Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

shooter

SEP
25
2017
0

#52 – Sky Shark

If only it were literally a sky shark!

Good music and developer info works for me!

To Beat: Finish Level 5
Played: 6/6/17 – 6/12/17
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 7/10
Video: Sky Shark Playthrough

Today’s game is a port of an arcade shooter. I have covered a few arcade ports of shooters already. One of them is MagMax, which although it was true to the arcade game, it was ported far too late and wasn’t that much fun to begin with. On the other extreme, I played Gyruss and found the expanded NES port to be a better experience than the arcade version. BreakThru sits somewhere in between the two. It was like the arcade game, but was a decent port and reasonably fun to play. Of those three games, Sky Shark sits pretty close to BreakThru.

Flying Shark is an arcade shoot-em-up released in 1987. It was developed by Toaplan and was published in North America by Romstar. The game was ported to many different home computer systems in Japan, North America, and Europe. Flying Shark was renamed to Sky Shark in North America. Toaplan also developed the 1989 sequel to this game called Fire Shark. The NES version of Sky Shark was released in September 1989. This port was developed by Software Creations, and Sky Shark was their first NES game. Despite being based in England, Sky Shark on NES was only released in North America. You may also remember them as the developer of Pictionary that I played last year. The NES version was published by Taito, who also published the arcade version of Flying Shark in Japan.

Sky Shark is a top-down vertical scrolling shoot-em-up. You play the role of the best fighter in the best squadron of the US forces in World War II. He is given the nickname of the Sky Shark, and according to the comic in the game’s manual, even his plane is painted to look like a flying shark. I guess the name makes sense now! Your task is to fly through enemy forces and rescue your POWs. The mission is broken up into five stages separated by landing your aircraft. Don’t worry, the game does this for you. Survive through all five levels and you have beaten Sky Shark.

Plenty of planes and tanks early on in the game.

This is a simple game with equally simple controls. Use the D-pad to fly in all directions. Press A to fire your machine guns. Ammo is unlimited, but there is no autofire so you have to mash away at the fire button. The B button drops bombs. The Start button begins the game and pauses the action during play. Select is used to choose between one or two player mode on the title screen. Two-player mode is alternating play. That’s all there is to it!

Each aircraft comes equipped with three bombs, and dropping one inflicts heavy damage over a large portion of the screen. Bomb blasts absorb bullets too, so they can get you out of a tight spot if used defensively. Some enemies leave behind a B icon when defeated. Fly over this icon to collect an additional bomb. You can hold up to eight bombs, so you might as well use one before trying to grab a ninth. If you are interested in getting a high score, save up some spare bombs because at the end of each level you earn 3,000 points for each bomb in your inventory.

During play, the status bar is located at the bottom of the screen. You can see the current score for both players in addition to the high score. Underneath the score, you see icons that indicate how many additional fighters and how many bombs you have. Like bombs, you can have up to eight lives. There are no extra lives found on the battlefield, but you earn one every 50,000 points. It’s pretty unlikely you would reach the maximum number of lives, but it could happen!

Red planes are about the only welcome sight in Sky Shark.

One recurring feature in the stages is a wave of eight planes. They all fly in together in one of several formations and leave the screen quickly. Destroying all eight planes of the wave gives you a bonus. If the planes are yellow, you earn 1,000 points, but if the planes are red they leave behind an S powerup. The S flies around in loops on the screen so it can be tricky to grab, but you want to grab it because it powers up your machine gun. You can upgrade your weapon six times total. The first upgrade increases your gun from two shots to four, and you eventually work your way up to the fully powered gun giving you seven shots at once with a slight spread. Any time you die by taking a hit, your weapon reverts to the basic double shot. The S powerups tend to be spread out, so it takes a long time to power up all the way if you can survive that long. The sad thing is that the best weapon is not nearly as powerful as you would like.

