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A Game That's High On Difficulty and Low On Fun
Heavenly Guardian is one of those games that can easily fool you when you take a look at the box art and screenshots. At first, it almost appears to be an obscure RPG of some sort, but then its old-school shooter design becomes clear. Despite being designed around the great classic shooter genre, however, this title ends up lacking due to its monotonous, frustratingly difficult gameplay.
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Heavenly Guardian features two separate stories, one for the single-player mode and one for the multiplayer mode. In single-player, you play as the snow goddess Sayuki as she travels the land accompanied by Toto, her pet rabbit, in an attempt to find the ingredients for a cure to a curse that has befallen her beloved. The two-player co-op mode’s story differs greatly from the single-player campaign. Here, although you’re playing alongside a friend, the story revolves around a beauty contest to see which of the two players can get the highest score. Neither of these plotlines is very deep, but the second one takes the prize in terms of ridiculous factor.
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What started out as another installment in the Pocky & Rocky series, Heavenly Guardian soon became more of a spiritual sequel due to a licensing fiasco. As a result of this, the gameplay tries to emulate that of Pocky & Rocky’s, but does so in a crude, unpolished manner. Those familiar with the Pocky & Rocky games will see the similarities, but they certainly won’t feel them.
An old-school shooter at its core, Heavenly Guardian has you scrolling vertically, horizontally, and diagonally as you take out countless waves of enemies. There are a few power-ups to collect that will change your weapons’ abilities and allow you to shoot faster, scatter projectiles, and home in on your enemies, but you’ll find yourself holding down on the fire button the entire time regardless of these upgrades. Additionally, Toto also helps you out by shooting projectiles of his own and freezing the baddies on-screen. Unfortunately, your rabbit pal goes M.I.A. when you play alongside a friend.
One of the things that makes Heavenly Guardian so difficult to play through is its repetitive nature. You’ll progress through the stages and face enemy after enemy and defeat them all in the exact same way. Lose a life, and you have to start over from a checkpoint. Normally, this isn’t an issue, but with the checkpoints as spaced out as they are, Heavenly Guardian gets old fast.
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Graphics and Sound
Some people will like the graphics in Heavenly Guardian and some people will hate them. On the one hand, the game has a charming, hand-drawn look that is reminiscent of old-school shooters. But on the other hand, you’ll encounter too many barren locales with very little detail. It’s a shame that the developers couldn’t use the game’s classic look to throw in some interesting backgrounds.
In terms of sound, you’re likely to lower the volume considerably while playing this game. The sound effects can be grating on the ears, and the repetitive nature of the music—while decent at first---won’t take too long to annoy even the most dedicated gamers. The sound is easily a bigger flaw than the visuals, but that doesn’t mean the two are very far apart from one another.
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Heavenly Guardian is one of those games that couldn’t keep you entertained even if it had a lot of content. There’s not much here, and what is here is mediocre at best. The game’s single-player mode is a disappointment, and the co-op mode isn’t too far off. There is an unlockable boss mode, but not even the boss fights are much fun. You can also replay through levels, but in order to do so, you need to go on fetch quests and collect the game’s hidden snowmen. This task ends up feeling forced, and it doesn’t hold a candle to collection side quests found in other games.
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Heavenly Guardian is hard to recommend for obvious reasons. It’s not very fun, it’s monotonous, it’s repetitive, and its charm wears thin super fast. Gamers who never got the chance to play Pocky & Rocky won’t gain much from playing Heavenly Guardian. And it would be easier to recommend going to a yard sale, picking up a Super Nintendo, and looking for that game on eBay than to recommend playing this archaic-feeling title.