|Developer(s)||Treasure Co. Ltd|
|Release date(s)||Sega Saturn
|Genre(s)||Beat 'em up
Hack and slash
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
Guardian Heroes (ガーディアン ヒーローズ Gādian Hīrōzu ) is a 2D side-scrolling beat 'em up and hack & slash action RPG video game in the vein of Final Fight or Golden Axe. The game features RPG elements. Guardian Heroes was developed by Treasure and released in 1996 for the Sega Saturn video game console. A sequel was released in 2004 for the Game Boy Advance entitled Advance Guardian Heroes.
Guardian Heroes is often considered to be one of the greatest games for the Sega Saturn and the beat'em up genre by both critics and fans. The game allowed players to alter the storyline through their actions, such as choosing between a number of branching paths leading to multiple endings and through the Karma meter which changes depending on whether the player kills civilians or shows mercy to enemies. Its music was also praised, combining electronically composed tracks with electric guitar and saxophones. The music was composed by Hideki Matsutake, a former member of electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra, and Nazo Suzuki.
Guardian Heroes brings a number of things to the side scrolling fighting genre. In addition to a developed story mode, the game includes a versus mode wherein up to six unique players can compete with any of the main characters (and unlockable monsters, bosses, and civilians) in a timed battle or to the death.
The players earn experience points during each scene and between scenes are able to improve and customize their characters with six attributes: Strength (determines physical damage per hit and distance enemies fly when the player hits them), Vitality (increases HP), Intelligence (governs size and strength of spells), Mentality (determines how many MP the player has and how fast MP are recovered), Agility (increases the speed at which characters can do physical and magical attacks) and Luck (modifies damage the player gives and receives, in addition to improving Nicole's selection of spells).
The game's story mode is famous for its multiple paths. The game allows the player to make choices on where they will go and what they do after every level. This allows for multiple endings and different bosses and levels. The player can play through the game many times and change the story dramatically each time. The main game can also be played with a friend. One path even leads to Golden Silver from Gunstar Heroes to be the final Boss. Just as in Gunstar Heroes he uses the power of four gems to aid him in battle.
This game is also remembered for the multiple levels in the battlefield. Initially, the player can only access three planes of battle: a foreplane, a middle plane, and a back plane. These planes can be switched between in set sequence, or at the player's choosing based on which button is pressed. The shoulder buttons of the Saturn controller allows the player to move back and forth in such a manner. Often, evasive actions could be taken by switching a plane. For example, being enveloped by a mob of enemies with little hope of fighting through them without taking extensive damage could be mitigated with a simple plane change.
Long before the beginning of the game, a supreme being created the universe to find ultimate warriors to hire as its personal soldiers. In the past, humans merely existed, cowering in fear as a vicious battle was waged between the Earth and Sky Spirits (renamed the Earthblood and the Skyborn in the Xbox 360 Remix). The Sky Spirits decided to bestow incredible powers unto the humans, effectively making powerful wizards for their own gain. With their new-found powers, the human wizards joined the effort against the Earth Spirits, banishing them into the darkness. Soon after this was accomplished, the Sky Spirits grew fearful and jealous of the humans, and banished them all into the very same darkness with the Earth Spirits. Mankind instead opted for a more physical approach to life, and the Time of the Sword began.
Several decades before the game begins, one of the human wizards, Kanon, managed to escape his imprisonment with the Earth Spirits, and came back to the surface so that he might eventually get his revenge on the Sky Spirits. There, he brought his case up with the existing khans; since they did not trust him, he destroyed them and replaced their kingdom with a wizard kingdom, with puppet khans to do his will. Things were not entirely rosy for Kanon, however; the former king prophesied, prior to his death, that should his reign and the Time of the Sword be brought to such an abrupt end, then eventually the sword would again resurface and in turn bring an end to Kanon's reign. As a precaution, Kanon banished most every existing sword in his new kingdom, but he overlooked one particular sword, belonging to a fierce, anonymous warrior who fought especially valiantly to the death during Kanon's takeover. Also, the former princess, Serena, survived the ordeal, and joined the band of knights to try to bring about Kanon's end from the inside.
