The best games you’ve never played – Guardian Heroes

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Busy schedules stopped it from happening last week, but it’s time for another edition of The best games you’ve never played. Each week, we’ll be bringing you information on good games that flew under the radar, obscure games, Japanese-only imports or games from the past that would make a grown man cry, overcome with nostalgia. We’ll be including games from antiquity, right up to current gen systems.

Today? We pay homage to a criminally underlooked brawler, Guardian Heroes.

Sega’s penultimate home console was actually released locally, but with such limited support by the local distributor that nobody really cared. It competed with the n64 – not released locally – and the mighty Playstation. I think we all know how that went. Still, it was home to some pretty incredible games before its untimely demise, just three years after it was released.

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One such game is Treasure’s Guardian Heroes, a sort of half-sequel to its universally adored Megadrive classic, Gunstar Heroes. It dispensed with the Sci-fi setting, instead giving players the chance to play as one of five fantasy heroes with varying statistics. It’s notable for many reasons; It’s one of the first games to add an RPG element to brawlers; hitting bad dudes would net you experience points, which could be used to level up stat like Agility, Strength, Luck , vitality and Mentality, adding a ton of depth to what’s generally considered a shallow, action-focused genre. It’s most known for its multiple branching storyline paths, giving it immense replayability. You could influence the story, for example, by siding with a major villain instead of outright killing him. Multiple endings, mixed up with alternate levels and bosses made so that each plathrough would be different.

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It also featured multiple battlefield planes; using the Saturn controller’s shoulder buttons would allow you to move back and forth between the foreground, middle and background, allowing for evasive action, or tactical attacks.It’s a visual, and aural feast, featuring some of the best anime-styled graphics and music seen on Sega’s ill-fated console. The best thing about it though, was the complex fighting system. Instead of the usual button-mashery associated with side-scrolling beat ‘em ups, you’d be better served learning how to effectively chain combos and attacks to defeat the games many minions and fantastic bosses.

It really is a shame this game was so unnoticed, because it’s quite possibly the best scrolling beat-em-up ever made, making games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage look silly by comparison.

Last Updated: April 1, 2011

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