Here's a typical snapshot of a battle in Gotta Protectors. Hundreds of enemies are hammering on the defenses from four different sides, the turrets and barricades are slowly but surely succumbing to the hordes, you and the Princess desperately attempt to beat them back with magic and arrows, and for every felled enemy four stronger ones take its place. It sounds hopeless and difficult, right? At times it can be overwhelming, but when you inevitably do prevail over the opposition, the sense of satisfaction is nearly unparalleled. Gotta Protectors does a fantastic job of providing exciting, action-packed gameplay, and it's a title you definitely don't want to miss out on.
The story is simple and the writing is hilarious. The royalty of the Kingdom of Magicadia find themselves transported to another dimension where monsters and demons are constantly lurking. Princess Lola and her team of bodyguards, the Gotta Protectors, set out to get to the bottom of what's happening and return to their home. It's a pretty thin plot, but it's the character interactions that keep it interesting. As pointed out in a recent article, Brian Gray – of Kingdom Hearts and Fire Emblem fame – was the sole man responsible for the translation of the game and he did a remarkable job. Dialogue is quite reminiscent of Paper Mario - it never takes itself too seriously, frequently breaks the fourth wall, and is generally lighthearted. For once, you might find yourself actually watching the cutscenes in this game as opposed to skipping through all the dialogue as fast as possible.
Gameplay plays something like what you'd expect out of an 8-bit Dynasty Warriors. The Princess sits in the middle of the stage with the castle, and your chosen Protector must cut through legions of enemies with the ultimate goal of destroying all their spawn points. As you do this you must periodically return to the castle to level up your character and reinforce the defenses around the Princess. Though the Princess' demise spells doom for your character, she's not entirely useless. She heals you if you stand close to her, and if you cut through enough enemies to fill up the Heart Gauge you're granted a super powerful attack that can greatly help in carving a route through a mass of enemies. It's frantic, fast-paced, and leaves you feeling greatly empowered.
The maps are well designed and generally feel like a cross between a Zelda dungeon and a tower defense map. There are certain routes that the enemies will typically take to reach the castle, and it's here that you're best served by setting up barricades and turrets. As you explore the map, treasure chests can occasionally be found that may contain keys that unlock shortcuts, or more gold so you can buff up your character or defenses. Occasionally towns are nearby, and you can hire helpers from them and use them as alternative sources of income, so long as you keep them safe, too. Suffice to say, there are plenty of options on each map to strategize and best plan your defenses.
Of course, it's the reward loop that'll keep you addicted to this game for hours, and it perfectly manages to hit the sweet spot of resource management. Your character can equip skills, weapons and rings that can be improved and crafted by the money and items dropped by the hundreds of enemies that you'll cut down in the battles. Money earned in stages can be saved and invested into improving the shops back at the castle, leading to an interesting risk/reward system in terms of upgrading. Do you spend the money on beefier defenses while in the stages themselves, or do you try to get by and save up for an upgrade back at the castle? Bear in mind, too, that getting knocked out in battle results in you losing half of your current gold reserves. There's always something else you can't afford, something that's just a few eggplants or monster horns out of reach; that'll drive you back in to do another run.
The class system is diverse and satisfying; there's a hero for just about any playstyle. If you like to hang back and do damage from a safe distance, you can pick the Archer or the Mage. If you like getting into the thick of things, the Old Guy or the Fighter might be good choices. Each class has a list of skills – some exclusive, some shared – that help to spice up gameplay, too. You can have three active skills and three passive skills equipped at one time, and the system greatly encourages experimentation. The skills are almost all quite helpful, as well, boosting various stats and upping the amount of loot you get from felled enemies.
Thia game is solid enough when playing alone, but it gets taken to a whole new level if you play with a friend locally. It can certainly feel overwhelming sometimes when you have to manage the entire battlefield solo, so it comes as a much appreciated blessing to have a friend with whom you can liaise and divide up the responsibilities. Calling out choke points and asking for help when necessary creates a wonderfully tense and involved experience, and it feels all the more satisfying when you prevail together. Setting up a match is simple, everyone reaps similar benefits, and the game even limits what cutscenes are shown to who to avoid spoilers. Up to four players can join, and if you have friends who don't own the game they can still join in via Download Play. Obviously this is a more restricted experience – there's only two classes available and progression isn't possible for the one using Download Play – but it's still a blast to play through.
As if all that weren't enough, there's also a fully featured level editor so you can create your own maps. The editor is simple to use and easy enough to pick up, and you can share maps with friends by swapping QR codes. The game leaves you one hundred spaces for user levels, too, so there's plenty of room for you to experiment and try out maps that you got from friends or online forums.
From a graphical standpoint, Gotta Protectors certainly impresses. Not only are sprites remarkably detailed and well animated, but it manages to have an authentic NES feeling without coming across as being archaic. If there was sprite flickering it could almost pass as a real NES game. It's obvious that it's being run on newer hardware, however, and it's particularly impressive to see the screen absolutely maxed out with hordes of enemies and yet there's hardly a dropped frame in sight. Especially for a game as intense as this, a smooth experience is critical, but Gotta Protectors pulls it off wonderfully.
We'd be remiss to not mention the phenomenal music score that backs the whole game. A dream team of old-school composers that've worked on games such as ActRaiser, Space Harrier, Dragon Spirit and more, made the soundtrack for this game, and the quality is immediately apparent. Tracks are catchy and upbeat, and you never get tired of hearing certain tracks repeatedly throughout battles. Nowadays, anybody with a laptop can churn out chiptune music fairly easily, but it's soundtracks like this that prove that there's still an art to the composition of nostalgic game music. It all sounds straight out of the mid 80's, and it's glorious.
All told, Gotta Protectors is a fantastic tower defense / action hybrid that you shouldn't miss out on. There are dozens of maps to conquer, a fully featured level editor, co-op play, stellar presentation and witty writing. If you're looking to get plenty of bang for your buck and want to play something a little different, give this a shot. We'd absolutely recommend you go and download this game, it's infuriatingly addictive and you're sure to have a good time.