Also available on 3DS
Guardians and Metal Exterminators was one of the final games released for the 3DS when it launched (for good after some technical issues had it briefly delisted) back in January 2023. Another excellent entry in the Silver Falls series from one-man-show studio Sungrand, Guardians and Metal Exterminators has been given a breath of new life as it makes a remastered and expanded re-release on Switch, now sporting an "S" at the end of the title (for Switch, obviously). The bulk of the game is the same as on 3DS albeit prettier and with smoother performance, but there are some key additions and changes.
Guardians and Metal Exterminators is a bit of an odd duck in that the "main" game modes only make up like 5% of the content in the game. Game A and Game B are designed to emulate the old Tiger Electronics handheld LCD games. They're simple score chasers with shallow but addicting gameplay. Unless you're a serious score chaser, they're unlikely to hold your interest for more than five or ten minutes here or there. That said, that's part of the purpose of Guardians and Metal Exterminators; it's meant to be a game you can pick up and play for a few minutes when you have down time without needing to invest a lot of time in a long story mode or keep up with a lengthy narrative. It is, after all, stylized like old LCD games that one would rarely play for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time.
While Game A and Game B may not be a big draw or enough to make a purchase worthwhile on their own, Frontier Guardians, the game's ostensibly-extra content, is actually where the vast majority of the gameplay is. It's a mission-based RPG mode where you start off with two playable characters, Oxa and Gold, and play through set missions. This is also where the game's story and lore are shown. The premise is that Oxa Boscova, a local ranch hand, meets up with local carpenter Gold Prospector for a blind date near the Allerdyce farm where Oxa works. Unfortunately, their date is interrupted by a bright light in the sky and an explosion at the ranch. Oxa sprints towards the ranch to investigate and make sure things are okay while Gold, dazed and confused as to what the hell just happened and why this crazy lady is running TOWARDS danger instead of AWAY from it, follows haplessly.
Don't let the mission objectives in Frontier Guardians fool you; the way you earn moose tokens to buy items and xp to upgrade your character is through killing enemies, not completing objectives. Completing the objective just gets you 100% of your earned rewards instead of the diminished reward you get from failing the mission; if you manage to complete the mission's optional objective, you get extra moose tokens and xp. What that means is that even if you complete a mission, if you didn't kill any monsters, you don't get any xp. That said, completing missions even if you're too weak to get kills is still worthwhile; completing a mission regardless of kills nets you a new secondary weapon to equip, and these can be both powerful on their as well as have powerful secondary effects. The missions involve your chosen character running around in an overhead view, killing enemies, and completing your objectives. In addition to the human denizens of Silver Falls, you can also play as the Metal Exterminators, too, but whereas every Guardian character has at least a few story scenes, none of the enemy characters do. Bummer. The way you see these story scenes is by upgrading your character, and you can see the story completion % on the character select menu, so you'll easily be able to tell what characters are complete and who still has unviewed story scenes.
As you progress through the game, you'll unlock additional characters, and there are even more characters you can unlock by using the Code Linker functions and connecting with other Silver Falls titles. That doesn't just extend to current Silver Falls games; Jerrel, the man behind Sungrand, makes sure to keep these games relevant down the line by adding Code Linker content that will be unlocked by games planned for release years in the future; even if you 100% every character now and use code linker with every game so far, there will still be a reason to come back because every future release will unlock more content in this game. No paid DLC, no $5 or $10 per character unlock, and no one-and-done content dump. All of that content is free and trickled throughout future releases, and you don't even necessarily need to buy all of the games yourself; if you know someone who has a game you don't or who has a game that's no longer obtainable thanks to the Wii U and 3DS shutdowns (or ask nicely on the Silver Falls Discord), they can help you unlock Code Linker content using their game. Jerrel could have changed the system to require one unlock per purchase, but he intentionally kept it open for this so as to keep it accessible and pro-consumer; he is truly a man of the people.
The highlight of Silver Falls: Guardians and Metal Exterminators S is definitely the character interactions. The LCD games are fun in short bursts, and they're good for high score contests - we've had a few on the Silver Falls Discord - but the real meat of the game and the reason to buy is Frontier Guardians and the storyline. Jerrel writes these characters brilliantly and in such a way that makes the world of Silver Falls feel connected from game to game not just through a shared setting but with consistency and growth from game to game. If you played Undertakers, you met Oxa about a decade before her appearance in this game, and if you play the games set in the 90s or 2000s, you'll see her a bit older, still the same person but realistically wiser and matured. The Code Linker system ensures that you continue to get your money's worth down the line as future Silver Falls titles release. This isn't a big budget AAA game made by a team of two hundred developers and artists; it's an indie game made 100% by a single man, and that shows. It doesn't look as sharp and detailed as Metroid Dread or Pikmin 4. It does, however, have a charm that only a truly dedicated developer who genuinely loves gaming can instill in a game, and Jerrel's passion to the medium and pride in his work show through in the game. That's something no Resident Evil or Dead Space game can replicate no matter how much money or manpower they dump in. Don't skip out on this game. It's a blast, it's got a great story with a genuine small-town feel, and it was crafted with a love and care you won't find in many other games.
My Rating - A
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.