Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider Is The Best Shinobi You’ve Never Played

Blazing Chrome developer JoyMasher’s take on the Shinobi formula is pure ninja magic

The latest offering from Blazing Chrome developer JoyMasher, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, is a love letter to classic 16-bit ninja games like Sega’s Shinobi and Hudon’s Hagane: The Final Conflict. It’s poised to slash its way onto consoles and PC this Fall. However, I recently had the chance to go hands-on with the upcoming Steam Next Fest demo to see what it’s all about. After slicing and dicing my way through the first two stages, I can confidently say that Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is shaping up to be nothing short of ninja magic.

Before hopping into the game proper, I decided to dust off my ninjutsu skills with a brief tutorial. Set within the confines of a computer simulation, it showcases the fundamentals of being a rogue cyborg ninja hell-bent on crushing a totalitarian near-future state. If you’ve ever played Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master before, you’ll feel right at home with Vengeful Guardian Moonrider, as the two games seem to share a common DNA.

You’ve got a default sword slash that can be chained into a three-hit combo. Additionally, double tapping the forward button or pressing the right trigger performs a dash, which can be paired with the attack button to deliver a powerful running attack that can cleave most common grunts in half with a single mighty blow. There’s also a drop kick. This attack is especially handy as, when timed properly, you can bounce off of your target repeatedly. You can even wall jump to make your way up narrow shafts nimbly.

Again, the comparisons to Shinobi III are unavoidable. But given that game is considered by fans to be the gold standard of 16-bit ninja games, you won’t hear me complaining. But that’s not to say that’s the only place from which Vengeful Guardian Moonrider draws its inspiration. You also obtain modifier chips that unlock powerful sub-weapons which deplete a bit of energy, represented by a blue bar next to your health meter, when used. While the game promises a variety of these abilities, the demo only gave me access to one: a powerful short-range blast of energy that was perfect for punching through the defenses of shielded enemies or dealing heavy damage to bosses.


After wrapping up the tutorial by reducing a wireframe Oni mask to twitching pixels, it was onto the main event. Vengeful Guardian Moonrider‘s first stage begins with you exploding out of a stasis chamber and murdering your creators. After that, you’ll make your way through a bio lab teeming with heavily-armed soldiers, enemy ninjas, and weird meat-and-metal abominations that spew torrents of flame from their mouths.

As you’d expect from the first stage, none of these enemies are particularly lethal. Still, you’ll need to pay attention when dispatching them, as the stage is littered with hazards such as electrified spikes and moving platforms you’ll need to navigate as you work your way through the facility to reach the first boss battle.

And what a battle it is! Once again showing JoyMasher’s fondness for Konami’s long-running run-‘n-gun series, this encounter pits you against a mutant that looks like a Giger-esque version of Contra III: The Alien WarsBig Fuzz. Timing is everything here, as this monstrous foe is only vulnerable while attacking. I started by hacking at its massive metal mitts when its palms were exposed. After a few well-placed special attacks, they’d explode in a massive geyser of blood. Quite literally disarmed, it was time. to move onto the mutant’s mug. Once it opened its maw to spew lasers in a circle around the arena, I proceeded to deliver a volley of bouncing drop kicks, finishing it off before I even touched the ground.

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider‘s second stage takes us from the depths of the labs and into the wild blue yonder. Here, you’re tasked with leaping across Asura’s fleet, high above the clouds. Not only do you have to contend with some tricky precision platforming in the stage, but you’ll also be harassed by hovering drones, massive turrets, and rather annoying ninjas with massive shuriken that can deflect all but your most powerful attacks.

After scaling the bottom of an enormous airship and dodging the flames billowing from its afterburners, the action really heats up. Lasers begin to rain from the sky, obliterating any ships unlucky enough to find themselves beneath your cyborg’s feet. It’s a mad dash, for sure. Thankfully, if you happen to miss a platform, your only penalty is a bit of lost health as you reappear atop the last platform you found yourself on. Given just how much of a soul-crushing experience Blazing Chrome could be, I found this a small but very welcome mercy from the folks at JoyMasher.  Sadly, this mission ended abruptly as I sprinted across the tarmac of a giant airship towards a mysterious crimson kunoichi and what I assume would have been the game’s second boss encounter.

My time with the demo was short but sweet, clocking in at just shy of 20 minutes. However, even from that brief time, it’s plain to see that JoyMasher and The Arcade Crew are cooking up something special. With its pixel-perfect presentation and razor-sharp gameplay, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is sure to please fans of Shinobi, and retro-style action platformers, in general when it lands on consoles and PC later this year.

Dying to fight the system yourself? If so, don’t fret. You’ll be able to download the demo for yourself during the Steam Next Fest on October 3rd.

Frank has been the caffeine-fueled evil overlord of HeyPoorPlayer since 2008. He speaks loudly and carries a big stick to keep the staff of the HPP madhouse in check. A collector of all things that blip and beep, he has an extensive collection of retro consoles and arcade machines crammed into his house. Currently playing: Chorus (XSX), Battlefield 2042 (XSX), Xeno Crisis (Neo Geo)

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