Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review #357: Guardian's Crusade

 The story about a boy and his blob... wait, wrong game!
 Before Senran Kagura and Onechanbara, before becoming known for fanservicey games, Tamsoft developed a little PS1 JRPG called Guardian's Crusade. Hot off the heels of Final Fantasy VII, this game is little more than another me-too from the era that just wanted to take a slice out of FFVII's pie.

 The story is almost non-existent beyond the main premise: A pink monster, Baby, arrives before Knight and then a mystical old man magically appears out of thin air and tasks Knight with escorting Baby to God's Tower. Knight is a mute hero that has no character development, the fairy that accompanies him has no development, and Baby has little development. There's a few side-characters that do evolve, or rather change due to circumstances, but nothing major or noteworthy. Basically, the storyline, what little there is, is dull and forgettable while characters remain lifeless constants, which makes for a very forgettable JRPG.
 As a generic by-the-numbers JRPG, Guardian's Crusade plays as expected: Traverse the land, explore towns and dungeons, while engaging in turn-based battles. Hidden throughout the lands are 'Living Toys', which double as Spells in battle, and there's over 60 of them to collect. They cost PP(Mana) to invoke, and they work in various different ways: Some are one-off attacks or healing spells, others will stay by your side, using their ability every turn while a few work outside battles, like letting you open up the map or escaping a dungeon. It's a neat idea that adds a speck of personality to the game, as every living toy that can be used in battle gets its own 3D model and animations.

 Amusingly, they went for a virtual-pet-like system for Baby. For instance, in battle he will act by himself, although you can order him to focus on attack, defense or supporting you. While outside of battle, you can feed him different items to raise the invisible 'Happiness' gauge, or feed him Weapons and Armors to raise his defense and attack power. I couldn't be bothered to keep Baby happy, so I just fed him my old armors and weapons to raise his stats, or the few items that exist exclusively to be fed to Baby, like bugs and gum. It's not like an unhappy Baby won't aid you, but you won't be able to order him to transform, a trade-off I was willing to pay.
 Battles in this game are represented by Ghosts, which you can either avoid or touch if you want to engage in battle. But what's really interesting, particularly for the era, is that weaker enemy-encounter ghosts will actively run away from you, while stronger, green-eyed ghosts will chase you! I think the only other game that did this, at least at the time, was Earthbound.

 So far, I've presented a very forgettable and generic game, but what really kills it is the lack of directions. There's a couple of times in which the game won't give you directions and just expect you to travel around the sea, or air, until you come across the next event. This is not a matter of needing handholding, this is a relatively linear JRPG, and having the player wandering around without hints is beyond stupid.

 Bottom-line is: Guardian's Crusade hasn't aged well. At the time of its release, it was probably a mediocre and unimpressive game, but by today's standards the game shows its age and it ain't pretty. Even JRPG aficionados like myself will have a hard time finding things to like about this game.
 4.0 out of 10

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