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Heavenly Guardian
  opened by paleface at 07:04:10 03/28/09  
  last modified by paleface at 07:57:02 03/28/09  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Shooter_4way; loc=NA]
This game had a strange history. It originally came to my attention as "Yukinkoto Daisenpuu: Saiyuki to Koyukino Hie Hie Daisoudou," aka "Kiki Kai Kai 2" (Kiki Kai Kai games have been brought to the west under the name Pocky and Rocky--see entry 1108). Then it kind of disappeared, and I thought it had been canned...until it suddenly showed up in a few spots in the States as a severe bargain game called "Heavenly Guardian."
According to Wikipedia, in the meantime, the developer, Starfish, had lost the rights to the license, so they had to redo the characters so they wouldn't look Pocky & Rocky-ish. There's also a suggestion that Square Enix, who now owns Taito (I did not know this), objected to the thing, and that's what caused the difficulty. In the end it came out in Japan on the Wii, but not on the PS2, although it somehow ended up here in the States, released by little-known publisher UFO.
Anyway, it isn't very good. It plays a lot like Pocky & Rocky, which means that you're running around a map from a top-down view, shooting largish bullets at an odd assortment of sort of medieval Japanese spirits and ghosts. The character, now an ice princess of some sort, has a little snow creature who follows her around and shoots snow balls at enemies, freezing them. You have a "bomb," which freezes everyone on the screen. If you shoot a bullet through a bunch of frozen guys at once, shattering them all together, you get a COMBO, which I guess gives you more points or something. There are a few different weapons, like rapid shot, tri-shot, and slow homing shots.
It sounds sort of neat in theory but in practice it is slow, and you feel like you're wading through screen after screen of dull enemies (I meant that their designs are boring--like green slime cubes that sort of sit there, and break into smaller cubes when hit...sigh--but they are also just dumb, and will gleefully run into doorjambs) for no real exciting reward. Your character has a large hitbox, and there can be a lot of enemies at once, so it isn't a particularly easy game, but what really makes it frustrating is the very wide-spread checkpoint system, where if you die you may have to redo half the level, and if you continue, you have to redo the whole level. Oh yeah, and the squirrels who pop out of trees right behind you with no warning are pretty darn annoying, too.
Gameplay is pretty weak in parts as well. Most enemies are either extremely lame, and die without ever being a threat, or blockers who just hit you because you're trying to get somewhere and you run into them (I'm impatient), or surprise attackers who pop out of nowhere. Once in a while the screen movement ceases, and you have to wait while a swarm of enemies comes out of some arbitrary spot on screen and swirls around the room a few times before sodding off. Why does this have to happen?
The first boss is another prime example. It isn't very hard to figure out that there's a spot on the screen where this giant skeleton thing's patterns don't hit, so you just sit there shooting him for a while until he finally dies. There is one homing attack of his that will hit you, but you just roll under it once (the roll function seems to be there only for just such an occasion, although come to think of it I should have tried just rolling through an entire tedious level).
Graphics and sound are poor; the game looks something like an old SNES game, but without the sort of lush buxom charm the better games in that era had. Nasty slowdown is common, and sometimes you run across enemies you have to kill immediately in order to stop them from making their horrid sound effect.
It does feel somewhat similar to Pocky & Rocky, and I never liked those games much, so...well I wonder what possessed me to buy this--I guess the fact that it was a "new" 2D sorta old-school shooter, but unfortunately those aren't all good.
· disc.jpg
· Pocky & Rocky 2 (SNES)

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