Both the levels and enemies are generic, World War II styled elements. The stages do not distinguish themselves very well. Each level is composed of several of the same kinds of locations stitched together. There are jungle, ocean, and desert segments dispersed throughout the stages. The best level type is the trainyard area. Each level ends in an airstrip where you land the plane and get your bomb bonus. The enemies are all planes, tanks, and boats. In the ocean sections, you will pass by huge ships with cannons that you can destroy. Tanks emerge from the sides of the screen and behind buildings, and plane formations fly in often. There is not much variety overall.

There are a few bosses in the game. The Super Tank shows up at the end of the first stage. You don’t have to blow it up though because it will eventually run out of driving room and you can leave it behind. There is an upgraded version of the Super Tank that appears in a few places in the middle of stages, and just like the first boss they don’t follow you very long. There are also some large planes that act the same way, but it’s not exactly correct to call them bosses. There is also a giant final boss near the end of the fifth level.

Giant planes and battleships together at last!

When you are shot down, you resume play from the nearest checkpoint. Each stage has several hidden checkpoints, and I’d say the length between them is just about right. Some areas are harder than others so a checkpoint is a nice relief. When you run out of lives, you can continue up to three times. On the Game Over screen, you see the number of credits remaining and a countdown timer with some ominous music for an accompaniment. Press Start to continue your game from the nearest checkpoint, just as if you lost a life. You do lose your score when you continue. If you run out of credits or choose not to continue, you are taken to the high score screen where you can enter your initials.

This was my first time playing Sky Shark. I don’t remember how I acquired the cart, but it is a common game that I probably got in a bulk lot somewhere. It’s worth about $3 today, so hopefully I didn’t pay much for it. At least I knew it was a shoot-em-up, so that alone got me interested to see what it was all about.

Sky Shark is a tough game. I spent about a week playing the game over maybe a dozen attempts before I reached the end. I wanted to beat the game without continuing, but by the time I beat it I was ready to move on. The game overwhelms you early on with several tanks and aircraft at once, many of which fire aimed shots at you. Tanks appear and start firing right away, so you are forced to be on your toes and keep moving. You really need to know where enemies appear to stand a chance. Enemies have a bad habit of firing off one last shot just before they despawn off the sides of the screen. Even though the enemy bullets are large and change colors, they are often hard to see in the thick of the fight. Your only gun fires mostly straight, limiting its effectiveness, and bombs tend to be used to extend a life just to reach the next checkpoint. Thankfully the game has a continue system, otherwise I would have rated the game either an 8 or a 9.

Busy backgrounds mean it is hard to identify everything going on.

Sky Shark does not have an ending. Once you fight the final boss and reach the end of level five, the game loops seamlessly. In a small twist, the game restarts from level two, so if you keep looping the game you will just repeat levels two through five without every playing level one again. Luckily, there is a way to tell if you have finished the game. I left this little tidbit out intentionally until now. When you enter your initials on the high score screen, there is also a two-digit value displayed on the right-hand column. I can’t confirm this for certain, but that value appears to be a percentage of how much of the game was completed.

There are two quirks about this value that make me doubt my theory a bit. The first thing is that this value is more heavily weighted toward the end of the game. For example, you could Game Over deep in level two and only get a value in the teens when you would expect that you’ve completed nearly 40% of the game by then. It seems to increase more quickly at the end of the game. The other thing about it is that it never reaches 100 but stops at 99. I haven’t seen any evidence that you can achieve 100 here, so the assumption is that a value of 99 is the max value and indicates that you have seen all there is to see in Sky Shark. Capturing a picture of the final landing doesn’t seem to be conclusive, so I also took a photo of the high score screen.

Perhaps the best element of Sky Shark is the music. Tim Follin is the game’s composer and he is one of the best on the NES. I gushed over his music in my Pictionary review. While he does not hit the highs of that sweet Pictionary title theme, the music is still very enjoyable. I think the title screen music is my favorite. It is also played during some of the levels, so you get to hear it often enough.

