In the far reaches of space, some being made their home on a great space station, not unlike the Death Star, which was called NAJU. One day, it became overrun with evil life forms. As the residents were wiped out, one of them recalled that he had seen every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as all the movies. Thus, he knew exactly what to do. He had to engage the station's self-destruct program. Do do this, he had to break ten seals placed throughout the station.
But he failed.
Now, NAJU is headed for Earth. But Earth's scientists also knew exactly what to do. Where Captain Picard's methods failed, the Transformers will succeed! And so a robot that can transform into a space fighter has been sent to NAJU to blow it up. Oh, and the robot is a woman. In a bikini. She is called the Guardian. This is her legend.
The Guardian Legend has a fascinating concept. Much of the game is spent wandering around inside NAJU screen by screen, Zelda style, exploring, defeating enemies and minibosses, gaining power-ups and weapons and experience. Throughout the station, however, are "corridors." When you enter a corridor, you transform into spaceship mode, and the game becomes a vertically-scrolling space shooter. The corridors are the meat of the game, as these are where the bosses are kept, and these are also how you break the seals on the self destruct mechanism. You will also get keys for completing them, and the keys let you access the rest of the NAJU. It's like The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past, except there's shooters instead of dungeons, and keys instead of items necessary to open the way forward.
I meantioned power-ups and weapons and experience. Each enemy you destroy gives you points, and at certain plateaus, a bar is added to your life meter. And there are also items to be found either lying around NAJU, in stores (run by round creatures called Landers), or for defeating minibosses or completing corridors. The items are as follows:
Blue Lander - Increases your life meter by one.
Red Lander - Increases the maximum number of chips you can carry (more on this later).
Rapid Fire - Increases your weapon's rate of fire.
Shield Up - Increases your defense.
Attack Up - Increases your weapon's power.
There are also lots of alternate weapons, each of which has three levels of power, increased by obtaining the item multiple times.
I meantioned chips. Chips are multi-purpose things. You can find them lying around, and frequently get them from defeated enemies. As I said, Red Landers increase your maximum. When you have certain numbers of chips, your weapon widens. There are four levels of weapon width, ranging from a single stream to a stream of four shots with a width equal to the Guardian's height. Chips are also ammo for your alternate weapons. Each shot uses a certain number of chips. It varies from weapon to weapon, but the HUD helpfully does the math for you, displaying the number of shots of the selected weapon your current chips can power. And if that wasn't enough, chips are also the currency the big Landers use to sell you things. And collecting chips refills a bar or two of your life meter. In fact, collecting any item refills a bit of life. This on top of the fact that there are also hearts and power tanks dropped from defeated enemies for the sole purpose of refilling life. It really is marvelous.
By the way, it's worth noting that The Guardian Legend is something of a spiritual successor to another NES game called Zanac. That game is a pure vertically-scrolling shooter, in which you have access to several different secondary weapons, many of which reappear in The Guardian Legend. Even the method for obtaining them (blasting open ground-based pods to release a floating icon) is the same.
The whole concept is cool. Dungeon crawler combined with vertical shooter featuring hot female Transformer? Why yes, thank you.
Graphics and sound are just fine.
The "chip" mechanic is a work of brilliance. They dictate weapon spread, serve as ammo and currency, and refill life when collected. All in a single item. I love it.
Though they aren't usually necessary to use, there is joy to be had from the eleven different weapons you can use to slaughter foes. And it's not like some of them can be used to break special blocks or something. They all serve one purpose: kill enemies. Oh, except you do need to use one to open a corridor, but that isn't its primary use.
The map system is almost perfect. When you get access to an area, it is immediately added to your map. The map shows your location and the locations of active corridors. And the HUD gives you the X and Y coordinates of where you are, for easy reference. The only complaint you can realistically have is that the map doesn't show which rooms you have been to and which ones you haven't, which is a bit of a pain, but nothing serious.
There are a total of 23 corridors in the game, numbered (in the order you encounter them) 00 (approaching NAJU), 11, 01, 12, 02, 13, 03, 14, 04, 15, 05, 16, 06, 17, 07, 18, 08, 19, 09, 20, 10, 21 and 22 (escaping NAJU). You will get an Attack Up after corridors 01, 03, and 20. By contrast, you will get Shield Ups after corridors 02, 13, 04, 05, 06 (two of them), 08, 19 and 09. You start with one of each, so by the end, your attack power will be at four, and your defense will be at ten. And the maximum is seven; the last three Shield Ups don't count. Doesn't seem fair. My theory is that the six Rapid Fires you get over the course of the game are supposed to balance it out, and it does to some extent, but once you've got all your Rapid Fires (the last one should be between corridors 06 and 17), you still have seven corridors to complete before you get another Attack Up. During which time you'll be getting three more Shield Ups that you can't use. As Shield Up after Shield Up is thrown at you with no offensive increases in sight, it's easy to get frustrated. Especially since...
In the corridors, this game loves to throw slow moving enemies that take a hojillion hits to kill at you. These things will happily float after you, while you try to keep them in front of you so you can shoot them. The thing is, while they're in front, they're blocking your shots so you can't hit other enemies. Especially in corridors 19, 09, 20 and 10, where the enemies they are shielding are shooting exceedingly powerful lasers at you, that is a huge pain in the ass. That's what'll really have you wishing for more Attack Ups. Also annoying are the bosses whose projectiles can be destroyed, which means that their projectiles will be shieding them from your attacks. The boss of corridor 02 is the poster child for this, though you get a taste of it with the boss of corridor 00.
TIPS & TRICKS
Enter the password TGL and leave the rest of the spaces black to enter a version of the game which excises the dungeon crawling. It's just all the corridors in order. They helpfully give you some of the power-ups you'd be getting from inside NAJU between corridors after each one, but not all of the power-ups you deserve. In particular, they're very skimpy with the Rapid Fires, Attack Ups and Shield Ups. And though you get some points between corridors too, it's questionable whether you get the same number you'd get from killing enemies in NAJU, which means your life meter might not be as long. That makes things a lot more difficult. Particularly the boss of corridor 03, which fires projectiles that reduce your life by more than half in your unshielded state.
Hold down A and B, and hit Reset to enter the sound test.
In the first room, press select to go to your subscreen, then press and hold select. As you press B to scroll through the message you get in that room, you'll find that you can continue scrolling through all the messages in the game.
In researching this, I found that something new has been discovered recently. While NAJU's map is built on a 24 by 24 grid, the password system accomodates coordinates within a 32 by 32 grid. Thus, there are two passwords which allow one to access completely fucked up, yet not entirely random areas of the game. They are not easy areas to navigate, as there are frequent occurences of rooms with no exits that simply trap you, but it is available. The passwords are these:
3stG 0gBG XYRF UMdE
RAtD OIHD nkQC IcJA
(The first circle is a zero, the second is a capital O, and all the vertical lines are capital Is as opposed to lowercase Ls.)
wMfY scfL qwSC nc0K
6YeM hoxI WGpM mI7F
(The circle is a zero, and the vertical lines are capital Is.)
For more information on this (and there's a ton), look at the "Lost Frontier FAQ" by zoogelio from this page.
This game is a pure gem.
Thumbs up for The Guardian Legend.
You fish will all be my bitches. Unless you escape off the top of the screen.
One of the rare Attack Ups.
Red Optomon. For my money, the hardest boss in the game.
Seriously, do the Attack and Shield levels seem balanced to you?
Why thank you. I guess I... wait... Was the Guardian really an anime chick in armor?!
Metroid called. They want their ending back.