Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, a rehearsal for JoyMasher's old-fashioned action

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, a rehearsal for JoyMasher's old-fashioned action

Vengeful Guardian

The re-enactment of the glories of 8 and 16-bit is no longer news: the recovery of the videogame forms of the past has now become a trend so established by having now recovered certain genres sedimented as new current proposals. Once the mere nostalgic operation has been put aside, the positive thing is that now what matters is to propose games that are above all valid, not just fascinating exercises in style. JoyMasher seems to have understood the situation, because it is one of the few teams able to go beyond the aesthetic elaboration to recover the truest soul of the classic 2D action, proposing titles faithful to traditions, but also valid to play, regardless of stylistic refinements.

We had already seen excellent results with Blazing Chrome, their previous game, and the sensations derived from this new trial of Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider lead us to hope for the positive also for this work, of which we tested the demo version available thanks to the Steam Next Fest and that we can't wait to play in its definitive form. | SNES / Mega Drive, including jumps, repeating shots and impressive bosses. The game does not yet have a precise release date but it should arrive this fall, so it should be a matter of weeks by now, but in the meantime we have had the opportunity to enjoy a preliminary version that has definitely convinced us.

Something classic

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, the clash with the first boss In an unspecified future, the world is the victim of a totalitarian state that suppresses every voice with the force of a terrible military apparatus. Designed as the ultimate weapon of this oppressive power, Moonrider is awakened in the laboratory, but surprisingly decides to follow his own conscience and turns against his creators, finding himself having to fight alone against a huge super-technological army. Beyond the useless introductory words, just know this: you are in the shoes of a cybernetic ninja warrior with samurai armor, capable of using various highly destructive technological weapons. In short, the premises exude an arcade spirit from the 80s Japanese production, but in this case the inspiration shifts from the militarist atmosphere of Contra that we had seen in Blazing Chrome to the hybrid ones between science fiction and Japanese tokusatsu.

Il the result is a zibaldone reminiscent of Strider, Shinobi, but above all Hagane: The Final Conflict, or a scrolling 2D action game in which the protagonist mainly uses short-range weapons such as blades and melee shots, while not disdaining some special attacks provided by the remarkable technological arsenal installed in the armor. Between enemies, obstacles and platforms, the game requires alertness and understanding of the attack patterns of the enemies, with the challenge reaching its peak in the spectacular boss fights, also designed recalling the classic style of Japanese science fiction, between cyberpunk and samurai.

Action and platform

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider also offers very platform levels The gameplay recalls the classics of the genre, mixing platform elements with pure action, more suited to physical confrontation than to the shooter, following the dictates of the aforementioned Strider or Hagane. The demo allowed you to try only a couple of levels but these already gave an idea of ​​the variety of situations in which it is possible to find yourself, passing from a classic super technological base with cybernetic final boss to a fleet of flying ships on which the protagonist you have to make your way by jumping and climbing.

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is all about the speed of execution and accuracy, because mistakes are paid dearly, even if the protagonist can count on an energy bar that allows a certain margin of maneuver. In the initial stages, Moonrider can use a very fast short-range main attack carried with his sword, or a secondary laser beam style weapon, particularly powerful but limited by the consumption of a bar placed next to the main energy, however they can be glimpsed numerous additional weapons and evolutions that can be applied to the protagonist.

The movements closely resemble those of Strider, with the possibility of walking and jumping at two different speeds (there is a button dedicated to running that also expands the radius of the jumps), hang on to some specific parts of the levels and stick to the walls to perform further jumps from a raised position. To these are added flying kicks and blows in the air, as well as dodging downwards, in practice a complete set of classic moves that allow both a certain variety in combat and a good interaction with the scenarios, which in fact often develop in different directions, with obstacles and pure platforming dynamics.

The pace is obviously fast and exciting, with continuous and fast clashes that require a certain memorization of the attack patterns of the enemies, as befits this type of games, forcing you to alternate different types of blows and defensive movements .

A refined but coherent vintage style

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider proposes sections on motorcycles The graphics of Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, suitably in bitmap, are far from the most pretentious drifts of pixel art: it is simply a full and rather honest recovery of the classic 16-bit stylistic features, obviously with a certain desire for nostalgic re-enactment but without indulging so much in the aesthetic trappings, to stage rather an essential action that looks at great examples of the past. The large sprites are well animated and detailed, within the limits of low resolution, while the scenarios present the classic clichés of the futuristic action genre, with some notable homage to the classics such as some parallax panoramas reminiscent of various 2D shooters. Levels are short enough and focused enough to never give way to boredom, while the bosses are shaping up to be the inevitable climaxes of tension and design, at least as far as we've been able to see so far.

The demo was extremely small, but already in that, as well as in the video materials disseminated, it is possible to notice a certain search for variety in level design and in game situations, between moments on board motorcycles and various vehicles that we had already appreciated also in Blazing Chrome. The technological style adopted then represents a particular mixture of suggestions, combining samurai armor, warriors and ninja weapons as well as a cyberpunk set a lot on the fusion of mechanics and biological organisms, bringing the tokusatsu closer to almost horror influences.

There are brief narrative moments in Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider On the other hand this is also a declared intent by JoyMasher's artistic director Danilo Dias, who has taken as a reference works such as Genocyber, Cyguard, Kamen Rider Black and Hakaider , merging them with Western classics of the most disturbing science fiction. It should be noted that for the graphic style he also cited Keita Amemiya as the main inspiration, making the comparison with Hagane: The Final Conflict particularly fitting. Also on the audio front the fidelity to the 16-bit stylistic features is remarkable, with the classic "synthetic" and thumping rock as well as appropriately distorted and "lo-fi" effects and samples.

The Vengeful Guardian demo: Moonrider it did not last long and left us with a great desire to launch into the full game. After Oniken, Odallus and Blazing Chrome, JoyMasher seem to want to make their mark further on the indie landscape with another heartfelt, honest and well-constructed homage to the classic action of the 16-bit era. Also in this case, beyond the nostalgic re-enactment, you immediately feel the presence of an excellent gameplay to support the project, with the recovery of the classic form of the 2D action platform seen as a vehicle to offer an essential and fun gameplay more than a mere ape that has now become trendy. It remains to evaluate the actual variety of the action and the overall quality given the brevity of the fragment tried, but Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider seems to be a game to keep an eye on if you love the action of yesteryear.


Fun, exciting and challenging like the old action platforms Excellent style that recalls science fiction and Japanese elements There seems to be a fair variety of situations and a good pace DOUBTS To evaluate the longevity and the overall level design The final version will have to have more varied and challenging enemies Have you noticed any errors?

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