Aside from the music, Sky Shark is a mediocre game. It does nothing in gameplay to set itself apart from other NES shooters. There’s not much variety here. The levels are generic, and so are the enemies and bosses. There aren’t many enemy types, and they all shoot the same type of bullet. I’ve already outlined the problems in gameplay in light of its difficulty. Now, Sky Shark is not a bad game per say. It controls well, the hitboxes are fair, and there aren’t any glitches to speak of. The graphics are a downgrade from the arcade version, but are still fine for the NES. It’s a game that doesn’t quite match up in quality when compared to other releases of its time. I expect a little more technical prowess from an NES game from 1989, especially when Taito is attached to it.

#52 – Sky Shark

#52 – Sky Shark

 
MAR
13
2017
0

#38 – Spy Hunter

Take pursuit of the top score as the bad guys pursue you.

The font is a bit hard to read.

To Beat: Complete the Winter season and the River section
Played: 11/21/16 – 11/23/16
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
Video: Spy Hunter Longplay
Bonus Video: Spy Hunter Glitch

This is another first for Take On The NES Library with the first racing game covered on the site. However, if you know anything about Spy Hunter then you’ll already know that this is a loose claim at best. Since Spy Hunter is less about racing and more about combat, survival, and high scores, we will have to save the first true racer for another day.

Spy Hunter is originally an arcade title released by Bally Midway in 1983. It was supposed to be a James Bond game and it carries that kind of vibe. Spy Hunter was popular enough to spawn a pinball game bearing the same name in 1984. Later the game was ported to a host of home computers and other consoles. The sequel Spy Hunter II was released in 1987 and featured more of a 3D perspective from above and behind the car as opposed to an overhead view. The NES port of Spy Hunter was also released in 1987 and was both developed and published by Sunsoft. In 1991, Sunsoft released a Famicom title called Battle Formula which plays as a racing shooter game similar to Spy Hunter. When they brought the game to the NES, they obtained the Spy Hunter license from Bally Midway and released the game as Super Spy Hunter in 1992.

Spy Hunter experienced periods of dormancy sandwiched between a number of reboots. The next Spy Hunter game was released in 2001 along with a sequel, Spy Hunter 2, in 2003. Around that time a Spy Hunter movie was starting up but it has not yet seen the light of day. There was a movie tie-in game called Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run that was released in 2006 anyway despite no movie release to go with it. After another long quiet spell, yet another video game reboot of Spy Hunter was developed for handhelds in 2012. There have been rumors that a Spy Hunter film is still in development as recently as 2015, but at this point it seems unlikely this will ever come to fruition.

Just crusin’ along!

Spy Hunter is a top-down racing and shooting game. You control the G-1655 CIA Prototype Interceptor as you are being chased by a bunch of enemy agents who only want to destroy you. Your task is to take out the enemy agents, protect innocent bystander vehicles, and drive as far as you can.

The controls are simple. Use the D-Pad to steer your vehicle left and right. You go faster by holding up and you slow down by pressing Down. Your Interceptor is armed with a machine gun that you can fire with the B button. If you have a special weapon you can use it with A, and the Select key will switch between special weapons if you have more than one. There is no pause feature with the game which is a significant omission as far as I’m concerned.

When you begin the game you are unloaded by the big brown weapons van and you can start driving right away. Your score counter is displayed on the upper-right of the screen and it increases as you drive. You want to stay on the pavement since you don’t get score while you are riding along the edge of the road. If you go faster you accrue points more quickly while at a higher risk of crashing. There are a number of vehicles and hazards that will get in your way from both ahead and behind so you want to maintain a decent speed. You also earn points by defeating the enemy agents. If you happen to bump into or destroy a non-enemy vehicle your score counter blinks and stops increasing for a little while.

Try to avoid shooting the regular cars.

There is also a time counter on the bottom-right that ticks down pretty fast from 999. The timer ties to an interesting mechanic concerning your lives. As long as the timer is running, you can crash your vehicle and you can get right back on the road with no penalty. The timer runs out quickly and it only counts down once at the start of the game, so this juncture is when you want to be more careful. You want to drive well enough to earn at least 10,000 points before the timer runs out. Fail to reach that score and your next crash ends your game immediately. However, if you reach that mark then you get an extra life that is shown where the timer used to be displayed. If you play really well and get to 30,000 points you get another extra life, and you can earn another life at every 30,000 points beyond that.

