Vengeful Guardian Moonrider

The Arcade Crew published one of my favorite games of 2022, the absolute masterpiece that was Infernax (developed by Berzerk Studio). So when they tossed me a preview build of Vengeful Guardian Moonrider (this one developed by JoyMasher, the studio behind Blazing Chrome), I couldn’t resist the temptation to dive in whole hog.

While Infernax is best described as “What Dark Souls might have been if it’d been developed for NES,” Vengeful Guardian Moonrider feels like something that would have been released on Sega Genesis in, I don’t know, 1992?

Now, the demo build I played only featured two levels and a brief tutorial. In fact, even those levels, I’m told, are just segments of larger levels from the full game. So I didn’t get a meaty play session or anything (the estimated playtime was 15-30 minutes, but I died a lot and took a lot longer than that to get through the available content). What I did play, though, is shaping up to be a pretty delightful retro throwback that really does feel like it belongs on the Genesis.

Vengeful Guardian Moonrider

This is deliberate, I should point out, as JoyMasher Art Director Danilo Dias explained in a post on the PlayStation Blog. Dias explains:

… I dug deep into the territory of 16-bit games and even some early CD games, and tried to craft an authentic experience, just as if you just found in your basement an unreleased MegaDrive/Genesis game. For that, I for example used redbook style audio and even recorded speech in order to give Vengeful Guardian Moonrider an authentic feel of this era.

And everything about Vengeful Guardian Moonrider seeps that early-90s look and feel. This is true in the H.R. Giger-inspired sci-fi backgrounds to the way the game throws mindless mobs running at you with both the reckless abandon and the kind-of-janky 2D animations you’d expect from an actual Genesis game.

The sound design is remarkably authentic-sounding as well, from the distorted voice effects to the delightful 16-bit soundtrack. These tracks wouldn’t feel entirely out of place in, say, Streets of Rage 2 or The Revenge of Shinobi.

Vengeful Guardian Moon - Acrobat Chiprider

Now, I don’t normally turn on CRT or scanline options when they’re available, but they’re pretty much mandatory in Vengeful Guardian Moonrider. Part of this is because the CRT effect is actually really well-implemented here, but also the normal version can look a little muddy (this is especially true for the in-game text). The graininess of the CRT effect actually sharpens that up and really makes the game’s art direction pop.

I barely dipped my toes into this one before the demo came to an end, but I’m definitely looking forward to spending more time with it when it officially releases this fall.

Disclaimer: I was provided with an early preview build of Vengeful Guardian Moonrider on Steam, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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