Review by shiva

"Guardian Heroes - 'THE' Game"

If I had to select the most unfairly overlooked game of all time, I'd most certainly select Guardian Heroes for the Sega Saturn system. Produced by Treasure, hailed as one of the best software houses out there (and rightly so), Guardian Heroes is a mix of beat-em-up and rpg. Somehow, Treasure managed to mix both styles so well that the perfection this game achieves can't be fully nor fairly expressed by the sole use of words. To say the truth, I'm not that surprised. If anyone could have successfully pulled this off, it had to be Treasure. Let's start right away and get ready for a long emotive flow...

STORY - 10/10 - Right after you turn on your Saturn, you are presented an intro anime movie that will set you in the feel of the game. The main characters will be presented to you, and it acts as a sort of introduction to the game's story. And it is precisely here you'll realize, right away, this isn't a "common" game. The graphical quality of the images you'll see is unquantifiable, you'll think you're watching one of the most beautiful and detailed Japanese animes you've ever seen. To make it even better, the music is, simply put... phenomenal (sorry, I'm Portuguese, and my English level isn't accurate enough to be able to 100% fairly describe this game, the music is MUCH better than simply 'phenomenal'). After the intro ends, you'll be in a pure ecstasy state, salivating to play the game as quickly as possible. When you actually start playing, and have you first contact with the in game dialog, you'll realize almost immediately it greatly surpasses almost any plot of any RPG you've ever played, which is just embarrassing. The story is highly original ( a powerful sword, a land that needs to be defended, a mad wizard in a quest for power, and even gods are part of it). As one of the Guardian Heroes, you try to understand just what exactly is going on, and try to stop the evil. The Story Mode is full of surprises and twists. Furthermore, the story is completely NON-LINEAR, meaning that certain decisions you make will alter it (just for you to get the picture, the final enemy can range from about 5 different characters (!!!) , and there are about 7 endings to view. Well, I'll let you find all this out for yourself. Just be aware that this plot surpasses that of so many hyped games, FFVII being just an example of this.

GAMEPLAY - 10/10 - As I said, the best way to describe GH is being a mix of beat-em-up and rpg. The gameplay is composed of too many features for me to actually be able to recall them all. But I'll try.

In Story Mode, you select an hero and battle your way through hordes of enemies, that include soldiers, robots, animals, undead, mythological creatures, gods. The enemy cast is incredibly varied, and you won't feel like you're playing a beat-em-up, like Golden Axe, where 'pallette-swapped' enemies are continuously thrown at you. Added to the mix are the already famous Treasure bosses, highly inventive and presenting a huge challenge to defeat, since they are programmed with some impressive AI. To be able to accomplish this, your character can attack, block, use magic and some other maneuvers.

Characters - Each character is totally different from each other (think like any good fighting game). Han is your typical muscled hero, with a very powerful sword, a good range of physical attacks and weak magic (just some small homing fireballs). Gingirou is the ninja, perfect for speed. Uses shurikens, small blades and lightning strikes. His magic is based on thunder, and he can either summon a rain of bolts, do a devastating spell with lightning that spreads from his hand, or can turn himself to thunder and shock the enemy. Randy is a sorcerer. He can use his rod to pull off some quite effective attacks, but the highlight is his magic. He can cause an explosion around him, he can create a freezing circle in the ground that freezes anything that touches it, he can summon a vast tornado that juggles the enemies or he can perform a giant fire beam that produces devastating damage (think Cable's Hyper Vyper Beam from Marvel vs Capcom 2). Nicole is a healer, capable of some awkward physical attacks. Her attacking magic uses "smileys" to cause damage, but she'll mainly be used for her strong healing spells (watch out as they can also heal the enemy) and her protective barrier, that can be the games most effective attacking spell if you manage to catch your opponent between a corner and the barrier. Additionally, you can unlock Serena, the most well rounded character, with great attacking moves and spells. Watch out for her Ice Tempest and Ice Laser. Undead Hero is a helping character the game provides you, so even without a 2nd player, you won't play alone. As his name implies, he cannot be killed, but he cannot block also. He has superb physical attacks with his sword . In a touch of genius, Treasure allows you to control his AI. You can, between other options, command him to defend you, to watch your back, or go berserk. When you select this option, you'll will trigger his spell move, the Giga Explosion, a giant attack that engulfs all the enemies on screen. At this point you must be thinking ''Huh? Spells in a beat-em-up? Is there some sort of menu or something?'' I'll cover these aspects under the CONTROL section of the review. Also, every character you beat in Story Mode is unlocked in Versus Mode (more on this later), making for a staggering cast of 45 PLAYABLE characters !!!!!!!!

Route system - After battling some enemies, generally a menu will show up, with 2 up to 5 choices. This is the games complex route system. According to your options, you go to different stages, beat different enemies and bosses, alter the story and much more. There are 30 stages in all, and you beat about 6/7 to see the ending, of which there are 7, so variety is very high, and GHs Story Mode plays differently each time. Not something many games can BRAG about.

