Review: Advance Guardian Heroes (Game Boy Advance)

Advance Guardian Heroes
Genre: 2D Side Scrolling Action RPG
Developer: Treasure
Publisher: UBI Soft
Release Date: 9/15/04

For those of you that don’t know, the original Guardian Heroes is my favorite game of all time. I picked it up back in 1996, not knowing what it was really, but enjoying the cover art and the back screen shots. I brought it home, and played it. 12 hours later I finally put the controller down. It was the best game I ever played. Yes, my favorite series is Sakura Taisen. Yes my favorite RPG is Valkyrie Profile. But Guardian Heroes blows them all away. I loved everything about it. I loved the characters, the divergent plot straight out of the D&D arcade games. I loved the massive amount of multiple endings and how the story would changed for each of the 5 playable characters. I loved the unlocking of tons of characters to use in versus mode where you could have 6 human players doing battle at once! The Music was good enough that I burned the entire Soundtrack off the Saturn disc and have it on a CD I still listen to today. The graphics were some of the best of its time, and the play control was pure bliss. Pure bliss. I played this game so much, I could beat it on hard without dying once if I used Randy and his fireball bunny.

For almost a decade I have hungered for a sequel. Something with new graphics. Something with similar gameplay. Anything even remotely resembling the greatness of this game. But Treasure doesn’t make sequels. At least that is what they said.

So when I heard that AGH was being made, I, like every other Treasure and Guardian Heroes fanboy on the planet, pretty much had an orgasm. Then we heard it was a direct sequel. Same characters! Randy, Nicole, Serena, Han, the Golden Undead warrior! It was going to be wonderful. And portable! Guardian Heroes, any time I wanted it. How could a company with a track record like Treasure not make this the best game they had ever made? After all, they came out and said the only reason they made this sequel is because they felt it would be better than the original. WOW! Better than the original? How could you not drool with anticipation? This is the company that gave us Gunstar Heroes! Ikaruga! Radiant Silvergun! Bangai-O! Sure they made some crap like Stretch Panic and Wario World, but they had the best track record of any company save possible Camelot. How could this go wrong?

Well what you’re about to read is my throwing whatever journalistic integrity I have to the wind. This isn’t going to be HBK just reviewing a game. It’s going to be a fan talking about how bloody pissed he is at the tripe Treasure spewed out into this cartridge. About how this game’s existence is the equivalent to me having cancer in every part of my body, including my pee-pee. I can forgive a lot of things from Developers bastardizing their creations for a cheap buck and screwing over the fans and gamers because they only care about a profit nowadays and not about creating a rewarding experience. This review is me saying, “Fuck you for what you’ve done Treasure. Because I will neither forgive or forget the Abomination I sat through on my Game Boy trying to pretend it had anything even remotely common with the original Guardian Heroes and having to admit to myself that Advance Guardian Heroes is as bad in every way that Original Guardian Heroes was good.

Let’s Review

1. Story

Wow. This is royally screwed up. It’s supposedly a direct continuation of the original Guardian Heroes story, except it gets/does nothing right. For those of you that don’t know, the original GH game was about 5 heroes saving their Kingdom from the evil mage Kanon, his would be nutjob sidekick Zur and learning that there was conspiracy upon conspiracy upon conspiracy in the game with the gods of light themselves being behind the entire war on Earth, in their attempt to see who the ultimate warriors in the universe were.

In the video game, Humanity defeated the representative of the gods of light, and their own creation, the Golden Undead Hero, turned on them as well, and united, the Guardian Heroes defeated the Gods and claimed the mortal realm for their own, free of the machinations of Gods of Sky and Gods of Earth. It was incredible.

And so of course AGH shits on that. Supposedly Randy, Nicole, Valgar, Serena and the hero betrayed the other two Guardian Heroes, Han and Ginjirou, and had their souls drained from their bodies so that they would be zombie minions. What the hell is this crap?

At the same time, Kanon was somehow reborn thanks to the help of Zur, who was a brainless idiot for all of the game unless you went down one specific path where he became a very hard but still brainless idiot. And Kanon has decided to re-conquer the world and somehow the Zombie Guardian Heroes are in his service even though Kanon was against both sets of Gods himself. Why, if he wanted them out of the way as well, would the Gods help them? It makes no sense at all.

