Guardian Heroes has always featured drop-in, drop-out two-player co-op, and HD adds online play into the mix. Teaming up together throughout story mode can be a ton of fun, but there are some caveats. Chiefly, both players share a limited number of credits (lives). Normal allots nine credits, while Hard only grants three. Frankly, that’s not enough for the average co-op team to beat the game with. The number of enemies doesn’t change, which means there is a limited pool of EXP for leveling up as well. As a result, co-op is actually harder than single-player, which doesn’t sit right with me.
That’s where Easy difficulty comes in. It bumps up the credits to 99, making it possible for anybody to beat the game without much pressure. On the other hand, you don’t unlock characters on Easy. See, on Normal or higher, every single defeated enemy and boss gets unlocked for Versus and Arcade modes. Playing on Easy means you’re not making progress in the metagame. Still, it’s a co-op couple’s best shot at having fun together without failing halfway through the game. One more nag: second player doesn’t earn Achievements in local games.
Guardian Heroes HD brings a lot more to the table than just Story mode. Versus Mode supports four players locally or 12 players online. Not only can local and online players mix, but bots may fill out empty spots, making large games more viable. With a total of 45 different playable characters to choose from (after you’ve run through each stage on Normal or above), Versus is inherently unbalanced. But I don’t think anyone expected a 12-player throwdown to be fair. No, you play it for the sheer chaos and spectacle.
HD introduces a new Arcade mode as well. Survival would be a more apt description, since it simply pits the gamer against a huge, unending mix of the game’s enemies in an enclosed arena. Note I say gamer, not gamers, because some crazy fool thought Arcade should be limited to single-player only. Seriously, it would have worked just as well (if not better) as a cooperative experience.
Guardian Heroes HD marks the second of Treasure’s classic Saturn games to be released on Xbox 360 in recent weeks (following Radiant Silvergun). The remake gets so many things right – especially the visual presentation - making a great older game even better. I only wish co-op had received the same attention as the graphics. Forcing players to share a limited number of lives on the game’s real difficulties and not letting them team up in Arcade takes away from an otherwise sublime experience. But my partner and I had a blast running through Story on the Easy difficulty before I settled down to unlock stuff by myself on Normal and Hard. Fans of beat-em-ups and old-school gaming goodness will likely enjoy the journey as well.
The Co-Op Experience: Play through the full story mode as a team either locally or online. With five characters to choose from (the fifth must be unlocked by beating the game on Normal first) and numerous paths to take, co-op has lots of replay value. Just make sure to choose Easy difficulty or your team will likely run out of lives before reaching the end.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.