Experience system - Besides the story and the spells, this is the other rpg element to GH. After each stage, depending on your performance, you get skill points, that you can distribute to your liking from categories such as strength, defense, speed, magic power, vitality and more. So you can customize your character to be what you want. Want a brute that can slaughter opponents in seconds? Increase strength. Want to become a dangerously deadly spell caster? Increase magic power. Want a balanced character? Distribute the points evenly. You can really customize a character to your liking. On a side note, you actually SEE the results of your skill points distribution. For example, increasing Randy's magic power will make his Tornado become larger and larger, and of course more damaging. Unique and much better developed than the majority of the rpgs out there.

Multi-plain fighting - Treasure packed this game full of unique features. In battle, your character can, by using the shift buttons, exchange plains. There are 3: back plain, middle plain and forward plain. This can be used to dodge enemy attacks, or to fight in any plain you want to. It's your choice.

CONTROL - The control is 'top notch', surpassing even Capcom fighting games. Normal attacks are performed with simple button presses, and special attacks with Street Fighter-like motions. However, they are even more intuitive to perform than in any SF game. As an example, for any "Down, Up + Attack" move, you simply press Down, Up, you don't need to charge "Down", like Guile's Somersault Kick. Spells can be performed from a simple command menu, or with motions, such as Back, Down, Forward + Z (which is highly recommended , since the menu is not reliable enough, especially against the games' bosses) The control couldn't be better (I'm simply running out of positive adjectives - this game is TOO GOOD!)

GRAPHICS - 10/10 - The graphics are totally high quality 2D, Characters have an anime feel, move great and have lots of animation frames. Spells are a visual hyperbole to behold. The backgrounds are too varied, show great artwork, coloring and detail. And the anime intro is too much. PERFECT!

SOUND - 10/10 - This is getting boring, this game hasn't got a single flaw!!! The BGM is epic to say the least and reflects the situation the story presents you. Between all the great music, there are true masterpieces, like Valgar's tune and the final boss theme. There are about 23 tunes to be heard. This game features 45 characters, so the sound effects are varied like there's no tomorrow, and only a few seem to be repeated between characters. Since the sound is so great, you'll always want to play this in the highest volume possible!

CHALLENGE - 8/10 (on the "hard" difficulty setting, with user friendly "off")- Tired of games where the AI is dumb, not putting up any real challenge? Look no further. As you'd expect from a perfect game, the AI in GH is nothing short of spectacular. It's like Treasure went and programmed a counter way to each and every move you pull off (which they actually must have done) for the cpu characters. They can hardly be caught in stupid attacks, traps and so forth, and they can and will counter you in each and every possible way. This human-like AI is even better when showcased by the bosses. Besides being ultra powerful and having lots of health points, bosses usually overpower you in so many ways you'll be scared. Just try not to lose any lives against the likes of Valgar, Kanon, Sky Spirits, Earth Spirits, Super Zuru Pah Ya, and any of the giant dragon-like final bosses, and you'll see what I mean. They can only be beaten by teamwork (whether it is with a friend or with the help or the Undead Warrior) and huge amounts of patience and strategy. Just count with being overwhelmed by them. This game is everything BUT a walk in the park.

REPLAY VALUE - 10/10 - It is infinite. That's all I need to say about it. The story mode features so many aspects and ways-to-go you will never get bored of it. It's impossible not to feel like playing Story Mode. But in the case you just want all the action with no worries, play Versus Mode. Here, you can select any character you have beaten in Story Mode plus the heroes. The cast is as high as 45 characters, and was only recently surpassed by MvC2's cast. You can select a battle royal or set teams anyway you like. In each battle can enter up to 6 (!!!) characters. Plus, you can make them human or cpu controlled - ALL of them! You heard me! Up to 6 humans can participate in these chaotic brawls! But it's still as good without them, due to the before mentioned superb AI. You can also alter many parameters before the fights, such as characters' strength, defence, level, etc, and even select the stage. After the fight, the winning character(s) will have something to say. There are about 150 quotes, and EVERY single one is great. It's impossible to stop playing this game!! (well, actually it isn't, after about 3 years playing it, my copy cracked, and now we're on 2004, I got an used copy. And yes, it's STILL the best game ever created!)

FINAL THOUGHTS - This game is perfect in every department. I actually ran out of positive words to describe it while reviewing. If you have a copy, consider yourself lucky you hold the best game ever in your hands. Forget the shallow video game era we live in, if you want a 'true' game get Guardian Heroes. NO game is comparable to this game in terms of FUN, LASTABILITY and QUALITY. Which is what we all look for in any game, right? Congratulations, TREASURE! I never do this in my reviews, but you deserve a tribute more than anyone. And you, are you still reading? What are you waiting for?


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/25/02, Updated 08/02/04


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