**At this point of the analysis I’m roughly halfway through the game. So this is a halfway analysis. Just wanted that to be known up front.
HistoryGuardian’s Crusade is a game that was released for Sony’s Playstation way back in 1999. The game was developed by Tamsoft Corporation and published by Activision. This was a bold year for Sony’s freshman console and its last year as Sony’s flagship product. The next year would mark the launch of the Playstation 2. There was a lot of excitement regarding the PS2 and as a result Sony needed some really good content to remind people the that Playstation wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, dead yet. Game makers didn’t disappoint and much high caliber content was released such as this game.
What is Guardian's Crusade?Guardian’s Crusade is somewhat of a departure from the traditional RPG. The main hero isn’t really the focus of the story and the game has a primary school vibe to it but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The game feels like it was made for a generation of kids that watched their big brothers play through RPG heavyweights like Final Fantasy and Legend of Dragoon and thought that those were the coolest games ever. It keeps the adventure but ix-nays the angst. The adventure is simple: The main character is a chivalrous, small town, do-gooder and he stumbles across a mysterious monster. The monster is so cute and cuddly that the hero decides to take him on a quest to reach the Golden Tower. We know nothing of this baby monster or why it needs to go, we just know that it needs to go. That’s the only setup we need to embark on a quest that requires the player to travel across continents, the sea, and even by air. Of course random and not so random events occur which test the hero and his little companions (the baby monster, a fairy girl, and a small army of living toys) at every turn.
The game honestly feels like a sort of middle ground between Pokemon and a more traditional RPG like Final Fantasy. It’s turn based. The world is huge and highly colorful and vibrant. There are many paths to explore in every area and optional dungeons as well to get strong items and power level, which I personally love to do. The Pokemon feel comes into full effect when you’re introduced to the Living Toys about two hours in which are integral to the battle system.
Living ToysYou see the Living Toys are this game’s bread and butter. Without them this game really has little to call its own or make it stand apart from the other RPG’s that were out there at the time. Even now the concept hasn’t really seen much use since this game’s release. Ni No Kuni which was released last month is the closest thing that I can think of. Okay so I’ll actually take the time to now explain what Living Toys are.
The first Living Toy that you get, in the story, is Mr. O’Neal – a windup gentleman that uses his baton to aid you in combat. You can find other toys before him but they aren’t usable until you get Mr. O’Neal in the story. Anyways Mr. O’Neal can be summoned for 2 of the game’s magic points or power points as they’re called. Once summoned Mr. O’Neal attacks the enemy, doing shitty damage even at the beginning of the game, and keeps attacking the enemy every turn until he has taken too much damage.
The Living Toys come in three varieties. There are those that stay out continuously and attack every turn; they kind of act like party members. There are ones that only stay out for the turn you use them on and that can be used multiple times (provided you have enough power points). These toys act more like spells than anything else, this is where you’ll get the bulk of your healing spells and stat buffs and debuffs. Then there are those toys that are so powerful that they can only be used once in a battle. There is one toy, which is really cool, called Timeout. When summoned, Timeout prevents damage for everyone on the field - allies and enemies - for three whole turns. After the third turn everyone can start whacking each other but not before. This gives everyone time to heal up and use buffs but Timeout can only be used once so you’re to use it wisely.
The game really makes clever use of these living toys for real applicable purposes like the toy Resetter that literally resets the battle that you’re currently fighting all the way back to the first turn. The first time I did that I just looked at the screen blankly and thought, “really!” After that I thought, “well that’s pretty cool.” They even made some novelty toys like Ringsider who sits by and gives you play-by-play of all the moves made during the fight. It’s pretty funny and often times epic to hear the overbloated commentary during some of those challenging fights. It’s not wise though because he does contribute to your toy count of which you can only have three out at a time.
All in all I do like the decisions that they used for the Living Toys. I have a few gripes though. Now because you’re going to be collecting a new toy or several new toys at every town and dungeon, you end up with quite a few of them and not all of them can be winners. Most of the fighters are downright weak. The only consistent fighting toy I had for most of the game was Contributor, a toy that takes money from you each time it attacks. Contributor is worth it because it’ll always do way more damage than the main character and it uses only a little money, even at beginning of the game standards. I was forced to use Contributor because I had initially missed Pyro. Now this lack of good attackers combined with the baby’s lack of combat effectiveness, which I’ll get to later, made a good portion of the game very frustrating for me. Hell if I wasn’t over-leveled it most likely would’ve left quite the bad taste in my mouth.
The BabyWell since I’m on the subject let’s talk about the Baby. It sucks. I was initially intrigued by the concept but man did they drop the ball on this one. I initially thought that the baby would start off sucky and then start making dramatic improvements the more you played. Boy was I wrong! I’ve currently raised it to around a mid-thirty level and am always making sure to heal it during battle, feed it often, give it commands (which it’s supposed to like), and I don’t tell it to fetch things for me because that’s supposed to lower its affection rating towards you. I do everything to keep it in good health and liking me and it still barely listens to me or do anything relevant when we really need it. Sure it doesn’t attack me anymore but it damn sure feels like an escort mission thanks to all the time I end up healing it. It spends most of the battle generically attacking with a chomp attack, doing about a third of the damage you really need it to. On average the Knight does about 100-120 base damage while the baby does about 40-60. The two are of comparative levels and even the useful Living Toys do at least double what the baby can do. The Contributor usually nearly doubles what the hero can do.
