WACO, TX (KWTX) –
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I think the genre among all the various genres of video games that is the hardest to stand out in is the retro side-scroller/platformer. Change a little FPS or fighting game and BOOM will instantly stand out from the crowd. Meanwhile, over the past decade, the retro gaming genre has evolved into a specialized niche audience full of crazy and blissfully pixelated 16-bit games that vary in degree of originality. Joymasher, the Brazilian indie gaming duo behind the critically acclaimed Blazing Chrome, is back in the fray with a Genisis-inspired cyberpunk samurai robot cop game whose sleeve effect resembles a badge of honor. But are these influences upfront, or does Moonrider’s DNA bring something more unique to a golden age-style platformer?
The story goes something like this: an unlikely hero in the form of a robotic defender dressed as a samurai tries to fight back against an oppressed world; authoritarian regimes created super-soldiers as weapons of war, but their creators sealed their fate by unleashing a warrior known as the Moon Rider into the net. Moonrider was supposed to be a bushido robocop but says “fuck the police” and goes against his cyber brethren. Not much of it manages to land because this game hits the ground running. The best way to look at this game is as if Shinobi 3 and Mega Man X had a child and let that child play Ninja Gaiden. The recursive level design, which encourages some backtracking, makes enemy encounters more varied than they really are. Each level ends with you fighting a boss and after defeating him you gain his abilities.
Moonrider’s savvy gameplay wears its impact like a fine coat, taking the best adventure games from the golden age like Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden and, as I said, infusing them with a melee-focused version of Mega Man’s upgrade system. The combat system combines several types of slashing, kicking and short-range energy beam, which allows you to effectively cut through enemies in 8 complex and detailed levels. You can really feel the love for the era of genisis games, from how everything feels right down to the fast motorbike racing sections. Enemies’ hitboxes sometimes eluded me, but the variety on display was great for a short two-hour run. The levels even had plenty of reason to explore when the chance presented itself, as there were alternate routes and additional enhancement chips to make your samurai cybercop a lot more intimidating.
The retro aesthetic really shines through in the carefully crafted 16-bit sprites, I really like the design of all the Cyberwarriors you come across and the Moonrider itself looks cool. It hit the explosive treatment of those bike parts especially hard, racing down futuristic highways and destroying bozos on the bikes was a lot of fun. However, the aesthetics do back off somewhat when it comes to the soundtrack. I like the soundtrack, but it feels a lot more modern than most of the rest of the game.
Moonrider is a short walk through a futuristic cyber dystopia, I promise I’ll stop saying “cyber” soon and it’s pretty easy too. Most fights end in one or two hits, and even the bosses offered little to no resistance when my blade cut into their circuits. I would like to stick around a little longer and increase the difficulty because, frankly, when things seem to be the best, the game comes to an end. I think Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is a fun, albeit relatively short, adventure set in an interesting world that never gets high enough to leave a mark. It’s not boring by any means, and I think retro enthusiasts will love it even more for what it borrows, but ultimately Moonrider commits Robo-Samurai’s ultimate sin: being unmemorable. However, if this kind of game is your thing and you want a short and enjoyable adventure game, Vengeful Guardian Moonrider is a worthy choice. I put Vengeful Guardian Moonrider 7. If you are a noble robo-warrior, don’t forget to press the “Like” button and join the warrior group by subscribing. For Hardwired, I was Andrew Hamilton.
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