The enemy vehicles on the road all share the same deep blue color so you can easily distinguish them from the others. There is a skinny enemy called the Tire Slasher. You can easily shoot it with your machine gun when it is in front of you, but if it gets to your side it will deploy spikes out of its tires and try to collide with you, causing you to lose control of your vehicle completely. The second enemy agent is a thick car called a Bullet Proof Bully. Naturally this vehicle is immune to your machine gun, so the way to take it out is to bump it off the road with your Interceptor. This enemy will try and do the same to you, so be careful. The third agent is a long Limousine. This vehicle attacks you via a backseat passenger firing a pistol out the side windows whenever you run along side of it, so you want to avoid approaching it just as you want to avoid the Tire Slasher. There is a fourth enemy which is a white helicopter. This is the only flying vehicle and you can hear it coming long before you see it. The helicopter drops deadly bombs on the road that create a deadly pothole in the ground should you run over it.

The helicopters are relentless!

To help fend off the enemies, you can find three special weapons. At certain times the same brown van that drops you off at the start appears with a symbol on the top. If you get close to the van it drops a ramp so that you can drive up into the back of the van. If you do this, the van will pull over to the side of the road and drop you off with your new weapon. The weapons are indicated by letters in the upper-left corner of the screen. The one denoted by an S is the smoke screen which lets you spew a wide fan of smoke out of the back of your Interceptor. This pretty much causes everything behind you to crash, including innocent drivers which halts your score counter. The M is a homing missile that is used solely to take out the helicopter. You have to drive in a way to keep the helicopter still long enough so that you can hit it, and getting the hang of it takes some time. The O is an oil slick which drops a car-wide stream of oil behind you. The effect is similar to the smoke screen but it is much easier to target a single enemy. These weapons are useful but if you crash you lose them all.

As you drive you will occasionally find forks in the road. You have to be careful to pick a side so that you don’t crash in the median. You will also drive across long bridges. When you come out of the other side the background scenery changes. There are four different areas you drive through and each one corresponds to a season. You can bounce around a bit between the different seasons, but usually you go through Spring, Summer, Fall, and then Winter.

If you get really far into the game you will eventually come across a small branching path to the left with a small building at the end. It’s very easy to miss it when you are going fast, and it is completely optional anyway. Drive into the building and you switch over to a boat and drive on the river. There are two types of enemy boats you will encounter and no friendly vehicles to avoid. Cruise boats fire torpedoes both ahead and behind them, and speed boats drop explosive barrels you need to navigate around. Enemy helicopters can also join the fray. You can stay on the water for as long as you want, or eventually you can find a path back to the boathouse and get back on the road.

The water is more dangerous than the road.

Looking around online, it seems a common rumor about Spy Hunter back in the day was that the game eventually has an ending if you play long enough. I can put that rumor to rest: Spy Hunter is an endless game. With an endless game comes deciding on what constitutes a win. The closest thing Spy Hunter has to levels are the seasons and the river. Winter is always the last unique season you will encounter in the game, so my winning condition is to drive through the Winter scene and also survive one loop of the river.

Spy Hunter is one of my childhood games and one that I spent time with on an occasional basis. Play sessions are pretty short so this was a good choice for a pick up and play game. I never committed to it long enough to ever get really good at the game, so this was my first real shot and beating it and seeing everything the game has to offer.

Because Spy Hunter is a pretty short game I ended up recording all my attempts, so I have some hard data on my effort in beating the game. It took me 18 attempts over almost exactly an hour and a half of total playtime. 17 of those attempts took place the first night I played, and the next time I sat down to play I had my winning run on the first try. I took on the river at my first opportunity and ended up getting through it for the first time in my life. The river scene was a childhood gaming nemesis that I was super proud to finally conquer. Going from car to boat or vice versa is the only time the game stops for long enough to capture a proper picture since there is no pause feature. I managed to capture a quick image with my camera even though I hadn’t technically finished the game yet. I was able to drive well enough to pass through Winter and beat the game with a final score of 108,595.

