Vengeful Guardian Moonrider is a new 16-bit style action title from JoyMasher and The Arcade Crew. It is a throwback in many ways, from its nostalgic visuals to its Final Fight-like sound effects.
But does Vengeful Guardian Moonrider stay true to form and provide a nostalgia overload for fans? Or is this a frustrating SNES-like title that is better left forgotten? Let’s find out!
Vengeful Guardian Moonrider takes place on a desolate world, and yet humanity finds an unlikely hero. After building an army of super soldiers as weapons of war, the authoritarians unwittingly seal their own fates by bringing online the ninja warrior known as Moonrider. Conceived as a tool to preserve the totalitarian state, the Moonrider instead rejects its intended purpose and wages a relentless battle for vengeance against its creators and fellow super soldiers.
This is almost like a reverse Terminator storyline, and I am all for it. Moonrider is an awesome protagonist, and despite being a robot, the intentions are pure and the goal is just. It is wonderful to experience a story that breaks from the traditional mold and does something a little different. I only wish there was a bit more depth to the story, but honestly, I enjoyed this one thoroughly.
The gameplay in Vengeful Guardian Moonrider is very similar to action games back on the SNES. Movement is a bit stiff, controls are relatively simple, and the action is tough as nails. Since there is no difficulty setting or accessibility settings, you will be dying a lot in Vengeful Guardian Moonrider. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for those looking for a casual experience, you may want to stay clear of this one.
After clearing the first level, Vengeful Guardian Moonrider opens up in a Mega Man-like way, where the next six stages open up and can be tackled in any order you wish. And also similar to Mega Man are the powerups that are acquired after defeating bosses, which is a nice homage to an old generation. Acquired powerups also tend to do more damage to certain bosses, so yes, a “best order” is part of the equation, too.
Stages and bosses are quite tough, but thankfully there are modules that you can find within stages that help make things a bit easier. After your first game over, you also receive a module that lessens the damage received, but it also limits your highest grade on the level. Speaking of which, there is a fun and challenging grading system that shows you how well or poorly you did on a stage. This is a lot of fun for those looking for that extra challenge, but unfortunately there are no online leaderboards.
Each stage and boss, again like Mega Man, is themed a certain way, like water-based, in the sky, abandoned ruins, and so on. The areas are super-cool, albeit challenging in their own ways, but the bosses are the highlight. They are all designed wonderfully and provide some sick challenge, especially the first time you encounter them. After a couple rounds, rhythms become apparent, and if you happen to figure out the best powerup to fight a boss, things will go quite smoothly for you.
There are some strange errors here and there, and it is difficult for me to tell if they are “features” to make it feel more like a natural 16-bit title or if they are legit bugs. For example, I experienced a few separate instances where my energy was used up for a powerup but the powerup was not used, basically wasting my energy in the midst of a boss fight or other tense moments. Other than that, though, just some slowdown here and there, but honestly, that all felt like some nostalgia.
Since Vengeful Guardian Moonrider is inspired by the 16-bit era, its graphics and art style is very much something you would find on the SNES system. For me, this title reminded me heavily of X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse on the SNES, especially in regards to its foregrounds, character and enemy designs, and so much more. As a huge fan of the SNES and someone who grew up playing the system, I felt right at home, and it does look amazing all the way through.
The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic and another nostalgic ride. If Vengeful Guardian Moonrider accomplishes one thing, its that it creates a wonderful 16-bit experience through and through. Every stage has an amazing track, and the sound effects that accompany the full game serve once again on the note that this is a title inspired heavily by the early-to-mid 90s era of gaming. I especially love when the bosses speak muffled Japanese before you begin fighting them; another throwback to how voice work was handled during that period.
Vengeful Guardian Moonrider is such an interesting game to release in 2023. It may go under many people’s radar, but this is an awesome experience despite its high difficulty. There is a surprising amount of game here, and the Mega Man homages are incorporated wonderfully, as they are clearly inspired but also unique in its own way.
For the older gamer out there looking for an oldschool challenge in 2023, I cannot recommend this one enough. It has plenty of nostalgic points, a solid and challenging experience, and lots of quality of life improvements to make this modern 16-bit title feel like something new as well.
Get ready to help stop the tyrannical takeover and save the people, despite what your original programming tells you to do. It is the right thing to do, and so is playing this game.
Wonderful throwback to the 16-bit era
Fantastic boss fights
Tough yet fair action
Difficulty may intimidate casual players
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.