At the game's start, four warriors - Han, Randy (with his pet rabbit, Nando), Nicole and Ginjirou - find the sword of the valiant warrior. Just as they decide to begin relaxing for the remainder of the night, Serena bursts in, hastily warning them that the knights have learned of their possession of such a powerful sword, and are coming to take it back, no matter the costs. The four flee their home as it bursts up in flames during the invasion, then escape the town via their separate ways, rendezvousing at the graveyard nearby.
Upon reaching there, they discover the leader of the Black Knights, Valgar, awaiting them, and accompanied by a very powerful robotic warrior. The five do battle with it, but fail to do a large amount of damage to it. Finally, as Han resolves to use the new sword against the robot, the sword is struck by lightning, electrocuting Han and causing him to lose his grip on it. The sword, now seemingly with a life of its own, floats over to a large mound nearby, where a zombified warrior in golden armor arises from the dead - the same warrior who valiantly fought to the death so many years ago - and claims the sword as his own. Enraged, he easily obliterates Valgar's robot, and begins to attack Serena. Nicole, uncertain of what to do, politely asks the warrior to stop attacking them - to the five's surprise, he does so. Quickly realizing that the warrior is willing to act on any command that they give him, they resolve that, with this new ally, the time to begin an attack on Kanon's new kingdom is at hand.
From here, the game begins to split up on various paths, with numerous different plots to go along with it. Some involve ultimately fighting against the Sky Spirits, Earth Spirits, and/or the supreme being that made the universe, while others wind up the warriors ultimately defeating Kanon, only to have to defeat Super Zur, or various rogue robotic warriors that he had left behind, led by the nefarious Golden Silver. Most endings wind up with humanity ultimately having a far better future than they had at the game's start.
- Samuel Han: Physically powerful, Han can inflict a lot of damage even against guarding opponents (as his tackle bypasses blocking), but his movements are slow, and he cannot use much magic. He also has a flaming attack, similar to Ginjirou's lightning attack. He jumps high in the air, ignites, and comes down in flames on his enemies. As he is slow-moving at first, raising his Agility stat will make up for his initial lack of mobility. Han starts the game wielding the sword of the Undead Hero, until it is reclaimed by its true owner. In one of the story arcs, he may acquire a similar sword which grants him the stat bonuses he originally had when wielding the Undead Sword.
- Randy M. Green: Randy has many spectacular attacks and a large variety of elemental magic, including fireballs, lightning bolts, pools of ice and a devastating laser-like heat ray. However, like a typical sorcerer character, he suffers from low vitality. Randy's familiar, Nando, assists Randy during the story mode of the game, and is available as a playable character in Versus mode. In melee, Randy attacks with multi-hit attacks, his Dancing Wind attack being one of the most effective melee attacks around.
- Ginjirou Ibushi: Ginjirou has an emphasis on mobility. He has a large variety of moving attacks, but this can also work against him. He also has a number of lightning/thunder attacks. Though his attack power is weaker than Han's, the sheer number of hits he is capable of dealing to enemies makes him a formidable character, and his lightning attacks allow him to deliver more hits to any single target than any other character in the game, meaning he can rack up combo points very easily and gain levels just as quickly.
- Nicole Neil: Nicole has weak attacks and random magic. She has a smiley face emblem on her amulet and most of her magic attacks incorporate a smiley face. She is the only hero who can use healing magic, but as a drawback her attacks are the weakest of the four heroes. Experienced gamers quickly learned about her Barrier ability, which damages enemies until they are forced away from her; if an enemy could not be forced away from Nicole (e.g. the Barrier pushes the enemy against the wall), then it would suffer grievous wounds until the barrier wore off. If the enemy were to block the barrier attack and was standing against the wall, which would effectively trap them in place, the barrier would deal massive amounts of damage, often leaving only a bit of health afterwards.
