Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 10

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

The PlayStation was on the market. 3-D gaming had taken over. The mainstream was settling in. Yet, here we have a 2-D beat-em-up by Banpresto in 1995. This one is a labor a love, a brilliantly executed brawler, and probably one of the best you'll ever play.

With a whopping selectable roster of eight characters, "Guardians" offers up more variety on the very first screen than most games in this genre do for the entire playtime. Each is completely useable, perfectly balanced so none of them are too slow or too quick. Oddly, with the huge roster, only two players can go at once, which is the only real flaw the game suffers from.

Each of the fighters shares a stack of special moves, from the usual array of dual button pushing screen clearers to "Mortal Kombat" styled shots. Each is explained on the first selection screen (complete with pictures) so you can get a feel for them even before they are selected. Things only get better once into the game itself.

Rushing in from the left, action begins immediately, thrust into a semi-futuristic-yet-still-modern world. Hit detection proves itself to be rock solid, especially when the combo count gets into the teens (the counter lets you know when the real damage is being dealt). It takes some real skill to hit these levels, though it's not exactly necessary to win. It simply provides something else to do in order to break up the usual monotony.

Those who prefer just to wail away on one button will still be happy here. Only five levels pack this one, just about the best length for any beat-em-up. It's not too long as to become boring, and not short enough to feel like a rip-off.

What makes this one such a pleasure is the completely twisted character design. Giant mutated alligators, women midgets, rocket firing robots, and soldiers with mutated alligators heads. Those are just the enemies. The playable characters are just as nuts. Backgrounds feature just as much goofiness, one moment seemingly perfectly normal, the next seemingly to fall in place with each of those sprites.

Everything is brought to life with a gorgeous graphics engine, filled with countless bright colors, parallax, and not a lick of flicker. Animation is packed into each character, surprising considering how many there are before it's all over. There's no need for any fancy hardware tricks; everything is done by hand in spectacular fashion.

Sacrifices had to made somewhere and that's in the soundtrack. No, it sounds great, perfect music to fight to. It all sounds so tinny, especially for a game crafted in 1995. There's not much going on in the sound effects department either, so it's sort of an odd situation. There had to be more channels available for the music. Seems like a waste.

It doesn't exactly evolve the genre, but it takes what others have done and makes it just about perfect. "Guardians" is what so many other games in this long clichéd genre could have been with time. It's a real shame it stayed over in Japan where a larger audience couldn't be reached.


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Last updated: Friday, February 25, 2005 06:46 AM