The MSX has a strange reputation in the US. I’ve always neglected it myself. Most of its big hits saw release on the NES–some for the better, others for the worse. Combining this with the fact that it never made its way to the US has lead me to view it as a vestigial organ, an oddity that seemed (somewhat) superfluous. Luckily, I’m starting to change that thanks to SCROLL‘s giant, super informative “Introducing MSX” issue, and curious games like Compile’s Guardic.
Guardic is a prequel, or, spiritual precursor, to the NES cult classic The Guardian Legend. (If you want to get technical about it, Guardic is the middle entry in a trilogy with Final Justice and Blaster Burn. And in Japan, The Guardian Legend is called Guardic Gaiden.) It was released in 1986, two years before The Guardian Legend, and definitely plays like it. Few Americans will play this before The Guardian Legend and that’s unfair. Both the shooting and exploration aspects of the game are there in Guardic, but in their lowest common denominator form. The shmup sections are played out on a single screen (like Galaga or Space Invaders) and travel is done by choosing which direction–some combination of up, left, or right–to exit. The map is huge, take a look at it here, and you’ll soon realize that even with it, Guardic is one of those old PC games that set the difficulty so insanely high, you’d have to bash your head against it for hours a day and weeks on end to properly finish it without the help of save states.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play it! There’s something to be said about the simplicity of the game. You’re either shooting or navigating, never both at the same time. The bite-size chunks of the single screen levels keep you from ever feeling overwhelmed, an emotion I’m sure most players of The Guardian Legend are quite familiar with. Also, the game is on iOS for free (free!), though I will admit the lack of a tangible controller had me running back to an emulator rather quickly.