Blaster Master was one of the best games released last year and one of the few titles to receive a prestigious overall score of 10 out of 10 on Nintendo Times. Sunsoft blended Sci-Fi and adventure and added a variety of play mechanics to truly create something special. Broderbund, a company not exactly known for big hits thus far on the NES, has now released The Guardian Legend and Nintendo owners everywhere should sit up and take notice. It blends high-octane space shooting action (think Life Force or Legendary Wings) with adventure (Zelda and Metroid) to create something totally unique and worth owning on the console.
You play as an unnamed female warrior tasked with saving planet Earth. A world known as Naju is hurdling towards the planet and it is filled with mutated creatures. You must destroy this world before it collides with us by locating and detonating the 10 self-destruct devices. Some of the story is told in the game by finding recorded messages left by previous heroes who failed during their missions. It’s a very ominous way to relay plot points and works quite well to create sense of isolation.
Much like Blaster Master, there are two very different kinds of gameplay. Your hero has the ability to morph into a ship and the opening stage has you playing a vertical space shooter. Now, I know many of us are pretty burned out on these types of games given there has been so many released thus far on the NES, and only a few have been standouts. However, there’s really on reason to fret since only about 25 percent of the entire game features these levels. Yes, they are challenging, but not exceedingly difficult like many other games are. Most importantly, the quality of these stages is exquisite, with a wide range of variety and power-ups to keep you coming back for more. The movement is smooth and there are lots of creative monsters and large and menacing bosses guarding the end of each area.
After blasting through the intro stage, you arrive in the labyrinth. There are a total of ten of these zones, which are all interconnected and are linked by areas known as the dungeons – which are the space shooting levels. In these labyrinths, you revert to your humanoid figure armed with a blaster. Here the game is played from a top down view, comparable to the dungeons in The Legend of Zelda.
You must explore the entire area in search of the exit. There are many locked doors with an accompanying symbol, so you’ll need to be on the look out for specific keys to progress further into the level. There is a fair amount of backtracking, as some of the keys can’t be found until much later in the game. As you might expect, there are plenty of enemies to fight and blocks to destroy. Items and secrets are often hidden in these blocks, so you’ll want to blast each and every one of them – which is oddly as satisfying as breaking bricks in Super Mario Bros. In most of the labyrinths you’ll encounter a mini-boss and defeating it will allow access to the dungeon level. A main boss will guard the end of the dungeon, and only when you are victorious against both of them will you make it out and even sometimes receive a key to open up new parts of the stage.
Your ammo for your blaster is unlimited both in the dungeons and labyrinths. There is a plethora of secondary weapons to discover and choose from. These range from bullet shields, multiple laser attacks, and fireballs. You’ll use the small microchips you collect from common enemies as ammo for your sub-weapons. As you might have guessed, you begin the game with a very low number of chips that you can carry at any given time. But, you’ll eventually be able to increase that amount along with leveling up your maximum health. There are little shops run by creatures called Landers in which you can make common purchases or receive hints. With all of the exploration and backtracking in this game, a quality map is a must. Luckily, this game features a terrific map system complete with X/Y grid coordinates. Sadly, The Guardian Legend doesn’t feature Nintendo’s ‘Extended Playing Power’ battery backup, so you’ll have to input a large password whenever you want to continue your quest. This game will certainly take many hours to successfully complete.
This game takes place in outer space so it has some darker visuals, rather than the colorful settings of a game like Super Mario Bros. 2 or Adventure Island. However, some of the shooter levels take place above seas, deserts, and forests, which are characteristics of the Planet Naju. These backgrounds look gorgeous and set this apart from generic shooters like Alpha Mission and Zanac. There are some spectacularly drawn creatures that really help cement this game’s visuals. I loved the design choice of blasting sea monsters in space. The bosses are enormous and look really cool. The transformation of your character from humanoid to fighter ship should leave you in awe. The hero is also large and detailed particularly in the labyrinth portions.
The soundtrack is another one to rejoice over. The songs have a happier and energetic tone, and are not as dark or eerie as the soundtrack for Metroid, a game with a similar setting and premise. The title screen and opening stage music set the tone perfectly and showcase the quality of this game. There are over a dozen tracks, but the one that blew me away was the Forest Corridor, which sounds like it could have a place in Mega Man.
This Game Pak has a little bit of everything and really manages to mix space shooting, action, and adventure – which is no easy task. I honestly like both the shooting and adventure modes equally. The setting, atmosphere, and feel of isolation of Naju will certainly remind players of Metroid, although the graphics in The Guardian Legend are far superior. The large bosses and the menacing look of the aquatic monsters are very cool and I enjoyed the challenging gameplay. I only wish there was more information on our nameless hero. I have only minimal issues with the game. Some parts in the labyrinths can be slightly repetitious and entering the long password is a chore, but overall the entire package is phenomenal. Perhaps Broderbund will be the next Konami or Capcom? Time will tell!
The Guardian Legend Review
- Graphics - 9/109/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8.5/108.5/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
The Guardian Legend is a perfect fit for anyone looking for a game that perfectly mixes skill and adventure. I personally enjoyed this game nearly as much Blaster Master – a game that got universal praise and won several year-end awards here at Nintendo Times. Later this year Broderbund returns to a fantasy setting with the promising game, Legacy of the Wizard. Stay tuned!