|System: NES||Developer: Compile|
|"Game of the Month" is dedicated to giving some extra special attention to games that deserve a second look. They could be "lost classics": games that never truly got the attention they deserved or that few people know about. Or they could be well-known, popular classics that are worth remembering. In any case, my first "Game of the Month" feature turns the spotlight on The Guardian Legend. Although I owned this game for a few years, I only recently beat it. Although it seems to have a "cult" following on the internet, TGL wasn't one of the most popular NES games when it was released, which is a shame really, because it's such a damn good game! Created by Compile (the makers of Zanac, Blazing Lasers, MUSHA, Power Strike, Space Megaforce, and other fine 2D shooters), produced by IREM (makers of the legendary R-Type series, as well as Image Fight and Kickle Cubicle), and published in America by Broderbund Software, The Guardian Legend is a fantastic mix of overhead shoot-em-up levels and Zelda-style adventure stages.|
|The idea behind Guardian Legend is that a mysterious planet called "Naju" is on a collision course for Earth. You, as the Guardian, must fly to Naju and blow it up from the inside before it can destroy the planet. (Yes, TGL had this plot long before Final Fantasy 7, Zelda: Majora's Mask, or the movie Armageddon.) The Guardian is a female human (or perhaps a cyborg?) who can morph between her humanoid figure and a spaceship. While in human form, the Guardian walks about the interior hallways of the planet, fighting enemies and searching for power-ups. Upon arriving on Naju, you learn that most of its inhabitants have been destroyed by the bizarre mutant lifeforms that evolved and took over. You'll also discover that many passageways are blocked off, and the only way to access them is by finding special keys. These keys are often held by big bosses that must be defeated before you can gain them.|
And that's where the shooter stages come in. Once you find a Corridor (and, in some cases, solve a puzzle to open it), you'll leap in and morph into spaceship mode for some fast and furious aerial battles at high-scrolling speeds! The special weapons and power-ups you earn in the adventure portions will come in handy here, as there is often way too many enemies and bullets on-screen to possibly dodge. As is the Compile tradition, some of these stages are incredibly long (though never boring), and you'll always fight some huge boss at the end. Some of these bosses can be very easy if you know how to deal with them (like Terramute and the Bombarders), but others, like the Optomons and Grimgrin, will be a real test of your skills! Even if you master The Guardian Legend, the game has a harder secret mode in which you play through only the shooter levels. Finally, as you can see from these screenshots, TGL has very crisp graphics, and it also has a fairly decent soundtrack.
If you like action, adventure, and challenge, then the Guardian Legend is a game you won't want to miss. If you're a collector of NES games, I highly recommend adding it to your collection.