Guardian Heroes Reborn – Weekly Recommendations 16/05 – 22/05
Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own. Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.
SEGA have announced that Treasure’s Guardian Heroes, one of the finest games to grace the Sega Saturn, is to be reborn in glorious HD. Headed for Xbox Live - no announcement as yet for PSN - Guardian Heroes is a side-scrolling brawler with unique visuals and character design. The HD update is slated to feature co-op play along with other new modes, including a twelve player beat-down.
Guardian Heroes joins the ever increasing ranks of classics to receive the HD treatment this generation. Like many of Treasure’s Sega Saturn games, Guardian Heroes has increased in value over the years, becoming somewhat of a collector’s item. This latest release will make it more accessible to the average gamer and introduce it to a new generation of fans.
To mark this update, this week I offer three of my favourite games (limited to one per franchise) that have made their way into HD collections, listed below in their original formats.
1. God of War II – PS2 (2007)
I thought about listing God of War I and II, but for the sake of variety I have limited myself to a single entry. The two are largely interchangeable and I highly recommend playing them both, available as the PS3 only God of War collection. After much agonizing I’ve plumped for part two as it retains the elements that defined the original, whilst making them bigger and arguably better.
After his struggle to dethrone Ares, we re-join Kratos - his position as God of War now official - as he continues his bloody quest for vengeance. Like each entry in the series, it doesn’t take long before you are staring down an imposing boss - this time the gargantuan Colossus of Rhodes. Displaying an impressive sense of scale, Kratos remains unfazed, defiant and brutal to the end, no matter the size of his foe. Heavily stylized set pieces are interspersed with QTEs which work well within their setting, where a well-timed press of one of the four main buttons will render neck from shoulder and unleash all sorts of horrors upon the minions, demi-gods and lords of Olympus.
Platforming and puzzles break up the carnage, but it is the simple, intuitive and satisfying combat which makes GOW so memorable. In essence you are required to do little more than spam buttons, collecting yourself for the occasional QTE, but it fools you into thinking you are doing so much more. Addictive and unrelenting in its gore, it offers achievable combos and a range of weapons to level up.
GOW II perfectly captures the brutality of ancient Greek myth and cemented our wan Spartan’s status as a gaming icon. Pushing the capabilities of the PS2 to its limits, it was a fitting swan-song for Sony’s second generation and looks better than ever running on your PS3.
2. Rez – Dreamcast, PS2 (2001)
The brainchild of Panzer Dragoon series creator, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Rez is an all-out assault on the senses, and is as exceptional as it is brief. Originally released on the Dreamcast and PS2, but best experienced in its HD incarnation through Xbox Live, it is a rail shooter which was lauded for its pumping soundtrack and unique visuals.
As a hacker, you shoot your way through an elaborate computer super-network, taking down firewalls and viruses on your journey towards a rogue AI. Gone are the standard sounds of a rail shooter, replaced instead with electronic music where beats and melodies are created by the player whilst destroying the continuous onslaught of computer foes. The music, levels and player avatar all evolve as you blast your way through, while collecting a range of power-ups.
The simple visuals of Rez come alive when paired with its outstanding electronica soundtrack. Featuring beats from Ken Ishii, Adam Freeland and Coldcut amongst others, it is a hypnotic and engaging marriage of sound and visuals. If you are able to track down the Japanese PS2 version you can heighten the experience with the Trance Vibrator, a USB device which pulses in time with the tracks. Similar in size and shape to a PC mouse, it is intended to add to the effect of the dual shock controller, to be held or pressed against the player and bringing the pulsating beats to life. Basically, it is a glorified vibrator and has place of honour amongst my collection of surplus peripherals. I have absolutely no idea what to do with it, and being a second hand pick- up I’m a bit concerned about what the previous owner may have used it for. Extra controllers may be used with the HD remake to recreate the Trance Vibrator experience.
With its spiritual successor Child of Eden due this summer, now is an excellent time to discover or revisit this unique piece of gaming history.
3. Prince of Persia: Warrior Within – PS2, GameCube, Xbox, Windows (2004)
I struggled a little with this pick. Part of the Prince of Persia HD collection (PS3), Warrior Within is the only PS2 POP game that I’ve played, and I’m lead to believe that it isn’t necessarily the best of the three. But Warrior Within isn’t without its charms, building upon the success of The Sands of Time and introducing us to a very different Prince.
Picking up where The Sands of Time left off, Warrior Within is a darker adventure than its predecessor with more emphasis on combat. Our prince is far handier with weapons this time round, as he hacks his way through hordes of demonic creatures with ease. He is able to dual-wide blades and can despatch enemies with a variety of finishing moves, earning it a mature rating. The revamped combat feels more integral to the game, as opposed to simply bridging the gap between climbing sequences, offering a more varied and complete experience.
The success of POP is built upon platforming, and despite its increased reliance on brawling, WW did not neglect its lineage. The ability to manipulate time survives the transition to a moodier prince, which comes in handy when reversing fatal combat, climbing and leaping miscalculations. This ability is particularly handy when being chased by the demonic Dahaka, who hounds the prince throughout. Causing a sudden sense of urgency, he is likely to have you attempting ill-advised jumps in a hurry, but the time manipulation feature affords the luxury of surviving a face-first fall, and returning a little wiser.
Warrior Within is not without its faults, however. The original version was plagued by glitches, some of which caused a premature end-game, and the Arabic-influenced soundtrack is punctuated by heavy metal nonsense, ruining parts of an otherwise atmospheric game. Overall though, it’s well worth a look and with a 15-20 hour run-time it’s not lacking in substance.
Odds & Ends
1. The more astute amongst you will have noticed that there was no post here last Friday. This was due to blogger being down for maintenance. These issues also caused any comments left after last Wednesday evening to be lost, though I'm told they will be restored in time. My intended post for last Friday, "To the Ends of the Sand-box" will be posted this week instead. Cheers.