I’ve always loved the side-scrolling action titles on platforms like the Mega Drive and SNES, so everything about Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider screamed out ‘PLAY ME’ when I first checked it out. I’m happy to report that it manages to capture the old-school vibe of the classics perfectly too, with the entertaining gameplay and slick visuals ensuring that the golden 16-bit era still lives on.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider sees the world in a desolate state, with an authoritarian state ruling and seizing control over humanity. It looks to further establish its dominance across the world by creating an array of powerful cybernetic warriors to do its bidding, but the plan backfires when the titular Moonrider defies its masters and instead wages war against them. It’s up to you, the Moonrider, to take down your enemies and ensure humanity can thrive in peace once more.

The narrative simply screams ‘90s action game’ to me in so many ways, and I loved it. The game really goes all out in trying to capture the essence of the classic titles of yesteryear across all aspects of its design, with the storytelling fully demonstrating that throughout. Don’t get me wrong, nothing about the game’s narrative ever gets particularly deep, but it adds a neat bit of context to the adventure that perfectly fits the old-school vibe it’s going for.

When it comes to gameplay, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider offers everything you’d expect. Manic 2D levels full of vicious enemies to beat up? Check. Tricky platforming segments that demand you use every trick up your sleeve? Check. Nasty bosses to take down at the end of the level that’ll push your combat skills to their limit? Double-check. It features all of the hallmarks of the side-scrolling action titles of years gone by, so those familiar with the 16-bit era will feel right at home.

“Manic 2D levels full of vicious enemies to beat up? Check. Tricky platforming segments that demand you use every trick up your sleeve? Check. Nasty bosses to take down at the end of the level that’ll push your combat skills to their limit? Double-check.”

The Moonrider is pretty efficient when it comes to killing, with players able to unleash standard a standard combo of attacks, a running slash, and a diving kick from the air, whilst each end-of-level boss you defeat rewards you with an additional powerful ability to use in a similar vein to the Mega Man series. These attacks require a power meter to use, but can be a big game-changer when tackling later levels and bosses. It ensures the gameplay remains varied, with players consistently having something new to pulverise enemies with after each level completion.

Players are also able to upgrade their skillset by using special chips hidden within levels, with each offering enhancements ranging from the likes of being to perform a double jump with the Acrobat Chip, recover your health with each enemy kill with the Bloodlust Chip, or simply increase your attack range with the Longsword Chip – you can even find a Glass Cannon Chip, which actually kills you if you take one hit, so not EVERY chip has to be beneficial. You can only equip two chips at a time so will have to choose what suits your playstyle, but each offers an upgrade that can make a big difference.

It could be argued they make TOO much of a difference, with the right combination of chips making Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider very easy to play through. When you’re constantly recovering health and able to leap across levels fuss-free, a lot of the challenge of the experience is alleviated and can make the game a breeze. It never feels quite as difficult as the old side-scrolling adventures of yesteryear anyway, but these enhancements will completely remove any sense of difficulty for some players. But hey, they’re optional, so it’s up to you if want to use them.

Check out some screenshots down below:

With the solid level design offering an enjoyable selection of platforming challenges and the enemy variety ensuring you’re always kept on your toes, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider offers more than enough to keep old-school loving gamers entertained. The boss fights are a real highlight too, with each one not only looking impressive in appearance, but also demanding more finesse and skill when battling. I’d be remiss not to mention that the game has a super fun motorbike section too, which doesn’t only add an enjoyable change-up to the side-scrolling formula but also fits the slick vibe of the experience.

Add to that the wonderful presentation of the game and you’ll find it hard not to be completely hooked into Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider. There’s plenty of environmental variety, the character animations are fluid, whilst the soundtrack is booming and captures the action perfectly.

I guess the only real thing I could hold against the game was that it plays things a bit too safe. Whilst there’s no doubting that Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is entertaining, it doesn’t do anything players wouldn’t have seen back in the 90s when playing the games that inspired it. Whilst it’s meant to be a nostalgic throwback, maybe mixing in a few modern ideas and innovations to spice things up would have helped the experience feel a bit more unique. It’s also worth noting that, much like those games of the old days, it won’t take long to beat, with my playthrough lasting around two and a half hours.

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider Review

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is a super fun nostalgic throwback to the classic side-scrolling action titles of yesteryear. Everything about it makes it feel like one of the classics you might have played on your Mega Drive or SNES in your younger years, but in that enjoyable and appreciated way that’ll leave a warm fuzzy feeling in your belly. The action is slick, the level design is solid, and it looks fantastic… what more could you want?

It is guilty of being a little bit easy at times and it could be argued that the game could have introduced a few unique ideas, but it’s clear that the developers simply wanted to craft an action-packed experience that’ll remind players of the classics from the 90s. And you know what? They nailed it.

Developer: JoyMasher
Publisher: The Arcade Crew
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Website: https://www.thearcadecrew.com/games/vengeful-guardian-moonrider/