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The Guardian Legend

Year released: 1988
Company: Broderbund
Genre: Space Shooter/Adventure

Whether this game is terrific or awful, it's already carved itself a niche in NES history as being the archetype for hybrid games. I myself have mentioned this game several times, when I compare other games that mesh two genres together, although they tend to incorporate categories that are siilar to each other. Unfortunately, being original is pretty much The Guardian Legend's claim to fame, because neither facet of the game stands out enough for this title to make any other kind of impression.

The story works as such: a planet by the name of Naju is heading towards Earth, but while it originally was supposed to be filled with peaceful creatures, it was taken over in mid-journey by not-so-peaceful creatures. The only hope the world has to survive is a half-human, half-spaceship (yes, you heard me right) being known as The Guardian, who must infiltrate the planet and destroy it. Nice to see a space shooter that directly puts Earth in peril; most of the time, the setting is at best ambiguous in location. However, the adventure part of the game misses some opportunities to flesh out the plot a bit. There are rooms with messages in them, but they mostly center on how to unlock the next corridor (more on that in a bit).

While the audiovisuals aren't going to win any contests, they get the job done satisfactorily. Each segment of the planet as a different feel, whether it's plant life, underwater, or mechanical. Your hero is animated quite nicely, as well. The roster of enemies is not too varied, though, and about a quarter of the way through the game you'll begin to notice that most of the denizens look a lot like each other, only with different palettes. Musically, there are a few good tunes, such as the background to the central traveling area, the opening shooter level, and the boss theme. They recycle much of the music, as well, but I can live with that a little bit more than the graphics.

With two different game formats, it's not surprising that there are a couple hiccups in the play control. The space shooter parts of the game work fairly well, as your ship moves pretty quickly and you have automatic rapid-fire, a major boon in your quest. In the walkabout parts, though, things get really fishy. Most notably, even if your gun has a wide range of fire, the entire been will be stopped if so much as the edge of your fire strikes an obstacle. Also, walking diagonally is no problem, bur firing diagonally is, especially if you want to stand still while you're doing it.

Now, as many of you know, one of the biggest pet peeves in space shooters is the concept that if a grain of sand touches your fusilage, you'll be reduced to atoms. Luckily, the adventure paradigm rides in like the cavalry to rescue you from this problem in TGL. Not only do you get an energy meter to use in the shooter levels, you're also given one last chance after all your energy is depleted to survive. That's the good news. The bad news? The programmers thought this gave them an excuse to overload the screen with as many enemies and projectiles as the CPU could handle. Moreover, your gun is pitifully weak, sometimes taking 5 seconds of direct fire to take out some enemies. True, there are special weapons, and there is enough ammo to keep many of weapons on full time, but just about the only thing that will save an average player is a force-field around the entire ship.

So, as you might expect, the adventure portion of the game gets relatively high marks, while the space shooter leaves me a bit sour. Worse yet, the game seems to emphasize the shooter elements over the walking ones, as all of the self-destruct corridors you fight in involve that part of the game. If there was a little more balance, I might enjoy this game a little more, but I usually don't have the wherewithall to deal with the population density of the shooter levels. There is a password, but it's bulky and very complex, and one typo along the way could spell trouble if you're a ways in the game. A battery save would've been more useful.

The Guardian Legend will forever be known as the cartridge that divides its gameplay between two different genres. The idea was certainly there, but it's too bad that they couldn't quite get it right.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 13
Challenge: (Hard)
Thrill: (Frustrating)
Aesthetic Score: 12
Overall Score: 60%