Treasure - 1996
Machine: Sega Saturn
The swan song of the scrolling beat 'em up and proof, if it were needed, that the genre was killed off in its prime. Remember the fun you had with your buddy beating up punks in Target Renegade or Double Dragon? Remember how stunned you were when you then saw Streets of Rage? Guardian Heroes is at least three steps further on in both style and gameplay.
Treasure are renowned for pushing the boundries of the classic 2D gaming genres. Gunstar Heroes on the Megadrive did incredible new things with the character shooter and the celebrated Radiant Silvergun was still to come. Guardian Heroes pushed forward the scrolling beat 'em up by bringing the control style and from traditional beat 'em ups like Street Fighter and add beautifully animated cartoon graphics. Up to this point the genre had always been the poor brother of the static environment beat 'em up like Street Fighter. The simple reason for this was that the up and down control was needed to move your character in and out of the screen whereas in Street Fighter and kin it gave you jump and duck leaving the buttons free for more types of moves. Treasure used the latter control system on Guardian Heroes moving the character positioning control to the triggers. This really gave you the best of both worlds and to my mind the perfect beat 'em up.
What really draws you into Guardian Heroes is the splendid animation. Now I know this phrase gets used a lot but this really does feel like you are playing a cartoon. Everything that moves, moves in a bouncy cartoon way, each movement being made up of many frames. This is all the more impressive when you have 10 or more characters all moving on screen at once. You could even use the Saturn six way adaptor and have six players at once.
It's a crying shame that the scrolling beat 'em up genre never made it into today's 3D world. There's no real good reason for it either, we know it can work because we saw it in the 70 man battle towards the end of Shenmue on the Dreamcast. Still if the genre had to die, I'm glad that in its dying moments it put up a fight as good as Guardian Heroes.
Jakey 23 May '04
ebay - No emulator can run this yet so your only option is to buy it and a Sega Saturn to play it on.
Guardian Heroes Dot Com - A fansite.
Wikipedia's Guardian Heroes page - Lots of great information.