One of my favourite modern retro shooters in the last few years was Blazing Chrome, granted I was utter garbage at it, I just wanted to keep going. It’s that kind of design, just one more go as you know you can get through it, that lured me right to Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, the new title by JoyMasher the devs of the afore mention Blazing Chrome. Do they have another 90’s styled classic on their hands?
Where Blazing Chrome went through the Contra/Probotector route, Vengeful Guardian feels much more like Strider, with maybe a bit of Shinobi and Hagane. That tough melee focused action with some challenging platforming thrown about to keep you on your toes. There’s also some motorbike levels which also feel like you’ve been put right into them auto scrolling Probotector levels on the Megadrive. It’s an absolute love letter to those gems.
Anyway our mission sees the world ravaged by riots and political scandal. The Moonrider has been created to defend the dictatorship along with it’s fellow bots, yet in its creation Moonrider rejects the programming and wants revenge on those who’ve created him. The story is told through some simple retro styled cut scenes, with scenes of small animation, and minimal text, from outset Moonrider is shown as a graphic adult adventure with lots of violence in these cutscenes and throughout. Before each boss fight in the game we’re given more and more exposition these help move the story along, and are met with a wonderfully scratchy voice sample, very typical of whenever a Megadrive tries to render similar. Everything here feels right in place, levels can be played in any order too, so the story isn’t pigeon holing you into going about a certain route.
Levels also give a good amount of variety of locales in them, in a very typical respect. With the game being a more sci-fi adventure, you’ll be fighting through bio labs and science facilities, these also do play quite differently. Where some levels you can be fighting a submarine underwater in some ruins, or jumping between crafts above the clouds, Moonrider gives you the right amount of variety in a genre that can be sometimes very plain and repetitive. These levels as well as being nice and varied offer a good amount of exploration within them too, with most levels having some additional power ups to obtain, these will be things like double jump, HP regeneration, etc. But there’s a lot of obtain and you’ll be able to equip 2 of them per level, so you can mix these up as you progress.
The game offers a strong enough challenge for those who sailed through Blazing Chrome, or other similar titles. Though for those who like myself struggle through the tougher levels, the devs have a clever way of bringing the difficulty down, in the form of a single pick up. I’ll let you find out yourself about this but it will hinder your ability to get a perfect playthrough score, which if you like the game enough you’ll probably be playing again anyway.
Combat feels great, melee attacks often feel weak in a lot of games, but Moonrider gets it almost perfect, with a good array of attacks and combos. There’s a mp gauge which can be used for focused or special attacks, these are usually obtained from a previous boss or encounter and will be similar to one of it’s attacks. These can be life savers in the middle of a tough battle.
So as you’ve got a good arsenal of attacks, best we talk about what you’ll be using these on. Enemies come in all shapes and sizes in levels, these can be your usual combat troops who’ll try to gun you down, or they’ll be Terminator inspired turrets where a giant skull will try to torch you constantly. There’s even some Giger inspired bosses which look like they’ve been ripped right out of some euro developed amiga game. The hardest challenges will come in the form of the boss fights, and the main ones you’ll fight will be similar shape and build to Moonrider, as his colleagues are your main foes in the game.
Moonrider offers an excellent audio suite, with a huge array of retro inspired tracks, full of pumping beats, which all fit perfectly to the challenges ahead of you, weapons and general sound fx, again also sound great, and the previously mentioned audio samples sound intentionally perfect.
Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is an excellent adventure and a good enough challenge for players of all abilities. Challenging enough to be an actual challenge, but never too tough that you’re frustrated. Feels like a tour de force of retro inspired action