Then, you play as a nameless soldier who along with the princess finds the sword of the Golden Undead Hero, and the soldier sacrifices his own life so the spirit of the hero can be reborn in him… even though somehow you have a choice of three different souls, none of which have any of the powers, abilities, or whatever the Undead Hero had. Inane. Totally inane and stupid. It could even be yet another hero, one of three, and not the original, but again, that makes no sense and has nothing in common with the original plot.

What follows is a horrible story that involves your new character beating up and killing the original Guardian Heroes who are now bad guys, there is badly worded Engrish dialogue and a story that has nothing at all to do with the original game, and makes little to no sense whatsoever. This is as bad as the “X-Men” game where they used the Doom Engine, and you spent the whole time killing “X-Men clones.” It’s a slap in the face to the original.

This story is crap. It is nothing like the original GH. AGH has no divergent paths, no coherent plot, and is plagues by Ubisoft typical shotty translation. Although there are some funny bits like Kanon being called a midcarder by Zur and a certain Goblin, the game is pretty much a pile of crap.

This game has nothing at all to do with the original Guardian Heroes except in some very shallow ways. It’s as if Treasure made a half assed game and said “Crap. We know it’s not very good. How can we sell it? I know! Let’s make all the characters Guardian Heroes ones! People will eat it up and be afraid to say anything bad about it because no one hates that game!”

Well I am calling shenanigans on Treasure for a lackluster game, and on UbiSoft for a very poor translation. This game is a slap in the face to long time Guardian Heroes fans and the plot is just the tip of the iceburg.

Story Rating: 2/10

2. Graphics

Well, there’s a lot happening on the screen, but none of it is very pretty. Everything is pretty jagged looking and is nowhere up to the level of the original game’s graphics. Now remember, both the Saturn and the GBA are 32 bit systems, so the graphics should be comparable. But in fact, they are not. The graphics in AGH are pretty ugly. Even the original characters, who resemble their form from the old Saturn game are blotchy and ugly.

At the same time, there is usually a lot on the screen at once. And that’s why everything is not very good looking. Treasure went for quantity in terms of action, not sparse but pretty. And I prefer that. The sheer amount of action in the game does cause a massive amount of slowdown at some points, but this game takes the GBA’s processor’s like you would believe.

In the original game, the slowdown was actually part of the fun. But that’s because of the control scheme. It could be of benefit sometimes. In AGH however, it’s actually very detrimental because of how messed up the controls are to begin with. Bad controls + slowdown = massive frustration. Just another showing of how AGH does everything wrong that the original Guardian Heroes did right.

It’s amazing how much they can do on the GBA in this game. But nothing of it appealing in the slightest to view.

Graphics Rating: 5/10

3. Sound

The only real saving grace of this game is the music and voice effects. It’s all the same from the original Guardian Heroes game. Remember how earlier I said I listen to the soundtrack in my car? Well it’s nice to hear it all again, even if the music is dumbed down a bit for the GBA. It’s all the same tunes but the GBA can’t handle the full instrumentals of the originals is seems, so even though the music is good, it still pales compared to the original. Man is that a running theme in this review or what?

Again, the voice effects remain intact, and these are actually perfect. Hearing Zur say “YOKOZUNA” makes it worthwhile. Because I always thinking of the two time WWE champion and it makes me laugh. I’m happy that this is one thing about the original Guardian Heroes they didn’t drag through the mud or screw up.

Sound Rating: 7/10

4. Control

Oh my god. Yuck. Whereas the original Guardian Heroes was a fast paced action game based of all sorts of different attacks and a 3-D style attack field on a 2D scrolling game, Advance Guardian Heroes is pretty much Double Dragon Advance but without the play control. Really all you do is hit A to jump and B to attack, and there are a few different styles of attack like Earthquake smash or dash attack. But in the end, there is little you can actually do.

There’s also some spells, but you’re limited to one type depending on which version of the hero you take.

I have to admit the controls are very unresponsive in this game. The original Guardian Heroes was crisp and precise and was very instinctual. AGH is not.

