I’ve been playing a lot of retro games lately, so when a game that’s “retro-inspired” comes across my desk to review, I’m always weary. It’s rare for something to come along that both nails the gameplay and aesthetic of a retro game, especially without making too many concessions to modern conveniences. However, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is a rare game that manages to feel authentically retro, and is a love letter to the Shinobi series, and other classic games like Metroid, Mega Man and more.
Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is a retro side scrolling action platformer, most closely resembling the 16-bit era Shinobi games. Mostly. It also has a level selection and boss power-ups that resemble Mega Man. There are also slots for power-ups called “power modules” that can significantly alter gameplay. Add in some Contra-inspired imagery, and Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider ends up being a pretty good retro styled action game.
While Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is mostly a sidescroller, it does have a few other tricks, like the pseudo-3D vehicle segments that would feel at home on Genesis or SNES. Each level doesn’t just lead into the other one, either, as you can choose between the seven areas (including the starting area) in a way that is slightly reminiscent of Mega Man, including bosses that drop power-ups on death.
If I did have a complaint about Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider it would be that it’s a little too easy. Using all of your lives up on a level doesn’t even always put you back at the beginning of that level. There aren’t really any difficulty settings, however, there are items you can find that can make your run more challenging, like the glass cannon module which enables one-hit death. Also, the boss power-ups don’t feel as effective.
I hope developers never stop making retro inspired games because I’ll always love playing them. Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider lets nostalgia do a lot of the heavy lifting, but it turns out that using inspiration from some of the classics can make something that ends up pretty good. It is a little too easy, especially for those who regularly play retro games—and the lack of co-op is really a bummer.
A PlayStation 5 key was given to us for the purpose of this review