I can remember back in the mid 90s hanging out with one of my friends from elementary school. He was one of the few if only friends I knew at the time who owned a Saturn so I got my fair share of exposure to that sweet little black box of 2D goodness. One of the games on the Saturn that has stuck with me for all these years was Treasure’s Guardian Heroes (Remember back when Treasure was a household name for game developers?).

Flash forward 14 years and we see the re-release of this 2D arcade action game on XBLA. Not only is it the same game I remember from my youth but they’ve put a shiny coating of HD on it. While its nothing more then using some smoothing filters and the 360s much more powerful scaling abilities it really makes the old game shine. If you had ever seen the original game you would have noticed the glaring pixelization of the sprites when zoomed in and you saw this a lot because the game used scaling very generously. As you may or may not know the Sega Saturn had very powerful 2D graphics capabilities for its time but much weaker 3D rendering capabilities, so for the most part 2D games on the Saturn were the greatest compared to those on the Playstation while the Playstation was king of 3D. One thing the Saturn bizarrely lacked was the ability to do transparencies so instead of transparent sprites they’d use dithering to get a pseudo-transparent effect on fire and foreground objects, on the 360 they replaced all of this with real transparencies in the original mode. With all that out there, you can get some idea how Guardian Heroes ran and looked on the Saturn and you can imagine with modern hardware and smoothing just how much of an improvement it is. Another thing that is new is the menu and user interface designs. They totally revamped it all, as the originals were kind of bland and boring they mixed it up here. Its a nice little touch. The generous people at SEGA have also given us the ability to turn off the enhancements which they have called Remix Mode in this port, so you can check out Guardian Heroes in its original pixelated glory if you wish.

Gameplay wise the game is just as I remember it however they have added several enhancements as I had mentioned before in the Remix Mode. Not only does this effect the graphics it changes how the game controls. In the original you had a choice of Quick and Strong attacks but in Remix Mode they throw a medium attack into the mix allowing a little more diversity in your attacks. Some new additions added in Remix mode are some new moves including air dashing, force back counters, more diverse recoveries, throw counters and some additional magic attacks for a select few of the enemy characters unlocked in Versus and Arcade modes. The Remix mode also changed how MP is regenerated to some degree. In the original casting a spell and hitting an enemy 2 or more time would regenerated some magic, in the remix you get magic from every hit you land but casting doesn’t regenerate magic anymore. One thing that Remix mode hasn’t helped is Nicole… she’s still as awkward and weak as she was in the original and I can only recommend using her if you’re playing a 2 player game or you’re just that good at the game.

A noticeable and welcome thing about this port is speed. The Saturn version ran pretty well but there was some slow down when the action got heavy which is not the case in the XBLA release. The ability to select whether you play the Remix Mode or Original gives you the freedom to choose how you want to play too which is a nice plus when some remakes and enhanced games do not let you do this.

The sound is great. The sound effects and vocals have all been cleaned up and come out crystal clear. While this wasn’t entirely an issue during the CD-Rom era because you could store higher quality sound on a CD instead of the downsampled PCM on cartridge media of the times… Guardian Heroes sounds were a little raspy on the Saturn which you won’t find in the XBLA version. My only real gripe is the variety of sound effects for some characters. You’d hear the same sound over and over again, while not a huge problem it does get a little annoying after awhile.

For those who played this game its a welcome return to a classic and getting reacquainted with the Treasure most of us grew up loving but for those just tuning in its a fun game especially if you have a friend to sit down and play with. The many different paths in the story mode and unlocking all the characters for Arcade and Versus modes will keep you playing this one for awhile. I highly recommend at least checking it out.