Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider takes elements of Contra, Shinobi, and Strider to create what is shaping up to be a lovingly polished homage.

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider Preview – If Contra and Shinobi Had a Love Child

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider takes elements of Contra, Shinobi, and Strider to create what is shaping up to be a lovingly polished homage.

Our look at JoyMasher’s latest, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, was brief: two levels from the upcoming retro-styled platformer from the same folks who made Blazing Chrome, another excellent run n’ gunner in the classic style.

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JoyMasher is obsessed with 16-bit fidelity and that certainly shines through here.

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is the sort of game that would look just at home if it were a cartridge slotted into a Genesis or SNES. The look, feel, and overall design all induce waves of nostalgia for the early 90s. The gameplay is more run n’ slash, as if a ninja were thrown into a slightly different game (say, if a sword-bound Shinobi got stuck in Contra), but it seems to work in our short time with. 

In other words, it’s also taking a hefty influence from Capcom’s classic, Strider.

As a cybernetic ninja woken from a stasis rather violently, you’re thrust into a pixelated 2D landscape of endlessly respawning soldiers, bots, cannons, and other bad things. Armed only with otherworldly agility and a badass sword, your vengeful guardian can slice and dice through anything and even reflect enemy weapon fire back. 

The two example levels were enough for me to get a strong idea of what the final gameplay should represent: this will be something 90s kids are going to really enjoy.

The first level is an enemy-filled tech corridor with plenty of pinpoint jumps, crossing chasms hand over hand, and fits of daring involving Moonrider’s metal-cracking aerial attack kick. It ends with a room-sized boss fight between the ninja and a hulking ghoulish mech with laser hands and a nasty mouth.

The second level is an aerial chase where Moonrider must run and jump across floating airships, avoiding devastating energy attacks from a giant ship looming over the level, while fighting off more basic villains as well. It has the unforgiving classic feel of early platformers, where one false step or missed jump means death. 

All this mayhem is brought to life with hefty usage of Mode-7 like pseudo-3D effects and detailed, if still definitely 16-bit-styled, pixel art. The chiptune soundtrack follows suit, creating a near-perfect replica of the bygone era of the game’s influences.

The actual controls are kept simple for the otherwise challenging gameplay. There’s the sword attack, a special attack that uses energy and can be switched up as the game progresses, jump, and run.

We didn’t get much of a sense of what the special attacks would be beyond a powerful energy punch (no others were available), but Moonrider can wall jump, use his speed for enhanced attack power, cling to walls, and perform other familiar ninja things. 

So far, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is shaping up to be another retro winner, but the full game releases later this fall, so you’ll have to wait a little bit longer. It will be available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, and Amazon Luna. Stay tuned for our full review. 

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Jason D'Aprile
Jason D'Aprile has been writing about games and technology for a very long time. His bylines have appeared on and in countless sites and magazines over the years, including Paste Magazine, Playboy, G4TV, Indie Game Website, UploadVR, Techhive, Lifewire, the Brick Moon Fiction podcast, United Front Gaming, and others he's mostly forgotten about. Jason lives in a house in the woods and does not twit.