You might not think of the NES when you think of shoot ‘em up games, but it had a slew of them back home in the land of Japan where it was known as the Famicom.
One of those games that made it over to the West courtesy of Broderbund in North America and Nintendo in Europe was The Guardian Legend, a shoot ‘em up from the development house that made its name in shoot ‘em ups, Irem.
You might recall Irem as the developer of massively popular shoot ‘em up series R-Type, among other things.
The Guardian Legend brings together everything that is quintessential NES into one game. The music is there, the gameplay is there – heck, even the hokey storyline is there.
It’s actually quite cinematic for its age and the gameplay is the real focus here but everything comes together so nicely that you can’t help but feel the quality in the game.
Criticized by reviewers at the time of its release for an arcane password system and “repetitive gameplay,” The Guardian Legend is now appreciated for what it is – an intense shoot ‘em up on the NES. Shoot ‘em ups, for those unfamiliar with the genre, are rarely easy games and can, in fact, be some of the toughest games around. Part of the appeal is in the difficulty and the challenge of beating a level or boss. The high-octane action also recalls the arcade with its loud sounds and flashing graphics.
One thing reviewers did love about The Guardian Legend at the time of its release was its presentation. The graphics and music here are top-notch stuff even by today’s standards. The music, again, evokes the most nostalgic chiptunes memories and is classic NES.
And, in the classic vein of old television sales pitches, there’s more. You see, The Guardian Legend has a shoot ‘em up mode, and an action adventure mode.
When you’re in your humanoid form exploring the planet, the game’s mechanics are relatively the same except for more action oriented. The ship-based gameplay is quite linear, while the labyrinth exploration portion of the game is more open ended, something modern gamers will appreciate and enjoy.
Another aspect that was somewhat ahead of its time for the game is its story, which is both involved and interesting. Told through a series of messages and cuts, basically the Earth is being attacked a planetary-sized object called Naju that the player must infiltrate and destroy. It’s some pretty heavy sci-fi stuff but it fits the game well and is gripping for a NES tale. Having cinematics or any kind of involved narrative was a rarity in the days of the NES and fairly unheard of, outside of PC gaming, prior to the 8-bit behemoth.
The Guardian Legend is perfect for gamers that like high-quality gameplay with compelling presentation and story. You could easily waste hours on this little-known masterpiece from Irem and you would be totally justified in doing so.