, as mentioned before, there are 31 paths for you to choose. Each path will offer a different ending, different bosses and different grunts. The replies you give at the end of each stage will determine your path. You may venture up into the interior of an enemy castle, into an ordinary town, into the high heavens or into the depths of hell. A great deal of variety. And with the Battle mode, you can challenge your friends with the characters, or wreak havoc on peasants. With 3 difficulty modes, the last one being extremely hard, 5 playable characters in the story mode, as well as a secret battle arena, this game has plenty of replay value (Han :''Han gives a thumbs up!'' Reviewer :''Do you seriously think anyone cares?'' Han :''Who knows? Maybe an voluptuous babe is watching me!'' Reviewer :''Sigh...'').
{Unrelated side note: Amazing what spell check can come up with. I spelt voluptuous wrongly and got enormous. Amusing.}

Narrator:
Our heroes are back from their adventure, sipping tea in a nearby tavern.
Han :
That was quite a ride.
Selena :
Yeah, I can finally rest.
Han :''
Hey Selena, before you rest, would you....erm, like to have a bit of a frolic?
Nicole (Holding Selena by the arm):
I
STRONGLY Suggest that you DON'T, Han.
Han (paling visibly):
Lord.... I wouldn't have thought...oh, tis' a cruel and dangerous world! (Han leaves and gains 3486000 experience points and 25 levels)
Selena :
What the hell's that supposed to mean? And why are you holding my arm?
Nicole :
Beats me, I'm just doing what the reviewer told me.
Reviewer :
That was the quickest way to chase him out. Anyway, on to the conclusion
Everyone :
AT LAST!!


Concluding thoughts:

Ok, I was a tad too free today and wrote such an enormous review, but this shows how much I like this game. A well balanced mix of RPG elements, hectic gameplay, crazy combos, intense story telling plus great music and good graphics make this game a classic on the Saturn. Now, if only the Saturn hadn't fell.....oh well.

Final Scores:

Gameplay : 10
Graphics : 7
Sound : 9
Story : 8
Replay :9
Extras :8
Controls : 9
Originality : 8

Overall : 9


Thanks for having the patience to read to the end. If you ever find this game AND have a Saturn (you need one to play, you know...), buy it. You won't regret it.

Narrator :And so it ends.....


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/13/01, Updated 11/13/01


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