I was excited when this game was announced. A sequel to one of my favorite games. And Treasure never makes sequels. If you’re not familiar with the work of Treasure, I wrote some impressions on their title Radiant Silvergun a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the kind of sequel I was expecting. This game retains many of the fundamental qualities that made the first one so great but it’s missing something. Soul. And that’s ironic because the ridiculous storyline in the game revolves around your character being possessed by the souls of the heroes from the first game.
The gameplay in a nutshell. Take your standard beat ’em up. Give your player stats, like River City Ransom, that you can adjust between levels using the experience points you gain. Fill every screen with as many enemies as the engine can handle (even more, sometimes). Toss in some cut-scenes and dialog every once in a while to give an excuse for something crazy that’s about to happen. Repeat that for about 10 stages.
For fighting you’re given a jump, attack, and block button. Combine the attack and block button and you execute a magic attack, which drains your TP meter. TP is gained by laying the smackdown on your opponents. You can switch between 5 different magic spells with the ‘L’ button. As you get attacked your rage meter fills and you can let loose with a rage power-up that temporarily gives you invincibility and increased speed while your meter drains. Whenever you defeat an enemy they drop crystals on the ground which you can collect for experience points.
A cool thing they added to the gameplay is the ability to counter enemy attacks by pressing block before you’re hit. You can anticipate an enemy attack when they’re posing and a ‘!’ mark appears above their head. Timing can be tricky but I learned I can always pull this off by wildly mashing the block button before getting attacked. This works for any projectile in the game as well. There are a few sequences where some enemy’s firing a huge plasma ball at you and you have to deflect it back to do damage. It’s a good way to break the monotony of a beat ’em up.
It’s very disappointing that they didn’t even bother to add any new enemies to the game. Not even any new moves for the enemies. The sprites are from the first game and were simply scaled down and redrawn. A bad habit with handheld developers it seems (Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin suffers from this budget-effective laziness).
The backgrounds are all new but they lack the charm of the original. In Guardian Heroes I felt like I was on an adventure, wandering through forests and exploring villages. The story in this game has you jumping around to all sorts of random locales for no apparent reason.
Jump! Jump harder! Jump like you mean it!
The game has some cool moments. Every once in a while they throw in these little action sequences where you’re falling through the air and have to jump from platform to platform by double-tapping jump. One thing the game does well is throw in crazy action sequences that help break monotony.
I found that the difficulty is bit unbalanced. The ‘easy’ difficulty actually starts off fairly challenging. But after you get halfway through the game you’re already unstoppable due to the leveling up and stat upgrades. When you die you get game over, but you can restart from the last checkpoint, with however much health you had. I ended up dying in a boss battle and had to keep retrying with only a sliver of life. No fun. The only way I could beat it was by not getting hit, or starting from the beginning of the game again. Challenging? Yup. I played it over about 6 times but I finally finished it. I didn’t like that bit of design because it brought back memories of a horrible scenario I got into when playing Xenogears, stuck in an area with little fuel and no way to fuel up. In that case I would’ve had to replay about 20 hours, ha.
In the end, I think it would’ve been a better idea to make a new intellectual property for this game rather than try to make it fit in the Guardian Heroes world. This game feels like a lame way to break their unofficial policy of never making direct sequels. I think it’s worth playing to see what’s going on in the gameplay, there’s some fresh ideas in action, but the game’s not very fun! I finished it today and I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience.