Great Games You, Probably, Never Played
The PS1 was the vessel for arguably the golden age of JRPGs. The console was packed to the brim with absolute gems. In fact, even lesser-known games that could be considered “cult” classics, such as Vagrant Story, Vandal Hearts, and The Legend of Dragoon are generally just properly considered classics at this point. In order to really find the hidden gems, you have even a layer below those games.
When you dig deep into PS1’s JRPG mine, one of the diamonds you might come across is Guardian’s Crusade. Way back before Senran Kagura, when Tamsoft was still a fledgling developer, they tried their hand at a JRPG known as Knight and Baby in Japan. It was brought over to North America by Activision (strangely enough), and localized as Guardian’s Crusade.
The game follows a young Knight who comes across this mysterious cute pink, blob, monster, baby…thing, that is drawn to a faraway tower. Feeling a sense of duty to protect it, the Knight and Baby go on an epic journey that determines the fate of the world. Come on, it’s a 90s-era JRPG, of course, those are the stakes.
What makes Guardian’s Crusade really stand out, though, is its unique battle system for the time. On top of “raising” and evolving Baby to be a strong ally in battle, you’re also able to recruit a large number of summonable party members known as living toys.
Some of them hang around the battle, some only for a few turns, and some only for one, but they offer you a range of really unique battle mechanics that are really fun to mess around with. One will set everyone’s HP to zero, another will Russian Roullete one person on the screen, and another will even just literally provide play-by-play commentary during battle which is quite entertaining.
It’s not a particularly difficult game and can be beaten in probably in 15-20 hours or so, quite short for PS1-era JRPG standards. Also, what’s quite nice, it’s one of the first RPGs that I can think of that did not have random battles and instead featured enemies on the overworld that you can choose to engage or not which is a nice touch.