The biggest problem with AGH is this game is a side scrolling beat ’em up where the only real way to win is through a good defense. Pressing the R button creates a barrier which blocks blows. If you time it just right, so you put the barrier up when you are about to be hit, it stuns the opponent and you can have your way with them for a bit.

The problem is, that when you have a bunch of enemies on the screen, defensive combat is rather tough to do. And when you factor in the slowdown and poor control response in this game, you begin to understand why this game is one that you want to throw across the room from annoyance.

I was utterly dismayed by the controls. Nothing felt comfortable and I miss have fighting game (ala Street Fighter or KOF) controls for battles in this game. AGH plays like a third rate Double Dragon or Battletoads rather than a game that has anything at all to do with the original Guardian Heroes.

There are some neat ideas in the control scheme. But none of them really stand up as you play the game. There is a lot of room for improvement and it feels very rushed. Hence again I call bullshit on Treasure’s claim that this is superior to the first in all ways possible.

Control Rating: 4/10

5. Replayability.

There are three ‘heroes’ you can pick from, all just palette swaps. There are three difficultly levels, each with a massive and noticeable difference, and there is a versus mode where you can use characters you’ve unlocked, including original GH characters. The versus mode is just a very crappy version of the original Guardian Heroes verses mode where 6 people could play at once. But with all the unlockable characters for this mode, it can be a lot of fun. It’s just too bad you need an extra cart of this terrible game just to play co-op mode or versus mode. But it is understandable. What’s not understandable is how crappy co-op mode is. Co-op mode is just like story mode but if one character dies, the game ends. That’s completely lame. And it takes a lot of fun out of the game.

In truth there’s no reason to try any of the non story modes if you have the original GH. Everything here is just a pale mockery of what you used to love about the game. By the time you get done the story mode, or swearing through the stupidity of co-op mode, you will not want to touch this game again. And it may just make you shy away from the original Guardian Heroes as well, fearing all your treasured memories of this classic are false and hollow.

Replayability Rating: 4/10

6. Balance

Thanks to a terrible control scheme, a crappy level up system that is nothing like the original, so terrible jumping based mini games, and slowdown like you wouldn’t believe, I have to say that there really is no balance. Easy is insanely easy. Normal is tough.Hard is pretty darn tough. And super hard? Oy vey! At least Treasure has kept one thing constant in that they have made a very difficult game indeed.

I have to hit you over the head with this to make my point clear, but when you have a hard game to begin with, it’s a good thing. Challenging games are rare and they make beating them worthwhile. But when you have a hard game with horrible controls that don’t respond properly and tie it in with slowdown that makes the controls THAT much worse, well there is no balance. There is no challenge. There is no reward. It’s just maximum suckage designed to ruin the legacy of a game.

Balance Rating: 3/10

7. Originality

Well the engine itself is quite original, but they’ve taken one of the most beloved cult games of all time and sodomized it. Repeatedly. With a meathook. A Meathook covered in hepatitis. And tetanus. It ruins so many of the great and memorable characters and even redoes some in the exact same way. Kanon and Zur for example do everything pretty much the same way as they did in the first. It’s a combination of rehash and shitty game filled with popular characters and a classic title in order to move this piece of shit off shelves.

It’s an interesting engine concept. It’s not a very good one in actual function mind, you, but it’s different and something that if they had tinkered with a bit more instead of rushing this thing out, it would have made all the difference in the world.

Again, great idea to have a sequel to the originality, but terrible in design and function. Be careful what you wish for…

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

None whatsoever. Okay. That’s not true. You will obsess getting to the next save point so you don’t have to play the level over. But not out of fun. And god forbid you get to that level with barely any health level, because every time you continue from that point, you’re going to be with that marginal bit of health. It’s just an annoying chore, rather than anything fun at all.

I tried so hard to get into this game. To love this game. To be a zealous fanboy over this game. But it just didn’t happen. I found myself loathing Treasure. I was describing playing this game like “Imagine your wife is pregnant, but she can’t give birth properly so they need to do a c-section, but there’s no instruments for cutting, so to save her life and the baby’s, you have to chew through her flesh to get at it, and then nibble through the umbilical cord with your teeth, only to find when you free the babe from its womb, that it suffers from massive physical and mental retardation. That is how horrible this game is.”

