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Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider Will Quench Your 2D Action Ninja Bloodthirst

Platform(s): PC (version reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PS4
Genre: 2D action ninja platformer

If you fondly miss 16-bit fast-paced action games like Shinobi 3, Hagane, and Run Saber, the two-man developer group Joymash will sort you out with 2023’s first-ever arcade offering that slaps and slashes.

Flip Out & Kill People

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is about a rogue robot guardian who goes on a hunt for evil, helping out the in-game’s rebellions against the oppressive government and its other guardians. The titular Moonrider plays like a 90s action ninja hero: he runs, has a 3-hit combo sword slash, a running slash that’s very useful once you get the gauge of its distance and reach, has wall jumps, and has ninja divekicks.

In fact, developer Joymash’s love for 90s 16-bit action games like Super Shinobi (specifically part 2) and Hagane is so apparent here, you’d swear Moonrider is the amalgamation of both Joe Musashi and Hagane. themselves. He plays exactly like the two, only with less shuriken ammo and rapid-fire properties. See, the only way Moonrider can chuck projectiles is by killing one of the Mega Man-esque bosses by tackling their respective themed levels: water plant, forest area, lost ruins with demons residing underneath, the usual. After defeating them, he steals their powers that you can use as much as you want as long as you have mana available.

Moonrider also has collectibles in the form of chips. They give him new abilities you can swap out for each stage playthrough, be it a double jump, a secret area locator, or a modifier that turns you into a glass cannon (one hit and you’re dead). These help make the game either easier or brutally hard just for kicks. Each stage you complete will bestow you a ranking; the faster you complete the stage and the less hits you take, the better your score. This is a great incentive for me to replay levels and be the best cyber shinobi in Moonrider, with each challenge and boss being tough but fair, only requiring memorization and reflexes to conquer. The stages too are laid out in a linear yet fast-paced fashion, with lovely-yet-muted backdrops and sights for the eyes. From the cityscape to the detailed demon in the aforementioned ruins, there’s a lot of material to make desktop wallpaper from if you’re a connoisseur of 2D pixel art.

The Secret Of Shinobi? Add Dive Kicks!

The only crime Moonrider has committed is that it left me wanting more of the action and genre. 90s action titles starring ninjas/samurais/hybrid-of-the-two have distinct controls and feel, and Moonrider captures that to a tee, especially with its speed and plethora of attacks and skills on tap. I just wished there were more stages for me to test my skills on, but I understand that adding more means a bloated title from two developers who are making this game. Thus, I can’t be too hard on this awesome effort that bore amazing results. Still, I hope to see a future update where we get a boss rush mode and a couple of modified levels, or even new ones down the line.

Believe me, when the only flaw of your game is that you want way more out of it, that’s a sign stating that your core design and gameplay have stuck their proverbial landings. Much like the graceful yet homicidal cyborg ninja you control who is about to plant his foot through someone’s mind.

Pros

  • Well-made tribute to 90s action games like Shinobi 3.
  • Lovely pixel art and music.
  • Action-packed fast-paced levels and combat that encourage multiple playthroughs

Cons

  • Could use varied bosses.
  • Short, and leaves fans wanting way more.

Final Score: 80/100

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