december 27, 2013

Famicom Friday: The Guardian Legend / Guardic Gaiden

My Famicom Friday series is about me picking up some famicom games that I am curious of, and then just sit down to play and see what I think. Last two famicom fridays were very positive experiences.

If you have played The Guardian Legend, you already know how great it is. But you probably don't know about the Japanese version called Guardic Gaiden, so keep on reading. If you don't know about Guardian Legend, then you must keep on reading as well.

Now is this game HOT!?!? Let me know if you know a better looking game cart on ANY console

My promise for the new year is to try and beat more games, if I enjoy them. 8-bit games are good because they are usually not extremely long. It isn't new year yet but I started early. For this reason, I only had time to play one game for this Friday.

It sure was a good one. I played it all the way through. You may chose not to watch some videos that could be spoilers, in case you want to play it yourself. I'll first show you the first 10 minutes of gameplay, with some parts edited out to make it shorter, that you could safely watch.

Sorry about the music being louder than normally!! I played on an AV famicom instead of my usual Twin Famicom.

I tried it out on my newly arrived AV famicom. See how sleek it is?!?! You can hardly notice it is turned on. Awwwaaa !!! The awesomeness.

The Japanese version has some Japanese text. This got me stuck in the beginning, because there is often a puzzle in how to enter the corridor ( コリドー ) that take you to the shooter stage. Sometimes it is about shooting the gate, sometimes you have to arm a certain weapon and fire, at one corridor you have to shoot the sign, or other things. There are clues for how to enter. The clues are easy to find in the caves, so I don't consider them spoilers. However, I couldn't read the hints in Japanese and finally had to look at a FAQ:  Some corridors are more tricky and without a guide you won't complete the Japanese version. You can see me enter the first corridor in this video.

The game is somewhat non-linear. You can explore freely and look for upgrades, but the main missions will unlock new areas and you have to do them in order.

Here is the second problem with the Japanese version: the password.

This password contains your experience points, location and upgrades. For this convenience, you apparently need a 32 character password. Let's see how long it takes me to enter it...

Luckily I only restored from password once. You can either keep the console on, or keep on playing. The game isn't that long that you need passwords, if you are good enough.

Here is the stage after restoring. The boss was difficult. I paused the recorder everytime I died, so you only see the shooting stage once. The rest are the boss battles.

It may be of interest that this is the third shooter made by Compile that I have written about. I have previously written about Zanac and last week about Gun-Nac. Great games. You can see how similar the gameplay is in all the three games. With my new years promise, I am considering going back to try and beat Gun-Nac. It would most likely be worth it.

Sure is more frenetic than Xevious, no? Still, Xevious sold more copies than all these three combined, seeing how common it is.
The video below shows the last stage. By this time, I had so many upgrades that playing was a breeze. The last boss took longer but it was mainly about finding the best weapon and a decent strategy rather than shmup-skills.

Nice ending. It was a nice experience to play this during the Christmas days. I am very happy that I got to experience it. I am not great at shooters, but when you get lots of upgrades the game is almost just flying through. Try to get a high chips count and then be clever with weapons, trying out the one that works best all the time.

I am still trying to think how to enter that last password you get in the ending, since the password screen only has hiragana characters. In the EU and US version, you get the password TGL , that will allow you to play a special world with only the shooter stages.

Among true NES-fans, this is considered a must-play game. I have seen it on several gamers top 10 NES lists. It is still suprisingly cheap (10$ for the PAL or US version). The Japanese version is a bit more expensive (30$), since it is relatively rare. Personally I think the look of the cart is worth 30$ alone....

One thing that may scare people is that it is a shooter/RPG hybrid with some puzzle elements. I know that NES games where it takes time to understand the gameplay are always more difficult to sell. It reminds me of Labyrinth, a lovely famicom game that I played through 10 months ago and blogged about.

Positive points

One thing that I appreciate, now being familiar with so many games, is the attention to small things that the game has. Such as:
  • When you die, your health gets fully restored. No long grindings to restore your health.
  • No long walks back and forth. You have a map that indicates exactly were the next corridors are. Even if you walk around on your own, you have the map and it never takes very long to walk around (unlike, say, Legend of Zelda).
  • If there are many enemies in an area, they appear gradually instead of all at once. This makes you able to walk passed them.
  • When you die, you never have to walk very far in order to play the mission again. (maybe a minute, max)
  • The missions are also not very long. If you die at the end boss, replaying the mission up to the boss might take 3 minutes and it is fun, so no complaints.
  • No boss is extremely difficult. I am not great at shooters, and the most difficult boss took me no more than 10 tries or so. Take this *3 for replaying the level, plus time spent on the boss and walking to the mission, and no mission took me more than 45 minutes (maybe 60, I didn't keep time).
  • You are free to escape from the mini-bosses if you don't have enough health. Just walk out when you hear the mini-boss music, before the gate closes.


Some tips for playing
  • As so often in shooters, upgrades are essential. The upgrade system is complex. You have one upgrade for Weapon, one for Shield, your speed, your rapid fire and shooting spread (not indicated in the Select screen); you can upgrade your health meter, your chips count; secondary weapons can be upgraded to level 2 or 3. Take everything your see and fight all mini bosses to get upgrades. You also get upgrades when your score reaches certain levels.
  • Chips. You need them for special weapons, but for max weapon power you don't want it to go below 200 (or 100 depending on how far you've made it). You also use your chips to buy items in the store.  Consider not using the secondary weapon if weapon strength is important.  
  • Try different strategies and different weapons. Some bosses and mini-bosses are easier to beat with certain weapons. I think I killed them all, but some were harder than others.
  • The "EE". This special weapon kills every small item and projectile on the screen. Very useful sometimes.
This is one reason why the game can be completed rather quickly. That doesn't mean it is short. In terms of rooms and contents it is a very big NES game. I think the number of areas it has is comparable to Metroid, although this was just something I picked up at a message board. 

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