- Serena Corsair: A well-balanced character, Serena (possibly meant to be Selena) the Knight has a wide variety of moves and a good selection of magic spells, the majority of which revolve around cold and ice. The most powerful of these are her Angel Breath, which creates an umbrella-like field of ice particles around herself when used, protecting her from physical attacks and freezing anything close to her, and the Valkyrie Javelin, which is similar to Randy's Super Magic Fire Blaster, but it freezes attackers instead of burning them. Serena joins the player as an NPC in story mode, but is later unlockable as a player-controlled character. Kanon later reveals that Serena is actually the surviving heir of the murdered Khans, making her a legitimate contender for the throne. She is the only hidden character that can be played in story mode.
- Undead Hero: A powerful warrior who died when the Khans were killed. His body returns to life when his sword is accidentally brought to his grave. He reclaims his weapon and goes on a rampage, until the heroes realize that they can control him. In the game, the Undead Hero is a NPC who can be given simple directions by the players: Follow, Wait, Attack, Defend, and Berserk. In the Xbox Remix version, Serena reveals that the Undead Hero was a brave warrior who protected her family.
- Kanon G. Gray: The behind the scenes leader of the kingdom, Kanon is a wizard from ancient times who was banished to the underworld by the Sky Spirits, who feared his power. There he bided his time and prepared a plan to get revenge and to create a powerful magic kingdom to free humankind from the influence of the spirits. Kanon is an unparalleled spellcaster who also possesses flight and the ability to generate his own magic, meaning he's never defenseless. With a wide variety of fireballs, laser beams, blizzards, ice pools, thunder columns, tornadoes, homing lasers, etc. Kanon says it very well when he says "You can plainly see, why I'm a Boss, and not some random thug."
- Valgar Reinhart: The Prince of the puppet kingdom and leader of the Black Knights. Valgar's fate varies dramatically in the plot arcs, with him either being killed by Zur, turned into a warrior of the Sky Gods, or him teaming up alongside the heroes to save Lucia from Golden Silver. In Versus mode, though he has a very simple moveset, he proves a powerful character whose high agility and attack priority allow him to be played aggressively.
- Katrina: The current head of the Royal Knights Red Group, Katrina vies to prove herself Serena's superior. She has an on/off romantic interest in Prince Valgar. In Versus mode, she is a clone of Serena.
- Gash Deadeye: The current commander of the Blue Knights, Gash used to be a friendly rival of Han. But now that the Guardian Heroes are wanted by Kanon, Gash is forced to fight his former comrade-in-arms. In Versus mode, Gash functions identically to Han.
- Zur Pah Yah: A maniac who performs special missions for the royal family, Zur is a snake among men who will backstab to achieve power; he is only important in one plot arc in which he kills Valgar and absorbs his power, becoming Super Zur. Of interesting note is that Super Zur takes damage from healing magic; whether or not this implies that he's a vampire remains unanswered. In Versus mode, Zur is a weak character incapable of blocking or crouching, whose only saving graces are his throwing darts, and his ability to run away from opponents. Upon killing Valgar, he becomes way more powerful. In addition to his previous moveset, he now can block as well as gaining a larger moveset (of which includes the powerful World Conquest Cannon) and the ability to regenerate health over time, making him one of the most powerful characters in the game.
- Macho: Leader of the Muscle-Heads, an aptly named group of physically strong bandits. He mistakes the Undead Warrior as a golem of priceless value and is willing to use force to retrieve it. However, he isn't a villain in that he is an opponent of Kanon and helps shelter Lucia in one of the story arcs. In Versus Mode, Macho is a powerful martial artist who uses comparatively more complex combos than his peers. A large portion of his moves identical to those of Akira Yuki from the Virtua Fighter series in both form and commands to execute them.
- Gambo: Macho's right-hand man, he is not as powerful by comparison but his special moves are easier to execute.
