Preview: Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is a Must-Play for Shinobi Fans

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Perhaps best known for the brilliant Blazing Chrome, developer JoyMasher is channelling the spirit of SEGA’s Shinobi for its next game.

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider launches later this year, but thanks to the upcoming Steam Next Fest you’ll be able to go hands-on with a demo for it soon. And if you’re a fan of 16-bit action games you’ll want to: we’ve been playing the demo early, and it’s left us very impressed indeed.

A side-scrolling action platformer, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider puts you in control of a ninja warrior designed to defend a totalitarian state. But instead of following orders, the Moonrider rejects its intended purpose and fights against its creators and their army of super soldiers. What follows is set to be a riotous journey as you battle through numerous areas seeking vengeance.

The demo we played allowed us to progress through two stages, though in the final game they won’t be quite the same. In any case, they gave us a good idea of what to expect from the game, with a further trailer at the end of the game also hinting at other unique experiences to come.

After completing a tutorial level that let us quickly master the basics, we found ourselves escaping a bio-weapon lab. We quickly dispatched the robotic enemies around us using close range slash attacks, before pushing on to freedom. Along the way, we met a varied range of adversaries, from generic looking super-soldiers to hellish turrets that spewed forth fire.

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A few slashes seemingly take down most enemies, but if you want to mix things up special attacks are also available. In the demo we had access to just the one – a powerful spear-like attack with decent range – but in the final game multiple will be available and you’ll be able to easily switch between them. You can’t spam them though, as their use is tied to a meter.

Aside from standard and special attacks, Moonrider can also make use of his athleticism to deliver aerial kicks that can be combo’d, as well as dashing attacks. Add in traversal manoeuvres such as moving while hanging from bars and being able to kick off walls to reach higher ground, and you have a moveset that should be familiar to anyone that has played a game such as the brilliant Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master.

In fact, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider very much gave us Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master vibes, albeit with a futuristic makeover. As you make your way from left to right, you need to assess the enemies you’re up against and use the appropriate tactics to take them down. But the environment is often as much your enemy as actual adversaries are, thanks to spike pits and other hazards.

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The second level in the demo is a great example of this. Out of the bio-weapon lab, you now find yourself jumping from one flying vehicle to another. And to make matters worse, in one section you’ll be zapped by a powerful laser if you take too long to push forward. It seems like Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is keen to keep you on your toes from one level to the next.

And of course, this wouldn’t be an old-fashioned game without its fair share of boss battles. The demo gave us a taste of what to expect – and we weren’t disappointed. The bosses here seem wonderfully designed, with the one at the end of the bio-weapon lab being fearsome to look at and tricky to tackle until you’ve got a handle on its attacks.

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is set to launch on PC, Switch and PlayStation consoles later in the year, and from what we’ve played so far we think it’s going to be a treat for fans of retro-style action games. It’s got neat visuals, a killer soundtrack, and gameplay that feels intuitive and responsive. Give the demo a try if your PC is up to it. And console gamers: keep this on your radar if you have any love for the likes of Shinobi or Ninja Gaiden.

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider launches on PlayStation, Switch and PC later this year. Wishlist it now on PC via Steam, and play the demo when it launches on 3rd October as part of Steam Next Fest.