The Guardian Legend is one of my favorite NES titles and is a true definitive of what an underrated video game really is. It wasn’t often that a NES title offered two different styles of gameplay and do it well (Bayou Billy tried three and couldn’t get a single one right), and that stood out to me as a kid. I loved Zelda and Life Force, but I never thought the two could be integrated. This was a part of the major appeal of this game. Along with a lot of power-ups, exploration, a respectable difficulty, and a long play time, The Guardian Legend was indeed a game that truly showed what the old 8 bit toaster could do!
The game’s story is simply this; You take control of Earth’s guardian, a gynoid, and you arrive on a space colony called Naju, which has been engulfed in bloodshed from five invading alien species. The Najuans are annihilated, save for one, whom in an attempt to quell the chaos, attempts to activate the planet’s self-destruct sequence with the use of ten keys. He/She was not able to finish the job and left this dying message to whomever may hear it, in the hopes that they finish off the task. As this could potentially become a threat to Earth, it is up to you.
VISUALS 8/10: Right off the bat, the overhead platform stages put me in the mind of Master Blaster. Each of the ten areas (including area 0, the game’s starting point) look very different and boast a unique color scheme and layout. Another one of the first things you will notice is that you control a female character. With the exception of Samus, I can’t think of any other NES game where the protagonist was a lady, so that’s pretty darn cool. I was amused that the European cover art depicted a fully clad young lady in what looks like an Exo-suit from Orguss, but the in-game sprite is clearly a dark-haired girl in bikini bottoms. she looks vaguely like Mica from the 90s anime OAV Hyper Doll.
The vertical shooting stages look very similar in style to Gun Nac, another rare NES shooter. You fly over various terrain, dodging stuff and shooting stuff out of your way until you encounter a vicious boss battle. These are some wicked-looking bosses, too. Kind of like the Darius series of shooters, most of the creatures seem to be derived from oceanic life forms. I think that is totally boss, since most sea animals look like science fiction monsters.
GAMEPLAY 9/10: The goal of GL is to collect and active the ten keys. In order to access the keys, you have to enter an area, travel through the corridors and defeat the boss that has the key. The overall controls are pretty tight. Unlike Zelda, where you progress on a grid, you can move in all 8 directions, giving you free range movement to avoid obstacles and enemies. Your primary weapon is a forward projecting blaster, which can be powered up the stronger you become. So, what exactly do you use when you have a lot of enemies in your way? Well, a lot of weapons to blow them up with!!! Legend gives you plenty of secondary weapons to work with and it’s a pretty diverse inventory. You get everything from short-length beam sabers, fireballs, grenades, wave beams, enemy-seeking projectiles, and (one of my favorites) the Enemy Eraser, which destroys, everything on-screen!!! There are even defense-based weapons like a revolving orb that crushes anything that gets close to you, dual beam sabers that project each side of you, and blasters that fire from your 9 and 3!! Each of these weapons can be found or purchased from these adorable little round creatures called Landers(Yeah, I want one of these as a pet!!) using chips as currency. Chips also double as your primary gun’s power. The less chips you have from you maximum, the weaker and slower your gun gets. These Landers drive hard bargains sometimes with their weapon prices, but as long as you know where the stash of chips are in Area 0 (they replenish after a period of time), you’re pretty much set.
Some corridors require a brief bit of puzzle solving to enter them. You’ll have to do things, like touch around the room, or go in and out of the corridor to open the doors to activate them and the hints provided are self-explanatory. Entering these corridors launches you into the shooter portion of the stage, and I have to say that the first time I saw the transforming animation, I thought it was the most awesome, badass transition sequence I’ve ever scene on the NES (and I still do). There’s Mario entering the pipe for the underground and swimming stages, there’s Thomas walking up the stairs in Kung Fu, and then there’s a bikini-clad android woman becoming a fighter jet!! If only I could marry a hot babe that transformed at will into a flying death machine!! Wait, I think I did. (Yahtzee!!!)
The vertical shooting portions are relentlessly filled with enemies, flying rocks, and loads of projectiles hurling at you. Depending on the Area, the scrolling is either moderately paced or you’re flying warp speed fast enough to make you dizzy!! It’s at this point you realize how fast you can die if you aren’t careful.
One of the nitpicks I have about this game is that it lacks that brief invincibility that occurs when you get hit, meaning a large foe can kill you very quickly with a cheap combo and you can’t do too much to save yourself unless you destroy it first to get it off of you. BUT WAIT!!! THERE’S MORE!!! The more mini bosses you defeat, the more shield icons you can acquire, which boosts your constitution. This can help reduce those cheesy kills considerably. You can also level up, something I wasn’t even aware of years ago. after killing enough enemies and rack up a score (I believe it’s every couple of 100,000s) you can gain a level which increases your life bar. This game has thought of everything. But there one other huge problem…
The password system blows absolute chunks and is probably the game’s biggest issue!
Seriously!? 32 characters didn’t sound like it was too much at the board meeting!? AND with lower case letters, integers, and punctuation marks!?! This game would’ve been better served with a battery backup to create a save space, or at the very least, a damned shorter pass code than this!! I’m not Encyclopedia Brown decrypting this mess, I just want to load up my game, you psychopaths!! It’s not only very tedious, just writing all this down, but it can et confusing with all the different characters, and a mistake is bound to happen, either while jotting in on notebook paper or inputting it on the screen. 1’s look like lower case L’s and upper case I’s. Capital V’s and U’s can get mixed up with their smaller forms. Lower case Q’s are missing the tail and look like flipped lower case P’s. X’s, big and small get confusing, O’s and zeroes look too similar, when numbers are next to letters, the size can throw you off and you might input an upper case instead of a lower case and vice versa, and why in the life-sucking pus-filled hell do the lower case letter have those accent marks over them!!?? Who thought that was a good idea!?