And I still mean it. Don’t play this game. Seriously, don’t. There is no addiction. There is only suffering.

Addictiveness Rating: 2/10

9. Appeal Factor

It’s Guardian Heroes. Every long time fan of this game is going to pick it up because they trust the name and they trust Treasure. Even gamers who never played the original will recognize the name from all the fond memories reviewers and other long time gamers have babbled on about. The name will click in their head and they will take a chance on the game from all the positive commentary the original got. Some will think mistakenly that this game is a port and they’ll go off of that.

The game will sell, even without UbiSoft marketing it. Because of word of mouth, and that is the most effective marketing tool around. And the majority of those that buy this game will be horrible disappointed.

If anything this game is the death knell for the 2D beat em up Genre. When Treasure, the company who perfected this genre doesn’t care anymore and puts out a game that is crappier than an outhouse at a diarrheic convention, you have to wonder who is left to put out a quality product.

In Treasure’s defense, thank god their shooters are still amazing. Every time I have wanted to go into a profanity laden rage, I think of Ikaruga and Gradius V. Maybe it’s just that Treasure can’t do the beat ’em ups any more, in the same way that their platformers, Wario World and Stretch Panic were nothing short of awful. Perhaps all they can do right anymore are shooters. But thank god those games are nothing short of amazing. And if there ever comes a time where those suck too, I may have to give up gaming completely, as the graphics over gameplay and 3D games with shitty controls and even worse camera angles over excellent 2D games will have officially won. Don’t let this happen Treasure. And more importantly, don’t you the gaming public let that happen either. Go buy Metal Slug 3 and say this is the level of quality we demand. Go buy Ribbit King and say “See? Games can be original and quirky and good all at the same time!” Fight for your right to good games people. Because when games like Advance Guardian Heroes comes out, you start to believe the companies and developers don’t give a shit anymore.

This game will be bought by name value alone. And I pity each and every one of you that bought it. And I apologize to any that did because I was excited for this game and was a firm devout believer it would stand up with the original.

Appeal Factor: 5/10

10. Miscellaneous

Terrible game in every way possible. Not only is it a subpar game to begin with, but is also drags the name of Guardian Heroes through the mud and then hits it over the head with a tire iron until brain damage ensues. Everything is wrong with this game. The graphics are terrible. The story is a bastardization of what made the original one so timeless. The controls are some of the worst I have played on a game in a long time. The continue scheme is terrible as you do not start refreshed, but instead start at whatever life and power you had when you started that level (often times this means very little) and you have to start at the beginning of the stage. Normally I would love this in a shooter, but even in a shooter you get three lives. Here, you get the one. Again, when you factor in the terrible controls, the massive slowdown, and the just plain shoddiness of this game, Advance Guardian Heroes goes from being a game to a potential child scaring mechanism. “Eat all your asparagus Bobby, or you have to play Advance Guardian Heroes all night!”

Games like Advance Guardian Heroes and River City Ransom EX tarnish the great memories gamers have of the original versions. Long time gamers start to doubt their memories. “How could I have liked a game so much that was this bad?” Newer and casual gamers play these games and wonder what kind crap passed for goods back in the old days. But for every one of these piles of crap we get games like Shining Force GBA and Pokemon Leaf Green/Fire Red. Games that live up to the standards of the original version, and even surpass them in some ways.

It’s just sad that two of my favorite companies, Treasure and Atlus are responsible for the abominations out on the GBA right now.

Miscellaneous Rating: 1/10

Short Attention Span Summary
Okay, this game has a lower score than Beyond Good and Evil. I’m sure fans of Jade and the Pigman and Captain Quotes the Rulebook are ecstatic because I will finally stop being mean to that game as I have this game to scream about for the next few months until something equally as bad is released. I am seriously disgusted by Treasure and UbiSoft for this very poorly made game, and distraught that this game that is so the opposite if Guardian Heroes for the Sega Saturn now bears its name. Run from this game people. No matter how much you want to trust Nostalgia, run like hell. You’ll thank me even when rabid Guardian Heroes fan boys send me emails accusing me of betraying them.



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