During my brief time with Guardian Heroes HD, I had a chance to try both the classic and modern visual styles for the upcoming Xbox Live Arcade title.
I started the game with the modern visual style after selecting my character from a newly designed character select screen featuring Treasure’s redrawn character art. The opening story sequence also featured updated art for the character portraits that sat alongside character text (which has been notably changed from the original, but seemingly less focused localization).
Naturally, the visual changes spilled into battle as well. I was playing as the mage Randy, and as I cycled through my available magic abilities (as represented by a thought bubble above his head), I noticed that each spell’s representation had been redrawn. When I chose to cast one of the spells, it appeared with a number of snazzy transparencies and effects that never could have been done on the Saturn.
As for how it plays, Guardian Heroes is a side-scrolling brawler divided into three planes. Characters can hop between the three planes, cast area-eliminating magic spells, perform special attacks by inputting fighting game-style d-pad motions in conjunction with either the light or heavy attack button, and even issue some limited commands to a skeletal knight in battle (when joins it the player at the end of the first level). The brawler has certain RPG elements as well, with each defeated enemy providing the player with experience points. As each character levels up, they’re given points to level up various stats, such as strength, magic, defense, and MP.
After beating the first stage, I felt a little nostalgic. I opened the pause menu and attempted to turn off the very prominent sprite filter, as it wasn’t entirely to my liking. However, as much as perused the options menu, I couldn’t find any sort of filtering options. The Sega rep noticed my confusion, and told me that I had to exit to the main menu to change to the classic visual style. I did so and restarted the level.
The art on the character select screen was changed to Treasure’s original sketchier art from the 90s, which I personally preferred to the original game’s anime-screenshot-portrait-only character select screen. The original game’s sprite portraits were returned to their positions alongside the onscreen text. The unfiltered sprites and original spell effects also looked quite nice with the jump to a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Guardian Heroes HD will be released around the end of the summer for Xbox Live Arcade.
Food for thought
It was interesting to see the difference between the less accurately proportioned original art and the somewhat more streamlined takes on the characters for the modern revision. Aside from reflecting the change in popular tastes in anime, Han looked remarkably like Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud in his new character portrait.