Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider Review

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider by developer JoyMasher and publisher The Arcade CrewSony PlayStation 5 review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider by JoyMasher and The Arcade Crew is a side-scrolling action platformer channeling the golden age of classic 16-bit action games in a refined full-throttle quest for revenge. With crisp and clean controls, this short and fast paced adventure won’t leave you with much downtime as you race through multiple stages as a cybernetic ninja death machine.

What originally drew me to Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider was the Ninja Gaiden-esque feel to it. Having enjoyed the originals as tough as they were when I was younger, and still to this day not being able to get through even the revamp of Ninja Gaiden Sigma… it’s embarrassing I know… I thought that this would be my chance to redeem myself a bit. What I didn’t know was that while channeling that awesome nostalgic 16-bit era of gameplay, this adventure would have a lot in common with Capcom’s Mega Man X series.

Split between a tutorial and the main adventure, the tutorial will teach you everything that you need to know. Walking and running, jumping and wall jumping, and finally attacking enemies with your sword or secondary abilities. What’s neat about the sword attacks that worried me a bit with so many ranged enemies is that Moonrider can slash through a lot of these projectiles. Some still need to be dodged while others can actually be parried back to the source which is great for those enemies out of reach. Finally an adventure that doesn’t penalize you for being melee based!


Where the parallels get drawn with Capcom’s Mega Man X series, is that you are given a little bit of story, and then you are given several stages to select with more story sprinkled throughout. These stages can be selected in any order after the initial stage, and for every stage completed, you get an ability from the boss you defeated. While the concept itself is obviously nothing new as the original Mega Man himself dates back to the late 80s, it’s easy to make it their own and JoyMasher have definitely done that here.

The stage designs themselves are neat and feel independent from one another in their challenges. In most cases, the stages are direct A to B paths from the beginning of the stage to the boss, but some have some slight options as to whether you want to go one way or the other. On that note, you’ll definitely want to check out both routes which can most often be done in the same gameplay session as hiding high and low are upgrade chips to improve Moonrider’s fighting capabilities.

The use of upgrade chips was neat. Only being able to equip two at a time, these chips offer the ability to:
-    Increase your hit points over time,
-    Add in extra armor but at the cost of only being able to get a “B-rank” on your stage evaluation,
-    Increase your attack power for each enemy defeated
-    Double jump <- My favorite as it made a lot of areas so much easier!
-    And plenty more


And the best part is that you can install them on pickup. You don’t need to worry about going back to the stage selection screen to do so. If you want to modify your loadouts then yes, you’ll have to either finish the stage or call it quits, but otherwise it was nice to have.  

Finally, there’s one feature that I want to praise but it leads into something that I had an issue with. As mentioned, all roads will lead to the bosses, but first you’ll have to make your way through the mid-bosses which are numerous through each stage. Most of these mid bosses can be downright terrifying at times and in any other game? Could almost be bosses in their own right. Their challenge rating is appropriate and there’s a sense of “yeah, I did it” for most of them which is why it’s a bit disappointing that most of these are harder than the actual stage bosses.

Stage bosses are supposed to be badass and the hardest part of any stage. Sadly when it comes to Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, just about all of the bosses short of the final one will take no more than a few seconds to dispatch. The main reason as you can often get one or two full sets of combo hits before even counting on some of your special abilities. Add in either your default overpowered ability or that of a specific boss which launches a giant otherworldly tentacle making me think of H.P. Lovecraft, and that’s it. You win and you get to move on.


On a final note, while Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider may only take two to three hours depending on your skill level, there is a bit of replayability. The upgrade chips mentioned above also act as collectibles and it’s entirely possible that you missed a few. So going back and exploring to find them is always an option as some may have even been out of reach without being able to double jump at that point in time. The other element of replayability is the stage grading which comes in a letter format and I’m not proud to say that I got several C’s and D’s before finally getting into the proper flow for A’s and B’s while working on the S’s.

Summary

Overall though, JoyMasher and The Arcade Crew’s Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider was both challenging and fun. Channeling that golden age of classic 16-bit action games really shines through alongside some modern elements to keep up the pace as you run, hack & slash your way through this world.

Score: 8 / 10

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