Review by Halron2

"How cool would it be to have a huge skeleton warrior following you?"

If there is a game that didn’t achieve the success it deserved, without a doubt, it’s Guardian Heroes. A typical case of ‘only if it was released in amore popular system’ game, this game is, undoubtedly, one of the best titles of the system and of its genre. Oops. Did I say genre? Classifying this game in typical genres is hard if its classification is to be as unique as the experience of playing it. An exciting mix of beat-em-ups, fighting games and RPGs, Guardian Heroes will remain forever dear to the few people that actually played it.

In Guardian Heroes you control one of four adventurers (Han, Randy, Ginjirou and Nicole) that travel together in search of treasure. After finding a huge sword with special powers, the heroes attacked by soldiers of the local army, for no apparent reason. They are aided by a renegade commander of the army, Serena. Before long, they find out that the sword belonged to an ancient warrior, who comes back to life in the form of a huge skeleton who obeys the orders of your heroes. They also find out that something is amiss with the royal family and that events changed the natural course of history. From this point, so many different paths may be taken by the characters that it’s not possible to mention all of them. In these different paths, the game touches different subjects, like betrayal, lust for power, free will, magical power vs. physical power and so on. The game isn’t particularly deep or intense in any of these subjects, but the simple fact that it touches so many different questions is great. Also, the multiplicity of endings is great and will definitely attract players.

The setting of Guardian Heroes is a nice mixture of fantasy and futuristic elements, with the powers of magic, brute force and technology battling each other for control. The place is basically inhabited by humans at first but players will soon find out that there is a huge variety of creatures and races battling each other for power. The setting of this game isn’t particularly innovating, but it’s so well done that most players won’t even notice it. After all, a good, solid fantasy setting is everything one could hope for, right?

The gameplay of Guardian Heroes is actually what makes this game so great. First, there’s the crazy mix of different genres. The game is basically a beat-em-up. However, instead of moving you characters in depth as well as length, you can change ‘planes’, just like in Fatal Fury. The gameplay is that of a fighting game, with jumps and crouching done in the directional button, and a wide variety of special moves available for each character. You have a defense button, a light attack, a strong attack, a button to shortcut the casting of spells and a button to issue commands to the skeleton warrior. The R and L buttons are used to switch planes. Cool, isn’t it? But wait, there’s more! Apart from having HPs and MPs, you character gains experience and levels up just like your regular RPG. With each level up, one point can be assigned to increase one of six attributes, that will make you character stronger, faster, better with magic etc. Also in this RPG vein is the option to choose which way to go, given to the player in some important points of the plot, which result in the many different endings.

The best, however, is that the game is incredibly addictive. The controls are so smooth and perfectly thought out that it’s really easy to learn to play the game and as hard to stop playing it. Apart from the intense, non-stop action, players have at their disposal leveling up, multiple endings and paths to take, which turns the game into a replay fest. The four different characters available (there’s an extra character once you’ve beaten the game) are completely different from each other, increasing the options even more. Because all of this, it’s quite hard to get fed up with Guardian Heroes. You can buy the game and play, play, play, and you’ll still turn your Saturn on to go through it once more, even if you completed every single thing the game has to offer.

Apart from the exceptional one-player mode, Guardian Heroes features one of the most intense and fun versus modes in gaming history. Up to six characters (all of them can be controlled by players with and adaptor) fight each other in different backgrounds. The great thing here is that you have not only the five controllable characters of the story mode, but the whole Guardian Heroes cast! Besides the fact that it is a huge cast (45 different characters in all), the characters are deeply different from each other, ranging from peasant weaklings to nearly invincible gods. You can also customize the level and status of each participant, generating endless fun. The options are endless and it’s the perfect fun for a group of friends.

The graphics in Guardian Heroes are all very cartoony, anime-like. The character designs are pretty distorted and exaggerated. The main cast deserves special mention, with original designs, very striking and different from each other. Everything in the game is done in 2D (the Saturn’s speciality) and it’s very impressive. Form the opening movie to the character animation and backgrounds, everything is top notch. Also, the great variety of enemies and paths that you may face keeps the whole thing from being repetitive. I guess a lot of people would complain about the zoom effect that distort the characters a little bit, but it doesn’t bother me at all. Also on the downside are the slowdowns that occur when too many people are on screen, specially if they are casting magic. But it’s really nothing to worry about and the graphical department in the game is excellent, as everything else.

The music is also excellent. Unlike most action-oriented game, it doesn’t just scream ‘action’ at you all the time, opening space for different kinds of music as well. There’s everything, from action-oriented themes to subtle tunes and epic music. Anyway, most tunes are intense, creating a very well done background for the game’s storyline. They fit their moments well, and add a lot to the gameplay experience. There’s really nothing particularly groundbreaking about this game’s soundtrack, but it’s pretty unpretentious and entertaining. The sound effects aren’t as good, specially when it comes to the voices. The sounds the enemies make when they get hit are annoying and repetitive, as well as most characters’ voices. It isn’t good, but it’s better than no sound, I guess. Anyway, it doesn’t affect the fun of playing the game in any sense.

Overall, Guardian Heroes may well be the best Saturn game ever and quite possibly the most addictive action-oriented game for any system. On its own, it’s already a good enough reason to buy the Saturn. The huge variety of options and the simple fact that the gameplay is as fun as it gets, turn this game into a definitive hit. Anyway, it’s likely that the game will never receive the praise it should. The many players who never played this game are missing one of the greatest gaming experiences ever. But those who have played it will have to agree with me: in terms of non-stop, hacking and slashing action, no game will ever compare to Guardian Heroes.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/19/02, Updated 08/19/02

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