App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Anyone old enough to have played pretty much any fondly-remembered classic RPG back in the days when people still counted bits will undoubtedly feel right at home in Guardian Saga's world. It draws heavily (heavily) from Old School favorites like Dragon Warrior while refining a few not so fondly-remembered elements. Crafting an experience that feels genuinely "classic" but without all the irritating aspects we tend to forget were in older games after 15+ years. In short, 9thBitGames done good.
Guardian Saga tells the story of a young knight charged with, what else, saving the world. In this particular instance, he has to give the world's elemental guardians a kick to the rear so that they'll get back to work and suppress all those dark entities that have started popping up all over the place. It's a mission filled with walking, random encounters, level grinding and even a few side quests. Classic stuff.
On the surface Guardian Saga may not look like much, but the faux 8-bit visuals do a great job of selling the illusion of Old School. I especially love the detailed monster designs, which bring a surprising amount of personality to a bunch of static images. The music is also suitably retro, with plenty of specially sequenced beeps and boops that sound as though they could have been composed in the 80's on whatever it was game soundtrack composers used to use back then. Dare I say, some of it is even catchy.
The downside to making a retro RPG is that a lot of the more contemporary luxuries we take for granted weren't around back then (i.e. checkpoints, lots of money, items up the wazoo, etc...). So while Guardian Saga and games like it scratch the nostalgia itch, they also tend to be a bit... unfriendly. What I mean is, this can be a tough game. Especially starting out. Towns (the only real places to heal up and save) tend to be few and far between, and wandering too far off the path can lead to a desperate slog back to safety with a sliver of health and even less hope. There is a quick save option that creates a temporary file (which is deleted upon loading) anywhere and at any time, but it's only useful as an extended pause feature. Grinding can help to offset some of the difficulty, but that leads to a half hour or more of playing The Walking Left & Right Game.
As long as a player knows what they're getting in to, which is to say a very old-fashioned RPG, I think they'll enjoy Guardian Saga immensely. It does classic right. Just be mindful of the volume in crowded places as many of the "sound effects" are almost too Old School.