Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Guardian Heroes Breakdown: What is Guardian Heroes?

Guardian Heroes XBLA Version
Release Date: 10/12/11
System: Xbox Live Arcade

Guardian Heroes was originally released for the Sega Saturn in 1996.  This Game Breakdown will be focused on the new "Remix" version released for the Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade.  This version is a high definition remake of the Saturn version with some massive gameplay, graphical, and user interface tweaks.

This type of article of mine will typically cover: a brief history of the game, what the game's about, a summary of the gameplay and story, who was involved in the making of the game, and what makes the game unique.  Later on I'll Breakdown which features of the game the games industry can learn from and which features could've been expanded on.  I'll also note what I liked and disliked about the gameplay.  If you're not familiar, these videogame breakdowns are not made for the purpose of reviewing.  I make these to take a critical eye to games I like and don't like to understand what makes them enjoyable or not so enjoyable.  This is, of course, all subjective to my opinion so take it with a grain of salt.  Now let's start!

Today we'll talk about the history of the game.  Particularly its release date and a little about the creators.  I should probably also tell you what the heck Guardian Heroes is even about.


Wish I had a Saturn :'(

Guardian Heroes was originally released January 26, 1996 in Japan.  I'm not 100% sure on the date that the game was released in the U.S.  Wikipedia lists it as January 25, 1996 while IGN lists it as May 26, 1997.  I've even seen it listed as January 23, 1996 while elsewhere other sites simply and safely list it only by year, the year being 1996.  It was released on the Sega Saturn by Treasure and Sega.  Treasure developed the game while Sega published it.  Because a lot of Saturn games didn't have a ton of media coverage in the U.S. at the time (mostly guessing on my part), this game went on to be considered a cult classic with a niche fanbase despite everything about it having mass appeal and in many ways being ahead of its time.  Maybe it wasn't dark enough for the 90's, oh well who knows.  To this day there isn't a beat 'em up quite like Guardian Heroes, discounting the Nintendo 3DS game Code of Princess whose development team is headed by the same brilliant lead designer and lead programmer as Guardian Heroes.



What is Guardian Heroes?

Guardian Heroes is a multitude of things but it is mainly a beat 'em up videogame with heavy role playing game (RPG) influence which includes character growth and a deep narrative with lots of world lore.  It is a bright and vibrant game that encapsulates the best of early nineties anime and videogames.  Think Slayers or Dragon Quest meets Streets of Rage or Final Fight.  There is plenty of character interaction, dialogue, and scenarios that seem right out of a novel or T.V. show.  The world of Guardian Heroes is inhabited by all manner of men and creatures: from swordsman and townsfolk to magicians, all manner of fantasy creatures, towering mechs, angels, demons, angelic and demonic monsters, and even more.  The combat is incredibly deep for a beat 'em up, I mean 2D fighter levels of deep.  Think of this as Street Fighter -- or better yet Blazblue -- except you're fighting a horde of enemies instead of a single opponent.  It's a multiplayer game with co-op and versus modes with nearly fifty playable characters.  The XBLA version sports some really good drop in, drop out online support and the game has multiple difficulty settings.

 The Creators

Treasure Co. Ltd early logo


This game was created by the now legendary Treasure Co., the developers behind such hits as Gunstar Heroes, Dynamite Heady, Radiant Silvergun, and Ikaruga.  They have a much much larger library of hits and have also worked on stellar licensed titles like Wario World for Nintendo and Astro Boy the Omega Factor for Sega.

The team for this game was headed by Testuhiko Kikuchi (also known as HAN) and Masaki Ukyo who also worked as a programmer for Treasure.  Both had previously worked on several projects.  Between the two, albeit mostly seperately, are such projects as Silhouette Mirage, Bangai-O Spirits, Mad Stalker: Full Metal Force, Silpheed: The Lost Planet, Advance Guardian Heroes, Phantom Breaker, Rakugaki Showtime, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, Yū Yū Hakusho: Makyō Tōitsusen, Mischief Makers, Gunstar Super Heroes, Half-Minute Hero, and most recently Code of Princess.  As you can see, they have quite a proven track record of quality titles between them.  I respect and revere the design decisions they've made and the ways they've blended several genres, especially in Guardian Heroes.  The pair is currently not with Treasure anymore and now (peddle) their talents independently.  Their design legacy and talents can currently be spotted in the Bones/Atlus title Code of Princess for the 3DS which borrows the core gameplay principles of Guardian Heroes.  Of course, Treasure has also given us the amazing subject of this very Breakdown, Guardian Heroes, remix version.

What Influenced This Game

The two games that the wiki stated to have influenced this game are the arcade games Aliens vs. Predator a frenetic side scrolling beat 'em up/shooter by Capcom and Mad Stalker: Full Metal Force an equally destructive combat experience featuring mechs from studio Fill-In Cafe.  I watched longplays of both of these games on youtube and can definitely see how they may have influenced Guardian Heroes.  With AVP you have powerful combos that have characters leaping across the screen to dispatch foes combined with strong projectiles which is a rarity in most beat 'em ups but also prevailant in Guardian Heroes.  It's even possible that some of Randy's and Han's attacks may have even been inspired by the Predator Warrior's attacks.  Some inpiration for the mech designs of Guardian Heroes as well as the idea to stick most of the combat on one plane or rather lane may have come from Mad Stalker: FMF.  Masaki Ukyo is even stated to have worked on Mad Stalker as a programmer and designer. Both aformentioned games are brilliant games in their own right and worth checking out and possibly playing if you can find the right emulator or if you have the money for an original copy.  You should check out extended playthroughs of the games at the Youtube channel of World of Longplays (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVi6ofFy7QyJJrZ9l0-fwbQ).  You can also go to their site at http://www.longplays.org which is where I found videos of these two rather obscure games.

Aliens vs. Predator, for Arcade
Mad Stalker: Full Metal Force for PC

Next we'll go into more detail about what makes Guardian Heroes so special including a detailed synopsis of its gameplay, story, characters, and the differences between the original version and the XBLA remix version.  Stay tuned for that and as always, thanks for the browse!

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