Guardic Gaiden / Guardian Legend, The (FC) (1988)
Review by Faididi and Co.
Story: Above Average
Trouble comes when a gigantic alien vessel comes zooming straight toward Earth, threatening to turn our planet into butt sauce. Following sensible anime conventions, a cute specialist named Miria straps herself into an advanced suit of armor and then blasts off to find a way to save us all. Upon entering the moon-sized vessel, which is called Naju, our heroine learns more about it and why it's dead-sticking through space. To stop the bloody thing, she must battle through hordes of monsters and flip a set of switches to trigger its self-destruct sequence. Miria will also encounter a friendly, cuddly alien who's willing to help her, and she can uncover useful notes left behind by Naju's former crew. The story has a creative setting, and the writing is composed well.
Compile's Guardic Gaiden (The Guardian Legend) is a follow-up to the original Guardic, but it plays nothing like its predecessor. Whereas the earlier game is pretty much just a space shooter, Guardic Gaiden is a full-fledged action adventure that mixes together exploration and space shooter elements.
More specifically, this game takes the best parts of Maou Golvellius (Golvellius: Valley of Doom) and Zanac, builds further upon those parts, and then synthesizes them into a fascinatingly unique blend. When Miria is on the upper levels of Naju, she can walk around the place freely, fighting the bad guys and investigating each path at her leisure. On the inventory subscreen, she can check the goods she has collected, equip different special weapons, and view a handy map. The friendly alien whom she meets runs several shops, where she may purchase extra supplies. Then, when Miria enters the massive corridors that lead deeper into Naju, her suit folds out into a space glider form, allowing her to fly through those zones and to strike enemies from the air, space shooter-style. (Yes, the Macross reference is almost too much to bear.) Once she is back on the upper levels, her progress can be recorded with passwords.
Much of the fun lies in the game's brilliant connection between the exploration mode and the space shooter mode, because the items that are acquired in one mode can be used in the other. In addition to Miria's standard laser blaster, there is a staggering array of 12 special weapons for her to obtain, ranging from mighty laser cannons to powerful wave guns to lethal homing energy orbs. The upgrades are numerous yet varied, and the fact that every single piece of gear is carried over between the modes gives the game an unusually strong sense of coherence.
The level and enemy designs are also impressive. Divided into 11 areas (with one serving as a hub to the other ten), Naju is a vast world containing a diverse group of regions, such as jungles, deserts, and icy canyons. Compared to Maou Golvellius, Guardic Gaiden paces itself more smartly. It provides ample cues as to exactly where to go next, and it does away with the overpricing of items in the shops. Furthermore, many sections in Naju are optional, and if Miria doesn't feel like seeking out the bonus resources hidden there, she always has the choice of skipping them, returning later if she changes her mind. The bad guys are an eclectic assortment, consisting of everything from mechanical horrors to disgusting glops of tentacles and claws, and their varying vulnerabilities encourage a nice amount of experimentation with the weaponry.
Not stopping with its delightful interplay among the gameplay modes, the equipment, and the areas, Guardic Gaiden goes out of its way to be Player-friendly, too. For example, power-ups have a higher probability of appearing if Miria runs low on shield energy or special weapon ammunition. For another, the game can help check that the passwords are jotted down correctly. Such clever design is what makes Guardic Gaiden so wonderfully enjoyable.
The exceptionally responsive controls are flawless, and the subscreen is neatly organized. Moving and attacking in the eight cardinal directions are all easy to do.
The colorful, vividly detailed characters are smoothly animated, and the exotic backgrounds are richly textured. The bosses look fearsome, and one of them actually appears more and more torn apart as Miria damages it, with its eyes rupturing and spurting toxic viscera over the entire place. Slowdown is minimal, even when bad guys, projectiles, and other objects flood the screen.
Expect to hear plenty of forceful gunfire and explosions. Miria's weapons unleash their shots with fiery whooshes, and the bosses die with thunderous booms. The music is inspired and abundant, and several of the tunes are memorable (including those returning from the original Guardic).
Seamlessly combining the features of two radically different genres, Guardic Gaiden is a remarkable action adventure of truly singular quality. With its perfect fusion of exploration and space shooter elements, its careful attention to Player needs, and its awesome visual and audio effects, this greatest and most eximious of gems is simply legendary.