If the baby isn’t doing crap damage with its normal chomp attack then that may mean that you’ve ordered it to do something else. If you’re lucky and it doesn’t use Chomp again regardless then maybe it managed to defend itself when you said defend. Hopefully it actually did defend instead of trying to heal itself using its 40-60 point healing spell on itself when the enemies are doing 70-100 points of damage with each attack because – well – the baby has no defense values. Hopefully when you use the baby’s help command it actually takes the turn to heal or support you instead of using Chomp again. That is the crux of the baby’s programming, it’s just annoying. You’re going to spend more than half of your time and resources just trying to keep the baby alive and that’s not fun. Very randomly the baby would do something cool like morph into weapons and do more damage but these instances were few and far between. Once though when I ran into a super powerful creature it did transform into one of the monsters it copied but at that point I had already summoned Timeout because I was getting my ass kicked trying to keep Baby alive. I just don’t understand why no matter how well I treated it or how strong it became, why it never listened to me or transformed more often.
The World of Guardian's CrusadeThe world itself is quite cool. It’s bright, vibrant, diverse, and huge with multiple paths at every turn. Because of that you can get lost. Couple that with a camera that’s pulled in too close and you get lost A LOT. The developers really needed to pull the camera back a bit or give you a constantly displayed map. You can get the living toy Mapster to help out but it’s so obnoxious to go into two menus to get to a super pulled back map. The map should’ve been constantly onscreen and pulled in a bit closer.
Staying on the subject of getting lost, this is one of those RPG’s where the current objective is sometimes very unclear and you’re wondering what to do next. There was one point in particular where I had to find and talk to this character that was mentioned off-hand by one of the non-important NPCs in order to progress the main story. This would be forgivable if the fairy girl Nehani, your hint system, told you to go to him or told you where he might be. I tried to go all the way to this other town like everyone, including Nehani, told me to go only to be blocked in a cave and told to go find this obscure character. When I get to the town I still don’t know where this guy is but discover that I had to activate a flag at the pier which triggers a cutscene. I was shocked because I was already there earlier and no one told me to go there. Once I left the town after running into that flag I finally found the guy I was looking for because he ran right up to me. That design flaw is unforgivable to me.
There are a plethora of optional dungeons and beating them nets you super strong gear much earlier than you should have it. I only wish that the overworld itself had more goodies.
+ Bright vibrant graphics
+ Cute lovable characters
+ Cool monster designs
+ Early innovation of having monsters onscreen
+ Really big world
+ Humorous characters
+ Endearing soundtrack
+ Good balance
+ Cool ideas for living toys, their abilities and use as party members
+ Living toys can be paired for strategic use of their abilities
+ A decent amount of save points
+ Weak monsters try to avoid you
+ Weak, strong, and super strong enemies are different visually on the overworld
+ Run Button
+ Various modes of faster travel
+ AI controlled Baby follows simple commands (sometimes)
+ Frequency of finding new Living Toys
- Starts slow, takes 1 or 2 hours until you get any other combat functions other than Attack, Defend, Item, and Run
- Overworld camera is pulled in too close
- Baby sucks at the beginning
- No control over Baby
- Baby does not always listen to you, sometimes does something completely opposite
- Sometimes current goal is unclear
- Searching items in Overworld is made tougher by inability to face items you’re standing next to unless you’re already facing it
- Oversimplified battle system even with the addition of the Living Toys and Baby
- Baby is disappointing and usually better left dead.
Just a reminder that this isn’t an honest to goodness review. You won’t find any of those here on this blog. I won’t even tell you if a game is worth buying or not worth buying. If I am analyzing it then just know that I found something interesting that stands out about the world, characters, or game mechanics.
Now I’m only about halfway through the game so many of the things I’ve said here may be subject to change. A deeper analysis of the game’s mechanics, world, and creatures will follow this one once I’ve completed the game. I’m excited to see what other innovations this game has in store and can’t wait to see what other adventures are in store for the Knight and the Baby and how their story ends. Stay tuned for the deep analysis.
February 13, 2013
After power leveling through three more fields and towns and discovering that weapons and armors power up the Baby’s base stats I’ve found new joy and success in the creature. I lugged the Baby all the way back to the training arena after gaining 2 or 3 levels and spam-feeding it all types of weapons and armor and found that I could actually defeat a few of those fights. Its base stats increased by about 20 points and I felt confident. After those fights the Baby even started to listen to me way more often and a Tranformation option was added to the orders you can give it which let’s you choose when and into what the Baby will transform into. Now the game is starting to feel more like what I was promised and the story is starting to kick in as well.
Most of my annoyance was linked to the Baby’s combat ineffectiveness and now that that’s gone the only things that provide frustration are misinformation from Nehani (the game’s hint system), a lack of information from town locals, and bad camera angles. The part after you leave Denvrado town was especially frustrating because I could not find that damn Holy Shrine or Aruvin to save my life. I did find the Tower and was told to go back to Denvrado though to FIND SOMEONE WHO KNOWS HOW TO GET PAST THE BARRIER. No one in Denvrado had that info and I was again forced to find the Holy Shrine which was a little to the left of the default camera and so f***ing easy to blow past…so frustrating but I digress.
The 2nd Part of the Guardian’s Crusade analysis is coming soon followed by the changes and additions that I’d make to it to bolster it and make it a better game for then and now.
March 2, 2013
I'm an Idiot aka Reading is Fundamental
Okay so all those complaints I had about getting lost and not having a map in the game are now and have been officially invalid. The mini pullup of the map was always selectable when you pressed the select button. I would’ve known this if I had read the instruction manual, like the 2nd or 3rd page. The map is great, unobtrusive and all.
The Baby and Weapons
Make sure that whenever you upgrade your weapons and armor to simply feed them to the Baby. I sold all of my old stuff to recup my losses or make a lil’ dough for like half the game. If I had been feeding the Baby my old stuff the whole time he would’ve been a lot stronger and the game would’ve been a lot more enjoyable earlier on.