Publisher The Arcade Crew and developer Joymasher have just launched their latest retro-inspired title Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, an homage to classic 16-bit action platformers like Shinobi III and Hagane: The Final Conflict. The game is a remarkably authentic retro experience that puts the focus firmly on quick, replayable sessions with hidden items and branching pathways. We were particularly enamoured with the game in our review, awarding it a solid score of 9/10; be sure to check that out if you’re interested in adding Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider to your Switch collection.
To learn more about what inspired the game and how its development went, along with the overall role and influence of retro games in modern culture, we caught up with lead developer Danilo Dias and producer Thaís Weiller from Joymasher for a brief chat on the studio’s latest effort.
Nintendo Life: What were your influences for Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider?
Danilo Dias: The direct influences for this game are titles like Mega Man Zero, Strider, and Shinobi. It’s definitely a ninja-focused game, so there’s a lot of Hagane from the Super Nintendo as well. In terms of style, there’s a lot of influence from Japanese Tokusatsu, like Kamen Rider and Kamen Rider Black. Those were a big deal in Brazil when I was a kid, so there’s a lot of that in Moonrider as well.
What kind of challenges did you face during the development of the game?
Danilo: We changed the game quite a bit during the development, it was originally supposed to be more linear, like Dracula X. We wanted to change the game to have a more open style like Mega Man Zero so you can choose the order of the stages that you want to play. That was a challenge, because you have to rethink a lot of the aspects of the game.
Originally, it wasn’t supposed to include so many weapons, so during the development, we had to change everything and put the new abilities and weapons in place. That caused quite a bit of stress for us!
Thaís Weiller: Yeah the game was working in the first prototype and we thought “hey, this might be cool with more stages”, and then you actually put more stages in and think “hmm, maybe not that cool!”. When you already have stages in place, it’s incredibly stressful changing up the main gameplay again. I forgot about that, thank you for reminding me of that nightmare!
Danilo: Yeah we had to change the level layout a lot along with the mechanics, but we thought the original idea was just too simple, so we changed it up to be more open-ended.
How did you approach the design for the boss characters?
Danilo: Well the idea for the bosses was to try and create characters similar to Moonrider who are essentially guardians themselves. The idea was for each boss to have different abilities like in Mega Man and then you would gain these abilities when you defeat them.
You’ve focused a lot on action games so far. Would you be open to branching out into other genres in the future, like RPG for example?
Thaís: I don’t know about RPG, but we’re definitely thinking about what we could possibly work on next. We’re always looking to experiment, and right now, Danilo is currently experimenting with 3D visuals, like from the PlayStation and N64. We’re not just pixel artists, we’re just 20 years late with everything else!
What role do you think retro-style games play in 2023? Why do you think they remain so popular?
Danilo: Well I think it became more of an art style than anything else.
Thaís: Yeah, it became an art style and a genre in itself. Retro games had many limitations applied to them, so they had to be more to-the-point and direct and it makes for a more immediate and direct experience.
We prefer to make short games that can be replayed many times rather than longer experiences. There’s not a lot in our games that gets in the way of the gameplay, like crafting systems or open worlds; there’s nothing wrong with this, but we wanted to try something different.
Danilo: The idea is to try to simulate the arcade experience that older games used to present.
Are there any retro games you’re currently playing at the moment?
Danilo: I’m currently replaying the Armored Core series because of the recent announcement of Armored Core VI. I think Armoured Core was probably the first game I ever played on PlayStation, so I’m replaying everything through again. I might also get inspiration from it for some future projects, maybe!
Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is out now on the Switch eShop. The Arcade Crew has confirmed that a physical release is also on the way, but further details are currently unavailable.