On top of karma, every blow landed on enemies or innocents, and each spell cast grants experience points. Filling the EXP meter and leveling up doesn’t take long – after all, each playthrough is relatively short. For each level gained, players get to assign one attribute point to a variety of stats. The light layer of customization fits the game’s fantasy setting and other RPG-like attributes perfectly. On the downside, levels don’t carry over between playthroughs; gamers start each new playthrough from square one. The lack of a New Game+ option is a missed opportunity.
Guardian Heroes also displays a lot of depth in its beat-em-up gameplay. You can just jam on the attack buttons and enjoy the combo and juggling system, but that’s only scratching the surface. Dashing, blocking, multiple throws, mid-air recoveries, and fighting game-like special moves make for far more interesting gameplay. Plus most characters have unique magic spells too.
Making all of these techniques easier to manage is the three-line depth of field system. Instead of letting players walking up and down like every other brawler in existence, Guardian Heroes divides the field into three distinct planes. Players and enemies can jump back and forth between the planes at any time. This takes out the worry of having to line up just right to bash on an enemy. It also evokes memories of the first Fatal Fury, though the mechanic works better in this genre than a pure fighting game.
Guardian Heroes HD contains everything that made the original game such a treat, along with a new coat of polish and a few extra features to appeal to modern gamers. The first choice you’ll want to make is whether to play with Original or Remixed graphics. Guardian Heroes has always featured hand-drawn, anime-style sprites and backdrops with 3D floors. Original graphics retain the pixelated visuals and effects, hearkening back to a time when pretty much every game looked distinct and special.
Remixed makes smart use of filters to smooth everything up without diminishing the original art style, plus adds a cool line hatching effect to the character shadows. The new fire and spell effects look great and perfectly modern. Finally, all of the non-gameplay art (close-ups) and UI elements are redrawn and entirely faithful to the original style. Both graphical options extend the playing field to create a true widescreen presentation, much like the upcoming Sonic CD port does. As a result, the game looks great whichever one you pick.
Original and Remixed modes can be enjoyed in any combination of Original and Remixed gameplay, as well. Remixed increases the number of attack buttons from two to three, maps spell casting to the right analog stick, adds air dashing, and many other little tweaks. I would completely prefer the Remixed gameplay, but it also makes the game significantly harder. Juggling enemies no longer provides EXP, which in turns makes it hard to level up enough to handle the game’s higher difficulties. The enemy AI is also much fiercer and juggles players more incessantly.