Ask anyone who ever owned a Sega Saturn what their favorite game was, or is, and you will likely get an overwhelming number of responses that cite Guardian Heroes. Treasure’s now-classic beat’em up / RPG hybrid was not only revolutionary, but a ton of fun. Now, 15 years later, Guardian Heroes is back and it has been re-mastered for a whole new generation of gamers. I recently chatted with the brand manager of Guardian Heroes, Ken Balough, to discuss a bit about the legacy of the game and how they think it will fair in today’s market.
Check it out:
Can you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little bit about your role on the Guardian Heroes (HD) project?
Absolutely, I’m Ken Balough and I’m the Digital Brand Manager of Guardian Heroes. My primary role is to work with our talented Production team, in the US, Europe, and in Japan, to create ways we can re-introduce this game back to Treasure and SEGA fans.
There is an entire generation of gamers, actually a couple, who are being introduced to the world of Guardian Heroes for the first time with the new release. Can you tell us a little bit about the game and the world that encompasses it?
Sure. Guardian Heroes is an Action RPG game, like a mixture of Streets of Rage with RPG leveling. Originally released for the Sega Saturn, GH is one of those SEGA gems that many people heard of, but maybe only a few got a real chance to enjoy. The great thing about the Digital space is that we can finally give consumers a second chance at playing these amazing games with our HD treatments.
Now what really stands out HOW the story unfolds, it is totally up to the player. Your band of heroes starts out in a tavern, where you are immediately interrupted by Serena, and former Royal Knight. Soon afterwards you find yourselves running from the law and embarking on an adventure that can range from an earthly to cosmic scope.
It has been 15 years since the game originally launched on the Sega Saturn, what is it about the game that you feel has kept it so popular with fans over the years?
I think it comes down to the fact that it’s such a customizable adventure. The fact that there are different levels, story components, and even endings is pretty compelling, making the game you experience very tailored to the player's choices.
Usually when I play games, there is a very linear story, and once I complete it, there is really nothing more the game is going to offer me; from a story perspective. That’s not the case with GH. You can play the game once, twice, even three times, and the story can change a lot. I think that’s why gamers love it.
Aside from receiving an obvious graphical enhancement, are any other features being added to the game to improve it from the original? What was the biggest challenge with porting the Saturn version of the game to XBLA?
Other elements we’ll be adding are LIVE capabilities and even increasing the Arena Battles to 12-Players now. Usually Saturn games are notoriously difficult to port – but fortunately, working with Treasure, the original developer, made this job much, much easier. I think the biggest challenge was making sure the 12-Player Online worked, but that was it. Honestly it was a pretty smooth project. And from a Marketing side, Treasure is awesome to work with, super easy going and always willing to help.
Since the Saturn didn't sell as well in the US as it did in Japan, is there any concern that the game won't be as widely accepted in America like it is in Japan? Were there any changes in art direction, story, or gameplay that were made specifically for the foreign audiences?
You know, a lot of people have asked that – and I think one of the amazing things is that the SEGA Saturn over the years has sort of reached this mythic level of notoriety. Everyone knows it was there, even if you didn’t own it. And now that generation has grown up and are in a position where they’d like to try these games, because either a) they owned it and loved it, or b) didn’t own a Saturn and want to try it. And for $10, that's a great price to experience something from your childhood.
I guess that was my very long-winded way of saying, yes, I think this game will do great in the US!
As for the rest, we’ve kept it just like the original – we didn’t change anything for the re-release in those areas.
Any chance that the updated version of the game will be coming to more than just the Xbox Live Arcade?
Currently XBLA is our priority, but if we get enough fans requesting more versions...well, you never know.
If this title is well received, what other Saturn games or franchises would you like to see considered for remastering on the current consoles?
Well officially, SEGA has not confirmed any future titles, but on a personal level I’d love to see Shining Force III and Wonder Boy in Monster World re-mastered! I am a huge fan of those franchises. Oh, and X-men vs. Street Fighter.
Is there anything else that you would like fans to know about the new version of the game?
That it’s coming out on October 12th!! And I hope everyone enjoys playing it as much as we did making it.
I would personally like to thank Ken for taking the time to speak with me and to David Martinez for assisting in setting everything up.
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