(Activision for the PlayStation)
by Eric Johnson
Budget tight, deadlines short, and imagination deprived, the creators of Guardians Crusade must have thought they were being really clever when they ripped off Pokemon, jacked up the virtual pet element and released it for the PlayStation. The protagonist of this title is a young Knight who is sent on an errand and manages to venture across a pink barbapoppa with rabbit ears named Baby. You see: the stork delivering Baby to the tower of god was attacked by demons and Baby must be delivered to the tower or dire things will happen and evil will run amok. In the meantime, the Knight must get into fights with giant pink floating sperm, and as time goes on, Baby can learn to assist in these confrontations. The relationship between Baby and the Knight is central to the game; the creature has an opinion of the Knight based upon the relationship he has cultivated with it. If you praise Baby and give it snacks, it will love you and perform favors. If scolded, starved, and overworked, Baby will despise, resent, and actually turn on you.
Initially, this is an intriguing idea, but this is an exceptionally long game with virtually no action or storyline capable of breaking through the tedium. Not helping the matter is the vast, nearly featureless, landscape in which the game takes place; everything literally looks alike. Lacking a decent map, the majority of the game is spent wandering around the countryside tracking down the next person or town that will advance the plot, but because everything looks the same, this is a confusing and repetitive task. The coma-inducing turn-based fighting system, common to role-playing games but sorely inappropriate here, puts the last nail in the coffin – watching the Knight trade blows with whatever prancing monstrosities the game serves up next is a truly excruciating experience.
Gameplay and setup are exactly like Pokemon, a Game Boy title for grade school kids that actually whips this game’s ass because it utilizes dozens of Baby-like animals rather than just one. Like Pokemon, most of this game is played from an overhead view that switches to the dreaded turn-based square-off when an enemy is confronted. Character control is totally irrelevant, since there is nothing in the game that must be done quickly. The graphics are just a step above Sega Genesis quality, the characters little more than stick figures and bubbles. The sound effects are terrible, the music is of the whimsical mall loudspeaker variety, and there is no voice over; which results in shitloads of reading. The whole title seems spawned from the baffling, “Hello Kitty, doe eyed, saccharine treats for children just growing out of the Barney phase” wing of Japanese popular culture. Ironically, this is a kid’s game which no child could possibly possess the patience to complete. The FDA has never encountered a substance that will make this game enjoyable to anyone over eleven years old.