I don’t think many Spy Hunter players have seen this snow!

My 11th attempt was where I got my highest score. I looped through Winter twice and was going pretty well when I decided to go for it and try the River. Unfortunately, I failed out pretty fast. I earned a score of 134,525. I don’t remember what happened after that but I must have been pretty disappointed that I missed my best chance to that point. I stopped recording for a little while and then started back up again a little later. Those last attempts that night were not very good so I smartly cut my losses and went to bed.

During my 4th attempt I unintentionally triggered a glitch that soft-locked my game. I was trying to drive into the weapons van when I bumped into another car at the same time. The game started the sequence of steering the Interceptor into the van without actually putting the car inside. It left my car in a state where it was hovering over the road where I couldn’t move it and no one could touch it. That’s the first time I’ve seen that happen while playing and I had no choice but to reset and start over. I bet the timing of the glitch is really tough to reproduce!

Spy Hunter is a classic game that would be a good fit it any NES collection. There may not be a lot of substance to the game, but it plays well and it is a great game to pop in if you just want to kill a few minutes. I’m just glad to say that after all these years of playing that I have finally seen all there is to see, and it didn’t take me nearly as long as I thought!

#38 – Spy Hunter

 
MAR
06
2017
0

#37 – The Guardian Legend

Two styles of gameplay collide in this legendary adventure!

A static title screen with some nice music!

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat both the main game and the special mode
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 11/7/16 – 11/19/16
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
Video: The Guardian Legend Special Mode Longplay

In 2012, Mike Matei of Cinemassacre published a now well-known YouTube video listing his top 10 obscure NES gems. The Guardian Legend is the first game I have covered that made his list. Now I won’t tell you exactly where this slotted in on the top 10, but most of the games on that list became instantly more popular overnight, including The Guardian Legend. So the game has a lot of hype surrounding it now, but does it live up to it?

The Guardian Legend was developed by Compile. They are pretty well known for developing shoot-em-up games. The game was first released on the Famicom in February 1988. There it was named Guardic Gaiden and it was published by Irem. The Guardian Legend was released on the NES in April 1989 and published by Broderbund. The game was later released in Europe in 1990 published by Nintendo. The box and label art are unique among all three versions of the game.

Much to my surprise, my research revealed that The Guardian Legend is actually a sequel. There was a trio of games released by Compile on the MSX computer in Japan. The first game was Final Justice which released in 1985 and plays similarly to Galaga. The second is Guardic released in 1986. In this game, each level is a static screen with enemies to shoot. You go to the next stage by flying upward into a scrolling section where you can decide which path and level you want to take next. The third game is Blaster Burn from 1990 which is a vertical scrolling shoot-em-up. The Guardian Legend is the sequel of the middle game Guardic.

There’s a lot going on even in the very beginning.

The Guardian Legend is a shoot-em-up game comprised of vertically scrolling shoot-em-up sections and top-down adventure sections. You play as the Guardian who can transform between a humanoid form and a spaceship form. The goal of the game is to destroy the planet Naju which is filled with monsters and set on a collision course toward Earth. Your mission is to explore the surface of the planet to locate corridors that are buried deep inside the planet. These corridors contain switches that can activate the self-destruct sequence when all of them are set.

The game begins inside the first corridor. Here the Guardian assumes her spaceship form and you play a vertical scrolling shoot-em-up stage. After clearing the stage, the Guardian switches back to her humanoid form and then you explore the surface of the planet from a top-down perspective searching for the next corridor. The game format resembles The Legend of Zelda in that you explore an overworld while looking for dungeons you need to clear.

The controls are pretty much the same in both perspectives. Use the D-Pad to move the Guardian in eight directions. The B button fires the standard weapon. In the shoot-em-up sections you can only fire upward but in the top-down portions you can shoot in any direction. Hold down the B button for a quite generous auto-fire. The A button is used to fire secondary weapons. You can pause the game by pressing Start and you press Select to open up the subscreen.