- Proto Golden/Silver: A series of mechanical constructs designed to carry out Kanon's will. While there are multiple Proto Silvers, there is only one Golden Silver unit, which serves as commander to Kanon's robotic minions. In the story arc where the player encounter him, Golden Silver becomes autonomous after Kanon's death and attempts to become ruler of the kingdom and takes Lucia hostage in the process; only with help from Valgar if the player does successfully defeat it. In Versus mode, Proto Silver fights with a wide array of electric blades, machine guns, flamethrowers, and a teleportation device. Golden Silver uses the same moveset of Proto Silver and additionally has four Force Gems which automatically attack its enemies. Of note to Treasure fans is that Golden Silver is the same Golden Silver from Gunstar Heroes, and that it must be killed in the same manner (in that player must attack the Force Gems and not Golden Silver himself).
- Xenovia/King Valgar: Unbeknownst to Kanon, King Valgar is actually Xenovia, leader of the Earth Spirits. Xenovia is dedicated to defeating the Sky Spirits so that the Earth Spirits may know freedom from their imprisonment. If the player ally with Xenovia, the Sky God will become the ultimate antagonist. In Versus mode, Xenovia is a succubus-like entity that fights using a large variety of kicking and flying maneuvers, as well as limited thunder and fire magic.
- Sky Warrior: A representative of the Sky Spirits, this winged warrior fights using two identical swords. In between rapidly pressing B to release a flurry of strikes, excellent jumping and gliding abilities, and the ability to summon thunder and tornados without requiring magic, the Sky Warrior is a very powerful character.
- Great Earth Spirit: The true form of Xenovia, appearing when the heroes choose to follow the will of the Sky Spirits and defeat the Earth Spirits. Gifted with a wide variety of moves, it is one of the most powerful characters in the game.
- Sky Spirit: The true form of the Sky Warrior, it appears when the heroes choose to ally themselves with the Earth Spirits. With the ability to fly, regenerate its magic, and a wide range of moves with both great power and field of effect, the Sky Spirit is one of the most powerful characters.
- Celestial Being: The "God" of Guardian Heroes, this being designed the universe to endure endless conflict so that ultimate warriors might arise. It would then recruit these warriors to serve it. Should the player choose to ally with the Sky God, the main characters will be forced to wipe out the Earth Spirits, thus ensuring their place as ultimate warriors.
- Princess Lucia: The Princess of the puppet kingdom, and Valgar's sister. She learns of Kanon's plot and tries to escape the castle in the process.
The port makes numerous changes to the original. It has been reformatted for 16:9 aspect ratio, expanding the playfield. The game features both original and "remix" graphics modes and runs in high definition with a remade user interface in both. The remix mode applies an hqx-like upscaling filter along with a pencil-shade effect to the sprites, implements true alpha blending, applies bilinear filtering to the backgrounds and features redrawn spell effects and character portraits.
Players can also choose between original and remix options for the gameplay. Remix mode makes many small and large changes to the game's control and mechanics, but does not impact level design or content. Some of these changes, like the new attacking and dodging controls, air dashing, and air recoveries, seem modeled after Treasure's own Bleach: The Blade of Fate, a fighting game that likewise features elements of Guardian Heroes The script for Story Mode has been rewritten and contains updated dialogue as well as changes in name to the Earth and Sky Spirits, who are now known as the Earthblood and the Skyborn, respectively.
The XBLA release of Guardian Heroes also features online play for the multiplayer modes, and a greatly expanded competitive mode that allows for 12 players instead of six. Arcade Mode, an endless survival gauntlet, is an entirely new addition.
|This section requires expansion. (May 2013)|
The game was well received and is considered one of the best Sega Saturn games. IGN staff writer Levi Buchanan ranked Guardian Heroes third in his list of the top Sega Saturn games. It was ranked as the fourth top beat 'em up video game of all time by Heavy.com in 2013.
- Kurt Kalata, Guardian Heroes, Hardcore Gaming 101
- Top 20 Scrollers (Part 5), Game Observer
- "Guardian Heroes Tech Info". GameSpot. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- Buchanan, Levi (2008-07-29). "Top 10 SEGA Saturn Games". IGN. Retrieved 2013-04-03.
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