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The Guardian Legend review
by Uneducated_Reviews

Approaching Naju

In TGL you take control of a nameless protagonist that is referred to in some places as 'The Guardian' and you need to stop a Death Star-like mothership sent by an unknown alien race towards planet Earth infested by feral (and maybe intelligent) creatures called Naju. Your mission consists of activating the self-destruct mechanism of the ship and destroying it before it reaches Earth. Apparently, it's the sequel to a shooter called Guardic but it doesn't seem to have many plot connections.

The story's pretty straightforward and you're soon thrown into action, being your first objective to enter the mothership via an aerial assault in a classic shooter vein (like 1942). In your progress, you'll encounter messages of another or maybe more than one Guardian that precede you and failed to complete their mission, these messages not only give you cryptic and cool story bits of the plot but also tips for advancing through your campaign. The brilliance of these messages is that their purpose is not limited to further the plot but also to further your progress and are written in a way that it serves both endings without breaking the immersion, you are in a lonely adventure but with these messages, you felt like you're not entirely alone and that you're carrying the last wishes of your fallen comrades. Also, the game is not very explicit about the biology of your protagonist, and she seems like an android or cyborg, and because of the password system each time you die, your protagonist might as well be a new one that carries the mission of the last one. Of course, these are just conjectures but that is the beauty of many games of the NES era, sometimes you need to fill the gap with your storytelling to finish the magic trick.

Naju Gateway

The Last Guardian it's a very complete package of gaming that makes it harder to label it, so we won't. It features on-foot exploration with some puzzle solving and backtracking, a fairly large and versatile arsenal with an upgrade system that works for exploring on foot and the shooter segments of the game. I can't say that it excels in any of the genres it took inspiration from but when you have them together it gives you a lot of fun and its versatile rhythm never gets dull in the entirety of your playthrough.

One thing that I appreciate it a lot is that when you move to a new screen (similar to The Legend of Zelda or A Link to the Past) spawning enemies telegraph their appearance and in that time they can't hit you even if they're materializing in the same spot that you are, this time-frame gives you enough time to react and take a vantage point or just get out of harm's reach. This observation might sound too trivial, however, in other games of the same era when transitioning to a new area square if you happen to be in the same place as a spawning monster you'll be hit for certain and make the game more padding and unfairly difficult.

Speaking of difficulty, the game has a fair challenge, and aside from the password system (which is atrocious) it features a checkpoint system that lets you start in save stations when you die, the only downside is that you have to navigate to reach the part you died and will be more likely to be on a shooting area. The difficulty escalates with your arsenal too, at first you'll feel and be powerless but as you stack and upgrade your weapons, attack, defense, and HP you'll be transformed into a devastation machine, it doesn't mean that the game will be easy as its core mechanic of evading projectiles and enemies will change to a bullet-hell-like game where the game will throw a lot of stuff to you and most of it can't be evaded however if you keep hitting things, HP will be dropped by enemies so you'll need to constantly kill things to regenerate yourself. I find this mechanic shift as a great way to maintain the pacing of the game and to make things more action-oriented and feel like a devastating shooting android with a good challenge.

The most fun part of the gameplay would be the boss fights, there are a lot of them, both on foot and on-air and they also pose the most challenge of the game, their difficulty also increases each time you advance through the story. I believe every boss can be beaten by your main weapon but some of them will make you rethink your strategy and make you try weapons that you don't even feel like they're useful, like a weapon that shoots beams from behind you or a super-condensed and short-range beam, at least with the bosses all your arsenal feels meaningful. The only downside is that many of these bosses are color variations with newer attacks and patterns of old ones, it isn't the most disappointing thing in the world as some tweaks made wonders to the variant fights but still, a little more diversity would have been great.

Uncleared Corridor

Environments and enemy designs are for the most part good, but nothing truly special aside from the protagonist's design which is great, both her land and flight forms. Bosses are the most interesting in terms of design but as aforementioned they are opaqued by their repeated design usage. The music is good, it doesn't reach the height of the music in games like Mega Man but it certainly has a lot of charm. As with many Japanese media of the late '80s, I like that many tunes both for battle and for ambiance have a melancholic sound that makes your adventure more meaningful, nostalgic, and at times bittersweet.

Point of no Return

I have played games that have a classic and untouchable status that doesn't play and feel as good as The Guardian Legend, in terms of gameplay, story, and everything else it has aged like wine. It certainly has its shortcomings and I can see how for some people its challenge will be leaning towards the easier side, however, I do think that not every game of the NES era has to be Ninja Gaiden or Mega Man in terms of difficulty and TGL has a lot of things that keep you entertained and fairly challenged, if new gaming design trends have shown us is that a great game doesn't need to be extremely punishing to be rewarding or meaningful. It's so sad that this duology of games didn't cut into gaming history as I think that it would be great to have a new entry or even a remake of this game, however, at least to me, this game will be a great piece of entertainment forever after.
«Just one more turn»
«Can’t stop playing»