Information overload!

There is a lot of information available on the subscreen. The top portion of the subscreen contains the same information shown when you are playing and it is comprised of three rows. The top row shows your current score, the number of power chips you currently have, the number of shots for your secondary weapon, and which secondary weapon you have equipped. The middle row contains your health bar. The bottom row shows which area you are located and the X and Y coordinates of where you are located in the overworld. All of that is just the top part of the subscreen!

The left side of the subscreen shows the map. You can see your current location highlighted as well as the location of any reachable corridor. The right side of the subscreen shows which keys you have, the maximum number of chips you can have, your attack and defense power, the power level of the currently selected subweapon, and how many chips it takes to fire the current subweapon. The bottom of the subscreen shows all of the subweapons you have. Use the cursor to select which subweapon you want to equip.

The power chips are very important to your survival. They are the ammunition for your subweapons. Each subweapon uses up a certain number of chips for each time you fire it and you cannot use your subweapons if you run out of chips. The other important mechanic is that the chips also influence the firepower of your normal weapon. When you reach certain chip amounts your weapon will power up, but spending chips and falling below that amount will cause your weapon to downgrade. There is a balancing act between using your other weapons while also maintaining enough chips in reserve to have a more useful normal weapon.

It’s a tiny swarm of overworld enemies.

There are a ton of upgrades and items that you will encounter in the game. The most important items for making progress are the keys. As you explore you will find black circles on the ground next to walls that have some kind of symbol written on them. If you hold the key that matches the symbol, then you can stand on the circle and teleport to the adjacent room. The keys are found in the corridors and they allow access to new areas of the map. Each new area hides more corridors.

You will also gather subweapons. There are twelve unique subweapons and once you have one you can switch to it anytime you want via the subscreen. If you collect the same subweapon again you can upgrade it to a more powerful form. Each subweapon has three distinct power levels. These get really strong later in the game but they cost more chips to deploy. The subweapons have all kinds of different effects and patterns and they are a lot of fun to use. You can get grenades, a laser sword, circular shots, homing shots, and so on. If one of the enemies or bosses is giving you a lot of trouble, it is probably because you are not using the best subweapon for the job. Experiment to see which one is most useful for your situation.

Some items give you other types of permanent upgrades. The Blue Lander is a little creature that will increase your maximum health, and the Red Lander increases the maximum amount of power chips. The gun item increases your attack power, and the shield item increases your defense power. The item that looks like four upward arrows increases the rate of fire for your normal weapon. You can also find an energy tank that fills up your health to your current maximum. It’s worth pointing out here that you can also upgrade your maximum health by reaching certain score thresholds.

Look, a weapon lying on the ground!

Other items are found by defeating enemies. Sometimes when you kill an enemy a little explosion cloud will appear on the ground for a little while leaving behind a power-up block. Shoot the block to reveal the item. You can find a heart that will restore some of your health. The blue orb gives you 20 power chips and a tiny bit of health, and a red orb restores 500 power chips and a little more health than the blue orb. You can also find full energy tanks but they are more uncommon.

There are quite a few ways to find the upgrades and items. On the surface you can find shops where you can exchange power chips for a weapon or upgrade. Some screens contain mini bosses that hold an upgrades. When you walk into one of these screens an alarm will sound and all the screen exits will be blocked off forming an arena for the fight. These can be challenging but the reward is worth it. Some screens contain a powerup freely for the taking although it takes some maneuvering around the map to find them.

There are ten different areas spread out across the map that branch off of the hub area. Each one has its own theme such as a water area and forest area. Each area contains two corridors and they are numbered based on the current area number. Area 1 contains both Corridor 1 and Corridor 11, for example. Corridors 1-10 are required for clearing the game and each one of them is blocked off from entry. There is some kind of puzzle you need to solve to open up the gate. Exploring the area and talking with some Blue Landers will yield the answer for how to open the gate and access the corridor. The remaining Corridors 11-20 are optional but you get upgrades from clearing them that you probably will want.

