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Advance Guardian Heroes
  opened by paleface at 21:09:28 09/26/04  
  last modified by paleface at 02:07:06 09/27/04  
  paleface [sys=GBA; cat=Beat_em_up; loc=NA]
This game is complete Treasure all the way (well, at least through level 2-8, which is where I am now): crazy characters, bizarre and nearly incomprehensible story, unusual and complex controls, nonstop action, massive sprites, and a good deal of difficulty. Also a lot of slowdown, something that certain teams at Treasure seem to relish (see "Buster's Bad Dream," entry 33, for instance).
Does this make for a fun game here? Well, yes... at least, I think so. I'm a little scared of it right now. It's a beat 'em up with RPG elements in that you level up your stats between stages after collecting the right kind of crystals from baddies you've beaten. You start off pretty weak, of course, and the game throws a rather tough one-two boss fight combo at you right away: two hits from the first guy's screen-crossing punch and it's game over (you only have one life in this game). You can continue indefinitely from the last checkpoint, but it gets wearying--so you'd better learn the system, fast.
This wasn't fast for me, and I still don't have it down pat. You have energy which your character uses to block or use magic. You block with R, and this is a button you will be using a lot, let me tell you. Treasure seems to take special glee in throwing a long series of long-range homing attacks right at you (2-8 is especially heavy with these) where it looks like you could dodge, but you can't really, so you just have to reef on the block button and hope you don't run out of block energy. Blocking at just the right time sends projectiles back whence they came, or stuns the enemy in the case of a melee attack.
Once you run out of block juice you are screwed--UNLESS you have some green energy, in which case you hit punch+jump simultaneously and turn into a golden powered-up version of your normal self, moving very fast and recharging block energy rapidly, until you run out of green energy.
I haven't messed around with magic much yet (punch+block), my character is more the melee type--and I don't really see how you could ever have enough energy to spell-cast and block all the stuff they throw at you.
The pacing and controls take a good deal of getting used to as they are not at all intuitive. Just the slightest of taps left or right just before pressing punch, for instance, will have your character do a very slow windup power punch--to do what you usually want to do, namely a chain combo, you can't have been pressing to the side at all. The game has double-tap rushing attacks, but these again take a heck of a lot of windup time. Pretty much everything takes windup time, really, including your down-punch, your aerial kicking attacks, etc. The stages love to surround you suddenly with a horde of opponents, and it is very tricky to attack one direction and then switch quickly to the other, because of the aforesaid windup punch business. I think if you pump your MOBility stat up this gets better, but it is very tough in the beginning and makes the game feel even more sluggish than it is.
Also not helping are the lengthy pauses before you are allowed to take control of your character at the beginning of a stagelet. You can't skip past these or most of the intermittent dialogue cutscenes, you just have to wait while the game takes its own sweet time panning the screen over or something. When you have only one life and have to repeat a sequence over and over, this can get frustrating.
I've already mentioned the long-range homing attacks and the screen-crossing 50% damage punch, and in addition in just the first few stages you will also face bosses who crash into your platform, hurting you unless you time your jump just right, multiple simultaneous beam attacks that cross the entire screen, boulders that fly out of nowhere and nail you right in the head, a stream of energy bullets that keep you constantly stunned and in pain if you're out of block juice. Of course, the answer to that is that you shouldn't be stupid enough to run out of both block and green energy at once, but c'est la vie.
The graphics are... odd. I like the madcap character designs but the spindly style makes many of them just plain hard to see on the small GBA screen. The very lenghty stage 2 takes place on a sort of raft with really flickery mode-7ish stuff going on in the background. And, of course, tons of slowdown throughout. The sound effects are downright weak, and the music is bad.
This is really not a game that is easy to like in the beginning. You can supposedly play two-player co-op, which would probably help the enjoyment factor somewhat. Part of me wants to keep coming back to the game and getting better with the controls and so forth so I can get farther, but what with the troublesome controls and slowdown and so forth, there's every chance that I'll first be seduced by a game that's easier to get into.
  paleface 21:14:14 09/26/04
Download added: raft.jpg (18153 bytes)
  "Part of the very long, slow stage 2. Things fly at you then self-destruct in your face. Whee."
Ah, I forgot to mention the truly bizarre "Devil Mode." When you lose your only life, a weird satanic dude comes along and offers you a period of invincibility in return for your soul. You can either accept or decline. The first time, I declined, and then found that it was Game Over and I had to continue back at the last checkpoint. So the next time, I accepted--and there my character sprung back to life in "Devil Mode," now dressed in black and invulnerable. This lasted for almost an entire stage, then suddenly in the middle of a battle the mysterious stranger appeared again, said time was up, took my soul, and it was game over. Continuing took me back to the checkpoint before I had entered Devil Mode.
So basically they made it so that you don't get an instant continue, but if you want you can see a little farther ahead in the game. Um... were people clamoring for this? I wish there was a way to turn off the option, because you have to skip past it every time you die.
  paleface 02:07:06 09/27/04
Oh, another thing: the game hits you when you're down. I mean that it knocks you down, then hits you again while your character is lying stunned on the ground. You can escape from this if you have enough energy to active your golden super-mode thing, but if you don't: whammo! Fun. This breaks some kind of video game fair-play law that has been around since... forever.
If you want a Treasure GBA game that is a lot easier to enjoy from the get-go, try Astro Boy (see entry 661).
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· raft.jpg

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