My kingdom for some elbows!
Considering all the hype that has surrounded this game, Guardian Heroes begins with kind of a disadvantage. How could it possibly live up to expectations? When we hurredly stuffed our copy into the Saturn we weren't dissapointed. Despite a few irritating problems, Guardian Heroes does an admirable job of living up to its promises.
The gameplay looks a little like a Streets of Rage setup: a side scrolling fighting game. It also had elements of an RPG. As you fight, you gain experience, go up levels, gain hit points, and gain credits which you can add to any of six character attributes.
You can choose from four characters at the beginning. Han is your standard sword wielding hero. Randy is a magician in training who wields a deadly staff; he is accompanied by Nando a sort of magical flaming rabbit friend. Ginjuro is the obligatory ninja. Finally, there is Nicole, a clumsy, gawky young cleric whose deity of choice is the 'have a nice day' smiley face. After you beat the game, you gain the control of a character you will have seen before: a fighter in red named Serena.
Also helping your party is an autonomous undead soldier. He joins your party early in the game as you fight your way through a graveyard when he rises from his grave to reclaim his magic sword from Han. Although he's on your side, you can only give him basic commands and let him do his stuff. But boy is he useful! He's very powerful and totally indestructable.
All the characters look like anime cartoons, only with no elbows. The fighter's arms all narrow to some sort of impossible boneless mid-arm area, especially Han's. Actually, Nicole's arms don't do this, but she seems to lack bones entirely throughout her weird body. She reminds me of Olive Oyl complete with silly walk.
Speaking of which, this game is definately in line for a grant from the Ministry of Silly Walks. Only Han has a normal-looking walk. Everyone else oddly hops and sways about the screen.
The graphics are impressive in some technical respects, but they don't always cut it visually. The fighters tend to get pixillated, but this is the price you pay for the smooth zooming in an out of the camera as players move forward and back. The sheer number of animated sprites you can have on the screen at the same time is impressive. Sometimes there are so many fighting bodies, it gets difficult to see whats going on, but you'll get used to it with practice.
The soundtrack is pretty bad. No way to gloss that over. Just try to fight fearsome foes while some kind of happy carnival music plays in the background... The sound effects are perfect, however. One last sound complaint: this is a CD-ROM game, so why am I reading subtitles? These characters should have voices.
The best thing about Guardian Heroes, the part that makes it revolutionary, are the dozens of possible paths in this game. Many times during your adventure you'll be presented with a choice of several options. The option you choose can determine the future of your game. This gives Guardian Heroes tremendous replay value. You may get a little sick of the early levels, but after that, they branch out to lots of multiple endings. With several characters to choose from and cooperative play for up to 6 people (with the multi-player adapter) this game should find its way off your shelf and into your Saturn for a long time to come.