One of many huge boss sprites!

The corridor stages can pose a challenge. Often they are teeming with enemies and there can be a lot going on at one time. The scrolling speed varies from crawling to crazy fast which can add to the excitement. Each stage ends in a fight with a huge, detailed boss that takes a lot of firepower to defeat. As mentioned before, choosing the right subweapon is critical to taking out the boss successfully.

All throughout the map you will find rooms with Blue Landers that will give you a password to save your progress. The passwords are really complex, consisting of 32 characters of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The passwords do track all of the items you have acquired as well as your score, but the length and complexity is just too much. Thankfully in the smartphone era a simple picture works wonders for capturing it just right.

This was my first time playing through The Guardian Legend but I have quite a few random memories surrounding this game. Growing up it was one of those games I would often browse at the local video store but never rented. I ended up buying my first copy of the game for $5 during my honeymoon. A couple of years later I got big into NES collecting again and The Guardian Legend kept popping up for me. My local game store chain was slow to update their NES pricing and they sold it for $3 when it was at least a $10 game. I bought several copies of the game just to flip. (Yep, I’m one of those “evil” reseller types.) I even picked up a cheap copy on eBay a couple of years ago when I saw it. Then right before I started playing through the game for my blog, my grandmother came across a lot of NES stuff with yet another copy of The Guardian Legend. This one however was a nice condition complete in box copy that I am keeping!

Such colorful death bubbles!

It took me a little under two weeks to finish playing The Guardian Legend with my normal rate of playing. The game definitely has some meat to it with all the areas and corridors, but I managed to make progress at a good rate every time I played. I didn’t get stuck anywhere for too long and even the most difficult corridors only took a few attempts at most.

The Guardian Legend is extremely generous with powerups. The item drop rate isn’t terribly high, but there are so many enemies around to defeat that you will get powerups on constant rotation. The top-down segments, corridors, and even most boss fights provide you enough to keeping going as long as you are reasonably careful and employ smart subweapon usage. For this reason, I don’t think the game is that difficult overall, but there were a few tricky sections that caused me to give it a 4/10 difficulty rating. One of the recurring minibosses became a war of attrition every time I encountered it, and the final boss was pretty mean and took a few tries to beat. This is the kind of game where you consistently make progress, and you can keep attempting the tough parts until you get it right.

I already spoiled this a little bit, but in case you didn’t pick up on it or don’t want to know, now is the time to skip ahead to the next paragraph! Upon beating the game and sitting through the end credits, you are given a very short password “TGL.” You can use the password to play through a special mode of the game that consists only of the Corridor sections. The levels are identical to the regular game but the big change here is how you are awarded the powerups. After completing each corridor, you are taken to a special screen where you earn powerups for meeting specific score requirements. You can get as many as five powerups after each stage even if you score high enough to be awarded more. This mode shifts the focus on scoring as many points as you can. It is also more difficult than the regular game because the rollout of powerups is slower than in the normal mode. It’s a fun way to play through the game again and a fitting reward for beating the game.

The Guardian Legend handles many enemies pretty well.

There is a very good hack of the game called The Guardian Legend Secret Edition. This is a complete overhaul of the game containing a new overworld, new Corridor stages, new Corridor puzzles, and even some new bosses. The difficulty has also been cranked up quite a lot, but that is to be expected with a hack like this. I started playing through Secret Edition once I completed the game and I got about halfway through before I stopped playing. If you like The Guardian Legend then you will really like Secret Edition. I really need to get back to it and finish it for myself!

The Guardian Legend indeed lives up to the hype. This is a really good NES game that I enjoyed playing a lot. The game controls well, the graphics and music are really nice, the myriad of subweapons gives you a lot of variety and power, the boss fights are well made, and most importantly the game is simply fun to play. I certainly got hooked! The only negative in my mind is the long password system, but if that’s the only thing I can find wrong with the game then Compile did a whole lot more right. I recommended that you give this gem a try!

#37 – The Guardian Legend